13.0430 the Internet made me do it!

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Wed Feb 23 2000 - 07:15:22 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 13, No. 430.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2000 07:11:21 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: the Internet made me do it!

    In Humanist 13.426 Einat Amitay kindly forwarded notice of the Jakob
    Nielsen article entitled, "Does the Internet Make Us Lonely?", commenting
    on a preliminary version of the "Study of the Social Consequences of the
    Internet" published by the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of
    Society, for which see

    There is much of interest here, but I want to focus on one thing only: what
    happens between the carefully planned and executed "Study of the Social
    Consequences of the Internet" and the question "Does the Internet Make Us
    Lonely?". I am tempted to yell, DON'T ANSWER THAT QUESTION -- because if
    you do you, whatever your answer, you accept the assumption in the
    question, that "the Internet" can "make us" do or be anything. Ok,
    attentions need to be grabbed sometimes, but the question of how a human
    invention affects its inventors is an important and complex one, and we're
    not helped at all by the invitation to surrender our freedom to something
    we've made. This is of course an old story -- the Wheel of Fortune and the
    Book of Life are examples Northrop Frye used to cite to make the same
    point. In the context of computing (a specific case of the automaton), it's
    a particularly important point, yes?

    Speaking of social science methods, I wonder also how one gets from
    findings such as are reported in the Stanford study to a more than
    anecdotal form of the truth behind one's own experiences? Ellen Ullman's
    Close to the Machine: Technophilia and its Discontents (San Francisco: City
    Lights Books, 1997) is one way -- making a really quite interesting, even
    compelling story from all the messy, intimate bits of a life lived under
    heavy influence of computer-mediated communications. (She reports on her
    experiences as a consultant who works at home.) Are there any deep studies
    of the conduct of long-distance love affairs by the Internet, or better
    yet, by that medium in combination with others? It seems to me that if one
    studied the highest stress, most hermeneutically intensive, even
    tending-to-paranoid human situation involving our cherished medium, one
    would get interesting results. I'd assume the method would consist largely
    of interviews, but with all that e-text preserved, needing considerable
    metatextual commentary, text-analytic work would certainly be prominent.

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
    voice: +44 (0)171 848 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 848 5081
    <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
    maui gratia

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