19.041 state of the Internet: what is to be done

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 06:47:53 +0100

                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 41.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: "Jim Marchand" <marchand_at_uiuc.edu> (18)
         Subject: Spam again

   [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (33)
         Subject: information wantonly free

         Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 06:40:14 +0100
         From: "Jim Marchand" <marchand_at_uiuc.edu>
         Subject: Spam again

       I did not want to clog up Humanist with talking about spam,
attack-ware and the like, though it does concern us, since people
are leaving the net because of it. I have two good books on spam,
though I cannot recommend either of them; in fact, I can find
nothing to recommend: Ken Feinstein, How to do Everything to Fight
Spam, Viruses, Pop-Ups & Spyware (NY: McGraw Hill-Osborne, 2004;
Paul Wolfe, Charlie Scott & Mike W. Erwin, Anti-Spam Toolkit
(McGraw Hill-Osborne, 2004). Both books are full of good advice.
       Unfortunately, there is at present no fool-proof way to
prevent spam and all the others from clogging your screen, taking
over your computer, etc. Humanist has already experienced the
problem with over-zealous spam filters. It is wearisome.
       Someone offered the advice: "Get a Mac". I hope those who own
Macs do not feel that they are going to be free from spam, etc.
Those pimply-faced nerds attack everything. Wolfe et al. have a
nice chapter on Mac anti-spam tools (Chapter XII).
       Happily, my university offers a fairly good spam filter
service. Ahime, oh for the good old days.

         Date: Wed, 18 May 2005 06:44:18 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: information wantonly free

The revolutionary slogan "Information wants to be free!" illustrates the
problem Jim Marchand recently pointed to in his message about the state of
the Internet: the weasel-word "information" allows us silently to slip in
that for which we do not want to pay, so that the declaration of its
freedom becomes, in the eyes of the slogan-crier, an "elegant statement of
the obvious" (John Perry Barlow, "The Economy of Ideas", Wired 2.03,
www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.03/economy.ideas.html). As a transcendental
virtue -- having it is Good, not having it is Bad -- "information"
confounds us when we encounter, as so often these days, what we'd rather
not see at all. Instead of trash strengthening our moral imaginations (as
Milton said), it simply befuddles us.

So what now is to be done? I don't think using a Mac will do the trick,
however fine those machines are. Nor, however elegant the Laws of Cool,
will obedience to them serve as our unseen sewage system. There have been
complaints on Humanist from the first month of its existence, way back in
1987, about infoglut, the "TOO MUCH" being, I think, really a form of "I
CAN'T COPE!" This is different: 400 spam messages/day (my current rate),
offering me what I'd like to believe doesn't exist, is rather different
from 10 well-intentioned ones. To survive we've installed spam filters
that, with delicious irony, are acting as mechanised censors. As a result
one cannot depend on messages being seen nowadays, although many have yet
to realize this. Who has time and stomach to go through even the most
abbreviated listing of spamming messages for the occasional message that
should not have been plucked out?

Still, at least for me, this is a minor annoyance. What do we do, then? Do
what we do as well as we possibly can.


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Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7 Arundel Street | London
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Received on Wed May 18 2005 - 02:01:12 EDT

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