19.345 contemplation and computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:27:37 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 345.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 18 Oct 2005 08:18:24 +0100
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Look Listen, Cross-Modal Spaces


The recent screen exchange on the ubiquity of cellphone conversations
brings to mind historical antecedants:

Jay Clayton "The Voice in the Machine: Hazlitt, Hardy, James" in _Language
Machines: Technologies of Literary and Cultural Production_ (1997)

[E]xploring the origins of the telegraph brings to prominence a curious
struggle that has run throughout the 150 years in which there have been
electric data networks. This struggle is between visual and aural scanning
of signals. The telegraph was the site of a prolonged debated over the
comparative advantages of =D2sound reading=D3 and of instruments that
incorporated a recording apparatus for taking down message in visible

Considering the literary examples examined in Clayton's article, readers
and auditors might wish to nuance the description of reactions to what is
being overheard. Compare: the interference effect of natural languages
that the overhearer knows, those that the overhearer doesn't know, ring
tones comprising of a recognized melody... attention catching depends upon
some associative activity. The question of attention also surfaces in the
parental-child dialogues about doing homework while watching television or
listening to music (with or without lyrics understood by the listener).

I bring these examples to the fore to tease out some performance
questions: time to task, quality of output and intermittence of scanning.
Reading while... writing while... driving a motor vehicle while... chewing
gum and.

Let us place this little bit of silliness in the backgroudnd and
introduced the machine aspect to multitasking. From a
Human-Computer-Interface point of view -- job control in Unix, Task
Manager in Windows, the MacIntosh flash of icons and menu tracking
supplemented by sound. Each poses its own cognitive threshold and is more
or less adapted to users who are otherwise engaged in crossmodal
processing. Perhaps subscribers to Humanist can point the way to studies
or relate anecdotal evidence

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

~~~ to be surprised by machines: wistly and sometimes wistfully
Received on Tue Oct 18 2005 - 03:40:36 EDT

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