16.307 humanities computing in a cyborg world

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Oct 31 2002 - 02:32:57 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 307.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 07:27:45 +0000
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: living in a cyborg world

    Allow me to recommend to your attention the following review article:
    Donald MacKenzie, "The Imagined Market", rev of Philip Mirowski,
    Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science (London Review of
    Books, 31 October 2002, p. 22-4). MacKenzie in support of Mirowski
    presents Michel Callon's argument, in The Laws of the Market (1998),
    that "economics does not describe an already existing 'economy',
    but helps to bring that economy into being. Economics is not a descriptive
    but a performative endeavour.... world-shaping, not just ... world-
    describing". For performative economics he cites as well Francesco
    Guala (Centre for the Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Exeter), whose
    article "Models, Simulations, and Experiments", in Model-Based Reasoning,
    ed. Magnani and Nersessian (Kluwer 2002): 59-74, goes well beyond economic
    theory and is one of the best pieces in that book.

    What does all this have to do with us -- other than the fact that we
    live in the world described by MacKenzie et al? The word "cyborg" gives it
    away, I suppose: we're living in an artifically constructed, cybernetic
    world. Not only that. What particularly fascinates me about the situation
    which MacKenzie depicts is its deep ontological ambiguity. It reminds me
    of something someone said about England, that people have been living
    here for so long that the entire country is in fact a garden. (Some parts
    of this garden do not particularly engender respect for the gardeners
    responsible, but you get the point.)

    Along with many others I have been worrying recently (and not so recently)
    about how we reach the public which pays our salaries, in particular how we
    do this with humanities computing. Here is an answer. If ever there was a
    subject for humanities computing to use in building bridges and opening
    windows, computational modeling is it. We may not be able to follow the
    mathematics of the economic modellers, but we do study what they're up to.



    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk |
    w.mccarty@btinternet.com | www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/

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