14.0187 machines & pride, cyberspace

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Sun Aug 20 2000 - 15:17:56 CUT

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "14.0188 market truth, fingerprint machine"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 187.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: "Pat Moran" <pjmoran@gdsys.net> (20)
             Subject: Re: 14.0180 machines, pride and pure research?

       [2] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (75)
             Subject: accidents and essence: more on cyber guiding

             Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 16:05:55 +0100
             From: "Pat Moran" <pjmoran@gdsys.net>
             Subject: Re: 14.0180 machines, pride and pure research?

    It's always a hoot to hear people make pronouncements on
    what they will "never" do or about things which will "never" occur.
    This very gentlemanly reading of pompous behavior ["for some
    that cloud of unknowing is intolerable"] surely applies to
    Rousseau's comments in his "Confessions, Part I, Book 1"--
    "I am commencing an undertaking, hitherto without precedent,
    and which will never find an imitator."
    The idea that autobiography could be "without precedent" and the
    contention that no one could imitate his efforts always inspire
    my previously spark-less adult military students to quiet chuckles
    and/or peals of laughter. Perhaps they're thinking of how
    Rousseau's research reveals, rather than requires the "cloudy
    state of mind." One needn't be considering technology to
    get a laugh out of academics and psychics.
    Patricia J. Moran, FSU
    Ed. Foundations and Policy Studies
    312 Stone Bldg., Tallahassee, FL 32306

             Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000 16:06:18 +0100
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: accidents and essence: more on cyber guiding

    Hello Stephanie

    I have been mulling over your question about who "computes" in relation to
    someone else's (Chris McMahon's) reference to Paul Virilio [the question
    of diaster] (who knows what an archive check of Humanist will reveal with
    a search for "Virilio" and its alternative spellings). Dear me, what a
    convoluted sentence wondering off in a orthographicly inspired rift
    verging on information overload.

    There is not one diaster but many. And it is scholars able to move away
    from the keyboard, the slide projector and even the chalk board who are
    able to continue to engage an audience. When the technologies
    mediating the network of social selves breaks down, it is the capital H
    Humanities people to the rescue while the capital C computing folks do the
    hardware/software fix. Diaster invites what rhetoricians call the
    ekphrastic moment. The power of the Humanities side of the
    Computing-Humanities couple is in the ability to begin to describe (and to
    start the description over).

    Now, description is a prerequiste for computation.

    Cognitively, descriptions need not be verbalized. Psychologists are
    sometimes fond of informing us about the assumptions we make in perceiving
    the world. Sociologists are even fonder of this activity.

    It may be safe to assume that "the use of computers" involves some set
    of descriptions about this activity. Is it fair to reframe your question
    about "computing" in terms of conscious use of computers a la Willard
    reporting on Marilyn Deegan's Glasgow remarks on the nature of digital
    scholarship? This conscious/unconscious dichotomy of course leads to the
    need/want to draw other lines: programming versus using a software
    application; encoding versus formating. If "computing" becomes the
    umbrella term for a plurality of activities of an analytic and artistic
    sort, the real institutional investment difficulties do not disappear
    (the are always based on some calculation of waste/gain). However a vague
    ecology of shifting cognitive activities becomes discernable and allows
    perphas a turn to your fundamental questions about the nature of the
    "computing" model.

    Yes, the email user computes. Yes, the Java programmer computes. As agents
    in a Minskian society of mind, they are elements of a social
    macine and either actor-network theory or basic economics can account for
    their computations in the sense of calculations apportioning attention
    (time and resources) to certain activities.

    But what does it mean to compute as a humanist? I think Willard provided a
    bit of an answer by way of a question:

    Willard wrote:

    > I'm hardly "computing" in any way important to us? Yes, I
    suppose so, if we
    > consider the matter in the terms in which I pursue it. But what if we
    > consider my MOOing or Decretum-searching historically, sociologically,
    > philosophically? Is there only an accidental relationship between the fact
    > that I use a computer and what I do with it?

    It is precisely accidents that interest Humanities scholars. I do thank
    you for your posting asking for error free citiations. The delightful
    "neuro" and "necro" pair had me wondering if in Roman divinatory practice
    the slayer of the beast and the reader of the entrails were the same
    person (in body and spirit) because I was trying to work out the
    programmer/user metaphorics in terms of travelling versus building
    cyberspace. And the year of republication (1994) of the 1984 Gibson novel
    struck a chord as about the time that the World Wide Web was opened up to
    commercial interests...

    Just about the time I wrote:

           Just as a Turing machine's configuration can be interpreted as states
    of being or as instructions, a story can be considered an apparatus
    processing descriptions and questions, figures and sequences.


            A story is at once product and apparatus of production. It is an
    autopoetic structure. It will take a picture, a question, a description,
    an imperative and transform either it, itself, or both. A story is a
    machine that learns.

    See http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/S4E.HTM

    In short if people are telling stories using computers, they are
    computing. [not an argument for any one who would want to keep semiosis
    and perception apart -- keep mind from informing body].

    Once again, thanks for providing the launch pad into some enjoyable

    -- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
    Member of the Evelyn Letters Project

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