19.368 contemplation and computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2005 07:37:38 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 368.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2005 07:31:45 +0100
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Contemplation a trois


Throughout the shiftings of the recent thread on observation of cellphone
usuage, a thread that spun off one about attention which was delivered
under the subject heading of contemplation and computing, I kept wondering
why the same heading, hasn't there been a displacement in the topic. And
so I entertained the contrary position, that despite the change in focus
from a keyboard plus screen to a mobile device, the same theme was a
current in the conversation.

It was with the Wikipedia thread about the authorative value ascribed to
certain sources that I began to understand the shape of the dynamic that
distributes time and attention. It struck me that perhaps most of the
interventions collected on Humanist so far in the cellphone thread assumed
a one to one basis in the hook up of the call being overheard.
Teleconferencing can of course establish links between several locations.
Could it be the case that the model of teleconferencing where callers
can and do experience the interruptions of people dropping in and out has
influenced the modes of public cell phone use? The affordances of call
display, redial, storage of numbers, all speak of a tolerance for
interruption. Of course there are those that would argue that the
technological affordances create the tolerance for interruption; others
would claim that the tolerance shapes the technological development.

The notion of a tolerance for interruption can be extended to courses of
action in computing. A step by step method can be halted. There is always
a lag. Obviously hardware response time and control of peripheral devices
is a case in point. There is also some space to think about lag in the
reiterative nature of steps. The social shape of lagging is a marker for
the tolerance for contemplation as a valued form of action.

There is an artistic practice that makes use of differential lag
responses. Certain multimedia presentations eschew any version of the
countdown which alerts the viewer that a "movie" is loading. The impatient
surfer who moves on and fails to wait for the "still" image to unfold,
that is to experience the sequence, misses the experience. It's an old
game of patience familiar to the viewers and makers of materialist cinema
and to the watchers of sunsets.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

~~~ to be surprised by machines: wistly and sometimes wistfully
Received on Fri Oct 28 2005 - 02:54:36 EDT

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