19.326 contemplation and computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 8 Oct 2005 08:30:58 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 326.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (31)
         Subject: Plato on mobile phones

   [2] From: Steven D.Krause <skrause_at_emich.edu> (24)
         Subject: Re: 19.322 contemplation and computing

         Date: Fri, 07 Oct 2005 08:15:07 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: Plato on mobile phones

I should have given a reference -- very uncharacteristic, if I may
say so. See Republic 562b-563e. But there's still quite a bit of
filtering between what Plato wrote and what we used to laugh about in
the late 1960s -- those of us who *were* laughing, giggling, tumbling
about &c.

To be fair to ourselves, however, I suppose the point to be made is
that when we talk in the genre of decline and fall, we're talking
about a construct -- the world as we understand it to be, where
"understand" should not be limited to the head. An extreme case is
most sensitively handled in the recent German film, Der Untergang
(Downfall), by Oliver Herschbiegel. It shows, among other things,
that "the world as we know it" can blot out *everything* else,
including parents' love for their children.

At the other end of the spectrum is our mobile phone -- or, also
for our crowd, what a friend once called "Internet to the pillow".
(He answered e-mail all hours of day and night.)
I know of one couple who sit in bed with their laptops,
television going, surfing through E-Bay. But then perhaps they're
still together because E-Bay gives the vision of unending promise
that neither can provide the other.

I wouldn't want to deny that evils are possible, minor ones embodied
in devices, but I'd think that actual studies of such devices would
tend heavily to qualify the original fears and to marginalize such
people as the couple just referred to. Surely one of the appeals of
device-caused downfall is the determinism of it: by making the
unknown into an inevitable evil, we erect a shield against a far more
fearful thing. But to the relevant question: what is it about our
technologies and the hope and fear we wrap them in that is worth
talking about in the classroom?


Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
-2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/

         Date: Sat, 08 Oct 2005 08:02:50 +0100
         From: Steven D.Krause <skrause_at_emich.edu>
         Subject: Re: 19.322 contemplation and computing

Well, if it makes you feel any better, I know this quote is accurate:

"Yes, and you have brought it about that the most promising of our
young men are wasting their youth in drinking-bouts, in parties, in
soft living and childish folly, to the neglect of all efforts to
improve themselves; while those of grosser nature are engaged from
morning until night in extremes of dissipation which in former days
an honest slave would have despised. You see some of them chilling
their wine at the "Nine-fountains" ; others, drinking in taverns;
others, tossing dice in gambling dens; and many, hanging about the
training-schools of the flute-girls."

This comes from the Greek sophist/rhetorician/philosopher Isocrates'
*Antidosis* and I'm pretty sure that is an "authentic" quote because
it's referenced in some reliable places; for example:


I've also always understood this quote as Isocrates suggesting that
the "kids today" are being distracted by sex, drugs, and rock n' roll.

Incidentally, if you do a search with perseus for the term "flute
girls," you'll note that this seems to have been a topic/issue for a
number of ancient writers. Kind of interesting...

Steven D. Krause
Associate Professor, Department of English Language and Literature
Eastern Michigan University * Ypsilanti, MI 48197
Received on Sat Oct 08 2005 - 03:41:53 EDT

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