12.0410 culturally traumatic ideas

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 8 Feb 1999 20:47:25 +0000 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 410.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Ed HAUPT <haupt@email.njin.net> (16)
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

[2] From: Robert Knapp <Robert.Knapp@directory.Reed.EDU> (25)
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

[3] From: Frank Hubbard <6615hubbardf@vmsb.csd.mu.edu> (50)
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

[4] From: <S.A.Rae@open.ac.uk> (20)
Subject: RE: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

[5] From: Jascha Kessler <jkessler@ucla.edu> (42)
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 20:45:49 +0000
From: Ed HAUPT <haupt@email.njin.net>
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

I think you're about a century off on mechanism in biology. Du Bois,
Bruecke, Ludwig, and Helmholtz made a rather dramatic statement in 1847
that biology needed to become an organic physics.

Ed Haupt

Edward J. Haupt, Ph.D. Voice:
Associate Professor of Psychology Fax: (001)973.655.5121
Department of Psychology email: haupt@email.njin.net
Montclair State University
Upper Montclair NJ
USA 07043-1624

home page http://www.chss.montclair.edu/psychology/haupthp.html
Museum of the History of Psychological
Experimentation http://www.chss.montclair.edu/psychology/museum/museum.html

Membership Chair, History of Psychology (Division 26)
Information and Membership Form at:

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 20:46:08 +0000
From: Robert Knapp <Robert.Knapp@directory.Reed.EDU>
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

--- WM writes:
computer sends us spinning because it does most of what we thought was our
--- end of quote ---
In principle I agree that computing does set in motion new spins on my own
sense of self and work (a healthy vertigo, I hope), but I beg to differ with
Willard's "most." Perhaps I reveal my antedeluvian soul, but I cannot yet
imagine how computing can engage, say, Stanley Cavell's questions whether we
are not complicit in and therefore somehow responsible for the failures of
attention and recognition that generate the tragedy in _King Lear_. Nor can
I tell a story to myself that will plausibly make, say, Hal explain its
understanding of how theater--arguably a very ancient but nonetheless
revealing "techno-cultural" invention--did and does traumatize and hence
transform our cultural selves. If the machine does come to be able to
handle these language games (of theater and about theater), why should I--or
that 22nd century provincial academic who sits at the spatial co-ordinates I
currently occupy--not recognize it as "human"? In short, at the center of
what I understand as the "humanities" is work that only human beings can do:
recognize one another as (fallibly) human. No speciocentricity here, just a
claim about the ontology of being human, something not necessarily (though
so far contingently) linked to just one (biological) sort of machine. But
these, as Willard rightly says, just are questions about what the drawing of
lines is for.

Robert Knapp
Reed College

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 20:46:18 +0000
From: Frank Hubbard <6615hubbardf@vmsb.csd.mu.edu>
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas


I'm new at participating in these discussions, so forgive errors please.

Among other activities, I've been a reader for Educational Testing Service
for fifteen years or so, Advanced Placement English, Graduate Management
Admission Test, theTest Of English as a Foreign Language, and various
locally adapted placement and achievement essay tests, all scored
"holistically," which for ETS means (1) quickly, (2) against a scoring
guide and (3) guided by sample papers already scored. I think these tests
are, for now at least, very necessary evils, and further, that I ought to
participate in them lest they become even worse.

During the last two years, ETS has begun scoring the GMAT and TOEFL essays
"on line," that is, sending the essays keyed in by test takers worldwide to
four grading centers, at Princeton, Atlanta, Evanston, and Oakland. I've
become a "scoring leader" at Evanston, and trained other readers to read
essays on line. The gain has been, in my eyes, that the response time on
an essay is now well below two weeks in most cases, fast enough (I speak as
a teacher) for students actually to benefit from the score as a comment on
their writing. I've suggested to ETS that they provide more detailed
feedback, as ACT is working to do for its examinations that lead up to its
equivalent to ETS's SAT (sorry about the explosion of acronyms). Perhaps
they may someday soon actually do so.

Readers of the New York TImes will be saying to themselves, "Now they've
developed some software to grade those exams," as was announced last
Wednesday. We scoring leaders go to Princeton next week to find out a
little more about the software, but as far as we know now, it includes an
array of pretty standard stuff, measures of length, sentence length, number
of paragraphs, maybe syllables of selected vocab items, maybe some
collocation stuff; it purports to measure ideas in some way as well. It's
that last item that really has my attention. As I read people like John
Searle and John Haugeland and Hubert Dreyfus, I find arguments that make me
doubt I will find more than correlations between what the software measures
and what human beings do, even if the score correlations really are in the
95% range as ETS is saying.

I am strongly of two minds about this at least minimally traumatic
development. If it speeds helpful response to testtakers, and makes a
learning experience arise within an evaluation experience, I'm for it. If
it pretends to be weighing the thinking of the testtakers, I'm doubtful.
Even in the limited domains of the argument-analysis writing task on the
GMAT, I don't want to say that the computer is reading the paper.

Do others know what is likely to be included in the exam-scoring software?
Or have opinions about what it likely can and cannot do?

Frank Hubbard

Frank Hubbard
Assistant Dean
The Graduate School
Marquette University
P. O. Box 1881 Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
414 288-1531
Fax 414 288-1902
email: 6615hubbardf@vms.csd.mu.edu
Website http://www.grad.mu.edu

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 20:47:04 +0000
From: <S.A.Rae@open.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

nothing to offer in terms of an 'answer' I'm afraid ...
but an observation of other similar 'cultural trauma' to consider - in fine

The Renaissance Perspective
Abstract Expressionism
have forced people to reconsider how we are represented

and also where the technological development of the camera, film, TV and
video have forced artists to reconsider how to represent people ... "because
it does most of what we thought was our business, and so forces us to
rethink what exactly we're good for after all."


Simon Rae
The Open University, Walton Hall,
Milton Keynes. MK7 6AA - UK
(My words not theirs.)

Date: Mon, 08 Feb 1999 20:46:54 +0000
From: Jascha Kessler <jkessler@ucla.edu>
Subject: Re: 12.0404 culturally traumatic ideas

Dear WM:
Your note about cultural trauma is perhaps not shaped so as to go
for the largest topic of all, ourselves. Instance: When I was a
Fellow once at the RockefellerFoundation in Italy, there was a
weekend conference of the biggest operators in the world of nuclear
energy, including Lord Rothschild, who came over from the UK. One of
the themes that was discussed was the great resistance to nuclear
energy among the people, those who were not engineers or electrical
power providers. After all these years, they couldnt find people who
accepted willingly the idea, and that was before Chernobyl and the
threat of bad engineering. I had a tete a tete with about 5 of the
biggies one afternoon, all engineer types of the most powerful sort,
way up there in the structure of energy, government, etc. I proposed
to them this idea, which of course left them groggy and stupified and
goggleeyed, so outre did it seem to engineer types. To put it
simply, Freud suggested in an essay that first great achievement (and
trauma) was the mastery of fire. That takes us back a ways, right?
He connected it with the notion of the male control of the urethral
sphincter. (He doesnt talk about the female bladder, though, and
perhaps he didnt think females first dared to control the spark.) He
cited Swift's tale of Gulliver pissing on the Lilliputian queen's
bedchambers, to save the whole palace from burning down. That is
suggestive in itself, the fire starting in her rooms, that is, the
womb/hearth notion. We still are not in control of fire, and still
it wreaks the most havoc in all human settlements. Imagine, I told
those engineers, the threat of trying to imagine controlling nuclear
fire! Fusion! Etc. Blowing up the world, or say a continent's
surface. We are working on it, of course, how to get energy. Cold
fusion was attractive because it avoided the idea of fire, but it
seems not to be possible. The stars are fire. Etc. Those guys didnt
get it. I said, That is where your primal, aboriginal anxiety in us
all begins, with fire. We can piss on a fire, hose it down, feel
power from our bladded, as boys do, but nuclear fire? Terrifying in
a way that we cannot begin to think of controlling, etc.
They were interested, but looked at me as if the poet were mad. Well,
the poet is not so mad as all that.
Jascha Kessler

Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: (310) 393-4648


Humanist Discussion Group
Information at <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>