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Humanist Archives: July 15, 2020, 9:34 a.m. Humanist 34.166 - strata of abstraction & their influence?

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 34, No. 166.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2020-07-15 08:23:52+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty 
        Subject: strata of abstraction and their influence?

In their book Forensic Discovery (2004), Dan Farmer and Wietse Venema
note that,

> Over time, computer systems have become more and more complex. As
> seen by the user, systems become increasingly mature and stable.
> Under the surface, however, computer systems have become less and
> less predictable regarding when and where they store information, and
> how they recycle storage space.

They use metaphors of archaeology ("the direct effects from human
activity, such as artifacts that are left behind") and geology
("autonomous processes that humans have no direct control over") to
describe what digital forensics explores when probing the implemented
'layers of abstraction' or layers of system architecture. I suspect
these metaphors have considerable leverage, but finding the literature
in which 'digital archeology' and 'digital geology' are applied to
computing systems rather than to the disciplines of archaeology and
geology respectively is difficult. I would very much appreciate
references to sources that use the archaeological and geological
metaphors to describe investigation of the strata of computing systems
for evidence of their shaping influence, despite the pretense that by 
taking another or a different step back from the machine anything 
thinkable can be implemented.

Many thanks.


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/),
Professor emeritus, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.tandfonline.com/loi/yisr20) and Humanist (www.dhhumanist.org)

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