[Humanist] 23.423 embracing static

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Nov 8 09:18:14 CET 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 423.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 6 Nov 2009 21:27:39 -0500 (EST)
        From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
        Subject: Embracing Static
        In-Reply-To: <20091106061130.B8151408B4 at woodward.joyent.us> from "Humanist


You may be amused to learn that Weiss concludes his paragraph on the
significance of 1913 with a reminder that "Radio was created -- and with it,
an unfortunate electronic side-effect was first heard, that of static."

I am likely the source of the noise that entered the thread. I introduced a
word absent from the proposed analogy when I chose as a subject line

	Regeneration through Radio (metaphors)

which Willard in a moderating move presented under the rubric

	[Humanist] 23.414 regeneration through radio

My intent was not to introduce another activity but point to the possible
common telos of radio-like activities.

That said, I am a great believer in the generative power of noise, static
and other such sources of randomness. I found it interesting that you would
position "regeneration" after "detection" though you also wonder if the
activities may not be placed in parallel.

It is only in reading your message that I realize that implicit in the theme
of regeneration is that of cutting or wounding. I am not suggesting that
"detection" i.e. the reception of a signal is by any means an act of
violence. (or that you implied that it was). What strikes me as worthy of
theorizing is the notion of interpretation as a form of regeneration for in
some quarters interpretation is a doing violence to a text (every reading is
a misreading) -- in a sense a parsing is a cutting.

Remarkable that at an unconscious level the scholar by being open to the
signal of the Other (acting as a detector) is open to receiving some quantum
of violence (having the text of the Self re-arranged by the Other).

The use of "violence" above may be another introduction of static. Still
reading radio metaphors is dangerous stuff. Well, slightly dangerous and
only dangerous in a metaphorical sense. However, very close reading of any
metaphor _is_ an engagement with a static bearing device. Scholars at some
point need not shy away from "static" either in listening to it or having it
flare up at the edges of their discourse. It is said that in more charitable
times, universities (and other institutions) housed resident lunatics --
whose very presence humbled those who could not hear what they did. But I

For ease of the reader, allow me to quote in toto the message that prompted
the above mixture of signal and static.

> From: Neven Jovanovic <filologanoga at gmail.com
> Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.414 regeneration through radio
> In-Reply-To: <20091105073705.438B639D0F at woodward.joyent.us>


with less than elementary knowledge of electronics, I see not three,
but four activities in the passage you quoted (Willard also hinted at
it in choosing the title). Activity coming immediately after detection
--- in parallel with it? --- would be regeneration, i. e.
interpretation. So we select, and find meaning, and amplify it enough
--- making it the center of our research, I guess --- to be
transmitted towards other "receivers".

Now, how does it fit into institutional models and flowcharts which
seem to be the backbone of the neighbouring thread on devices and
uses? Are the four activities compartmentalized? Should they be?


> <quote>
> On 31 January 1913, Edwin H. Armstrong had notarized his diagram of the
> first regenerative circuit, an invention which was to be the basis of radio
> transmission. his discovery was that the audion (vacuum tube) could be used
> not only as a detector of electrical waves but also, through regeneration or
> feedback, as a signal amplifier. Furthermore, as a generator of continuously
> oscillating electromagnetic waves, it could be used as a transmitter.
> </quote>

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

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