14.0686 cyberculture and political science

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Tue Feb 20 2001 - 05:00:08 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 686.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 08:34:25 +0000
             From: aimeefreak <ahm@ualberta.ca>
             Subject: Re: 14.0680 prurient interest & political science, or a
    question about the curriculum

    hello again;

    >Once upon a time, in the era of mainframes, the dystopic vision of
    >computing was Orwellian; evil was oligarchic, clearly separate from the
    >common man and woman (except, of course, for the fellow travelers, spies
    >and defectors). Now, with the edenic taste of personal computing liberation
    >still on our tongues, we are reminded in yet another way that the hard bits
    >are up to us. As I recall the political counter-argument, however, we fight
    >fire with fire: many little people with personal computers can, the
    >argument runs, successfully oppose the few with their big machines.

    this sounds remarkably like my dissertation-in-progress, "Becoming the
    Universal Machine: Creating the Personal Computer in 1980s Literary and
    Popular Culture". for the answer to *why* the counterargument of little
    people with little machines against big institutions with big machines
    seemed viable, you will all have to wait for me to finish chapter 1. :-)

    >is there a political science for the networked world as well as an

    yes, and it's called "cyberculture" both when it's done well and when it's
    done poorly. i'm kind of furrowing my eyebrows here, because i think the
    term remains amorphous, ambiguous, ambivalent (with one usage often at
    cross purposes with others), but yet retains the possibility of being
    really helpful for describing the kind of work willard is wondering about.
    in any case, one must sift, but there is gold in them thar hills.

    i think this polisci, or social and political thought approach to computing
    technologies is downright essential. and it's being done -- but not much,
    so far as i can tell, in the mainstream of humanities computing. it seems
    to be happening a little more in postmodern studies, or in English depts,
    or in cultural studies. those are just the places i'm familiar with --
    there is likely similar work going on elsewhere that i don't know about.

    >Should we in thinking about the curriculum of humanities computing
    >include aspects of political science? There are CS courses in the area of
    >computing and society; can we learn anything from these?

    yes. when we were devising the curriculum for the humanities computing MA
    here at the university of alberta, i remember at least a couple of voices
    lobbying not only for a balance between the why's and the how's of
    humanities computing, but also for places/courses in which to consider how
    the discourses of computing, as well as the 'products' of computing,
    circulate much more broadly in culture, affect culture, *become* culture.
    there are options courses and cross-listed courses which i think will
    fulfil this function.

    hm. i'd really like to get a sense of how many of us are interested in
    this line of thought, this more broadly social and political reading of
    infotech -- it's my area of research, and i have considered it as much a
    kin of humanities computing as of cultural studies. i hope to see more
    contributions to this question, to get the wider view. i look forward to
    it. i have to say that all the computing humanists i've yet spoken to have
    reacted very positively to this kind of conversation.

    Aimee Morrison "Things are going to get a lot
    PhD Program, Dept. of English worse before they get worse."
    University of Alberta --Lily Tomlin

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