19.395 contemplation and computing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 07:50:42 +0000

On Sat, Oct 29, 2005 at 08:47:46AM +0100,
Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard
McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>) wrote:
> Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 374.
> Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
> www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/
> www.princeton.edu/humanist/
> Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu
> Date: Sat, 29 Oct 2005 08:26:41 +0100
> From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
> Subject: device-mediated contemplation
> Suggestive evidence for a connection between human and machine deep
> enough to support contemplation might be, for example, the profound
> disturbance at least some of us seem to experience when our machines
> go awry. I for one cannot rest, or not very comfortably, until I have
> fixed whatever has gone wrong. Similarly, when my machine is working
> well (as this one is now), something like a sense of good health
> pervades my working environment. Indeed, this feeling is almost
> addictive. (I do experience moments now and again, all projects for
> some reason or another out of reach, when I look for something to do
> so that I can be using my machine, rather than the other way around.)
> Now this compulsion to use particular artifacts is common enough when
> the artifacts are new, but other than computers, it does not last.
> That would suggest a different sort or degree of intimacy from that
> with, say, a new spade. Are computers alone in the category of
> receptive tools? How about mobile phones? Does the fact that the
> mobile puts you in touch with other people make it a like device --
> and so, in some sense, contemplative?

Without having more evidence than a very limited knowledge to cultures
where life and death depends on well-functioning tools: Is this not
similar to the almost bodily connection to a diesel engine on a small
fishing boat in a storm, or to the gun for a hunter (dependent on
hunting, not hunting for fun) or a soldier?

So that the close computer-human link is based on the fact that the
human needs the computer (it "controls" your career, to the degree
that the career is based on your documents) while you do not fully
understand it?

Maybe the connection to a spade is closer when it cannot be replaced,
and digging is really important?


Řyvind Eide
Received on Thu Nov 03 2005 - 03:08:28 EST

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