18.447 alien barbarians

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty ) <willard_at_mccarty.me.uk>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 06:53:29 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 447.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 28 Dec 2004 06:39:16 +0000
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Alien Barbarians


Well nigh a month I have resisted being baited by barbarian theme you set
out in Humanist 18.381 where you asked Is there reason to look hopefully
to the barbarian hordes of digital babble surging toward us over yon
digital hills?" and you concluded that you found "it difficult to be
sanguine about the invading hordes."

It is tempting to set beside the figure of the barbarian who speaks not
your tongue, the person of the alien who has learnt it as a second
language. Strange, then, perhaps, that it is indeed that tension between
igure and person, between a shape of future possibility and a form of
present conditions, that keeps sounding in my re-reading who you elected
to be bin-cast

One author's strategy, for example, was to invent a new
entity called the "knowledge society", assume its reality without any
apparent support from social science research and then go on to write a
book extolling its qualities.

Here, I trust your nose for hype but your ear for the useable, not. The
enabling fiction of an emerging knowledge society has bolstered, in some
quarters, an ethos supportive of such undertakings as the involvement of
indigenous peoples in values mapping in the elaboration of resource
management. How people think and conceive of the sustainable, the
profitable, the equitable, is of course basic to the the interactions of
the respondants and interlocutors of a knowledge society -- or any society
for that matter.

Granted that there is nothing special about a knowledge society. I am
still struggling with the values that map out of the discursive frame of
the barbarian invasions onto the adventures of the neologism. The use of a
noun (knowledge) as an adjective (knowledge) seems suspect in your
reconstruction of events: invent, assume, go on. Which of these three
points provides the breach? Which best bears the pressure?

For me, it is not so much the presence of the action "to assume" in the
sequence that offers cause to pause as it is its very particular position
between the actions of inventing and going on. It may just be that in
recalling my own experience I would place the act of assuming, of taking
up, before the invention and dilation. Or it may be that I recall from
other contexts simsequences that provid an alternative if abbreviated
storyline to find, to come upon, to invent and then to go on, to carry
forth. It must be that.

Ervin Laszlo, _Introduction to Systems Philosophy: Toward a New Paradigm
of Contemporary Thought_ (1972), provides an interesting take on what
could be called "entity creation".

A True scientific breakthrough comes today, in Gerard's words, "when
somebody has sufficient creative imagination -- and courage to follow up,
which may be even more important -- to say 'Let's look at the universe in
terms of some new kinds of entities, some new kinds of units, or, what
really comes to the same thing, in some new way of combining units';
because combining units gives a new unit at the superordinate level."
[R.W. Gerard, "Hierarchy, Entitation, and Levels," in _Hierarchical
Structures_ Whyte, Wilson and Wilson edx., New York, 1969.] And the many
breakthroughs which have occurred in the recent past, and are likely to
occur in the next [sic] future, come when someone looks at the universe in
terms of entities which are not atomic material substances but organized
functional systems, related to one another by "horizontal" interactions
within their own level as well as by "vertical" interactions between
different levels.

I am not attempting to pose a better story beside a good story. I am
trying to bring out the features of assumptions that in a praxis of
verification place these entities in a zone delimited by the actions of
accepting and appropriating. I wonder if what you decry in the "knowledge
society" creator is not an effect of voice. Consider he humble voice of
the inheritor usually accompaning a narrative of acceptance. Contrast it
with the imperial voice of the appropriator.

I leave you for now with the thought that perhaps a ear cocked to the
"insufficiently" collaborative voice, is the partner of an eye blind to
the often raid-like behaviour of interdisciplinary work -- collaborative
or otherwise -- the crash into a next future.

   -- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

A calendar is like a map. And just as maps have insets, calendars in the
21st century might have 'moments' expressed in flat local time fanning out
into "great circles" expressed in earth revolution time.
Received on Tue Dec 28 2004 - 01:56:50 EST

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