14.0748 "user"

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Fri Mar 16 2001 - 02:04:34 EST

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "14.0749 ACH/ALLC 2001 at New York University"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 748.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2001 06:56:44 +0000
             From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: user agents


    Charles Ess has recently devoted much thought to the people part of the
    human-computer nexus in his essay "We are the Borg: The Web as Agent of
    Assimilation or Cultural Renaissance". I remind readers of the URL:


    in Note # 15 speculates about the term "user" and I quote :

    15. I would argue that "user" is itself a term already shaped broadly by a
    culture of commodification and consumerism, and more specifically by a
    "cyber-gnosticism" (my term) that radically disassociates "the user" as a
    mind in cyberspace from his/her body, and thereby his/her connection with
    the larger communities, traditions, and cultures that shape his/her

    I tried to pursue this meditation and found myself coming back to
    the term user :
    > > The term "user" does have a distinct echo of "addict". "Person" is a
    > > juridical entity. It too can have cultural bagage. The term "end user"
    > > does have the advantage of a teleological perspective focussed on the
    > > human being and in the best of developmental processes, it is the "end
    > > user" who provides the feedback to shape the system. "User" seems a
    > > more conducive to the reiterative mode of technological appropriation and
    > > transculturation (as apposed to acculturation). "User" does have a
    > > hands-on quality that "person" just doesn't seem to have. In either case,
    > > both terms are probably products of that occidental proclivity to uniform
    > > universalisation. Some users play games, others program, still others
    > > generate indexes.

    Technologies of transportation speak of drivers and passengers (rarely
    hitchhikers). Architecture speaks of builders and, I believe, users.
    "Technological agents" seems to be a term at home travelling through the
    discourses of political and computer sciences. The "human component" of
    the human-computer interface just doesn't quite sound apt for humanities
    computing. Plus it is rather convoluted and inelegant. Is "user" the word?
    Will "readers" in a broad sense do? Does "user" bring to mind a
    reader-writer agent of a cultural renaissance open to the dangers of

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
           some threads tangle in tassles, others form the weft

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Mar 16 2001 - 02:24:23 EST