[Humanist] 23.386 boundaries of the hand

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Oct 21 07:19:35 CEST 2009


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 386.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Judith Musick <musick at uoregon.edu>                        (77)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.384 boundaries of the hand

  [2]   From:    Igor Kramberger <k at aufbix.org>                            (31)
        Subject: Re: boundaries of the human hand

  [3]   From:    lachance at chass.utoronto.ca                                (27)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.384 boundaries of the hand

  [4]   From:    John Laudun <jlaudun at mac.com>                             (53)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.384 boundaries of the hand

  [5]   From:    Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>                    (86)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.381 boundaries of the human?

  [6]   From:    "Hayler, Matthew" <mh276 at exeter.ac.uk>                     (7)
        Subject: r.e.: boundaries of the human hand


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2009 22:39:40 -0700
        From: Judith Musick <musick at uoregon.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.384 boundaries of the hand
        In-Reply-To: <20091020052141.B83CF3EAC0 at woodward.joyent.us>


This question has intrigued me for years Willard. I will try to gather  
some of my thoughts on the matter and pass them on to you for your  
personal amusement.

One observation in the meantime: People going to the doctor with  
complaints about pain in or dysfunction of their hand are inclined to  
claim how important this is because "I use my hands all the time,  
every day."

More later,

Judith

Judith L. Musick, Ph.D.
Senior Research Associate
Wired Humanities Projects
1236 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1236
(541) 346-5099



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 09:00:12 +0200
        From: Igor Kramberger <k at aufbix.org>
        Subject: Re: boundaries of the human hand
        In-Reply-To: <20091020052141.B83CF3EAC0 at woodward.joyent.us>

Good morning,

Willard wrote:
>  But, sitting here with my line in the water, the fish I was hoping 
> would be named was someone who relatively recently has written 
> about the embodied knowledge of the artist/craftsman, say, who 
> knows in experience that the boundary which begins with the hand 
> extends to the edge of whatever tool. I'd like to know historically 
> when this primaeval insight was spoken, how it was developed under 
> what cultural conditions, or if it was not spoken, what kept it 
> silent.

First, there was a lecture given by Marcel Mauss about body and its 
capabilities. It was a suggestion for a world wide research of the 
topic.

It is included in this book in English translation:
http://www.amazon.com/Techniques-Technology-Civilization-Marcel-Mauss/dp/1571816623/ref=sr_1_23?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256021447&sr=1-23 

Second, I would suggest to read the book from Andre Leroi-Gourhan: 
Gesture and Speech (English translation):
http://www.amazon.com/Gesture-Speech-October-Andr%C3%83%C2%A9-Leroi-Gourhan/dp/0262121735/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256021637&sr=1-5 

And quite a different approach can be found in this book by Siegfried 
Giedion: Mechanization Takes Command: 
http://www.amazon.com/Mechanization-Contribution-Civilization-Philosophical-Implications/dp/B001AVTKHC/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1256021839&sr=1-4 

I hope that you will get your fish.

Kind regards,

-- 
Igor
-----
Igor Kramberger, raziskovalec-urednik
 http://www.ff.uni-mb.si/index.php?page_id=81&person=89 

Koro'ska cesta 63, SI-2000 Maribor
pri Tom'si'c, Ulica Toma Brejca 11 a, SI-1241 Kamnik

Slovenija, Evropa



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 09:17:20 -0400 (EDT)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.384 boundaries of the hand
        In-Reply-To: <20091020052141.B83CF3EAC0 at woodward.joyent.us>

Willard,

Regarding the boundaries of the human hand and development of digital
tools, you and the subscribers to Humanist might be interested in the
reporting around a new musical instrument: the eigenharp.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8294355.stm

The reporting I have noticed references to other electronic instruments.

<quote>
Of course, dozens of electronic instruments have come and gone over the
years.

Some - like the theremin or Mellotron - have been around for decades and
are still in use today. Many others are gathering dust at the back of
recording studios.

In an age when complex music-making applications are being made for mobile
phones, isn't there a danger that technology might overtake the Eigenharp?

"No," says Lambert. "More likely our decision to make the software for the
instrument run on a separate computer will pay off - we are already
looking at porting the software perhaps into the PlayStation or Wii."

Lambert points out that many artists no longer make a living from record
sales alone. Live tours have become a major source of revenue.

He is upbeat about the response from a wide range of performers, including
those working in classical music, rock and electronica.

</quote>

I draw your attention to this because of how the themes interlock. The
backwards glance to instruments-past leads to the question of deployment
in the near future. The discourse surrounging the arrival of the Eigenharp
serves to indicate that at the nexus of the hand and the tool (instrument)
is also a whole social framework.



--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 09:37:10 -0500
        From: John Laudun <jlaudun at mac.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.384 boundaries of the hand
        In-Reply-To: <20091020052141.B83CF3EAC0 at woodward.joyent.us>



Dear All:

I am less familiar with the intellectual history of cybernetics,  
cognitive studies, and humanities computing than everyone else here,  
but I am fairly familiar with discourses about the crafts and  
craftsmen, which are almost always invoked -- often in a romanticized/ 
idealized fashion -- during moments of transition. For something of a  
history of this, see T. J. Jackson Lears' "No Place of Grace" for an  
account of public idylls about craftsmanship that occurred during the  
rise of the professional class in the early to mid-twentieth century.

Certainly Richard Sennett's "The Craftsman" is one such text in our  
own time, but it is not limited to humanists. In a recent Harvard  
Business Review, Gary Pisano and Willy Shih argue that "Restoring  
American Competitiveness" (the title of the article) amounts to not  
letting go manufacturing, that one of the great errors of the MBA  
generation, itself a product of Harvard n'est-ce pas?, is that it  
could see the work of the metaphorical hand of business,  
manufacturing, as distinct from the metaphorical mind of business,  
research and development. They argue that some of the great  
innovations of recent decades have been a result of the two remaining  
intertwined. (Their favorite example is Toyota's patent portfolio on  
battery technology, which resulted from a series of process  
improvements that allowed them to rethink the product itself.)

The idea has traveled so far in our own time that Matthew Crawford in  
"Shop Class as Soulcraft" argues that it is the professional class  
that now has reason to worry -- because so much of its work is now  
available also for outsourcing, e.g. radiological services now  
performed in the Phillipines -- and that it is the trades which are  
secure. Humans are not going to stop pooping any time soon, and thus a  
plumber will always have a local job.

john laudun



--[5]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 13:05:56 -0400
        From: Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 23.381 boundaries of the human?
        In-Reply-To: <20091017105823.154163F768 at woodward.joyent.us>

Dear Willard,

At 06:58 AM 10/17/2009, you wrote:
>In How We Became Posthuman, Katherine Hayles opens Chapter 4 with the
>following sentence:
>
> > Of all the implications that first-wave cybernetics conveyed, perhaps
> > none was more disturbing and potentially revolutionary than the idea
> > that the boundaries of the human subject are constructed rather than
> > given. (p. 84)
>
>She hints at the history of this "revolutionary" notion by citing
>Gregory Bateson's use of the metaphor of the blind man's cane, a
>favourite of the phenomenologists, e.g. Merleau-Ponty and Polanyi, and
>related to Heidegger's argument in Sein und Zeit. But surely there is an
>earlier history of the idea. The experience is as primordial as homo
>faber's, not just as old as cane-using blind people's.

Yes, there's an earlier history. This discussion has been at the core 
of Buddhist metaphysics and psychology, at least, for millennia.

Indeed, in the West this "new" idea might be traced to the East, 
through nineteenth-century thinkers such as Schopenhauer and 
Nietzsche -- albeit not untainted by the fallacy, as the Buddhists 
consider it, of nihilism.

>My question is this. How is it that human beings would have greeted this
>notion as so disturbing, so revolutionary?

Buddhist traditions have a few things to say about that too. The 
disturbance is not simply an intellectual one.

>My guess is that the separation of people whose social mandate is to 
>think and write from those whose mandate is to carry out skilled (or 
>even unskilled) manual labour is responsible. Who has best written about this?

Do you wonder if this separation is responsible for the insight, or 
for why it's considered disturbing?

How far back do you date this separation? In the West, are the Desert 
Fathers, or precursors including Diogenes the Dog Philosopher, too 
far? I wonder if they would have been so disturbed.

You go on to clarify (in 23.384):
>the fish I was hoping would be named was someone who relatively 
>recently has written about the embodied knowledge of the 
>artist/craftsman, say, who knows in experience that the boundary 
>which begins with the hand extends to the edge of whatever tool. I'd 
>like to know historically when this primaeval insight was spoken, 
>how it was developed under what cultural conditions, or if it
>was not spoken, what kept it silent.

I don't think this book has been written, though the materials are there.

>What interests me about Hayles' statement is that the cyberneticists 
>should have greeted the artist/craftsman's basic experience as 
>revolutionary. Of course then as now (even more so now?) scholars 
>and scientists seldom, I'd think, learn to make things with their 
>hands in a way that would lead them to realise the boundary-shift 
>implicit in skilled tool-use. In other words, cybernetics would seem 
>basically a surfacing and formalizing of something as old as 
>sentient life. Why was the historical question not asked then?

You imply that cyberneticists considered as revolutionary an insight 
as old and inevitable as handwork, and yet if an insight is not 
formally expressed and presented as such, does it constitute an 
insight for the cyberneticist's purposes? That is, okay, a reflective 
person chopping firewood may have always known that the boundaries 
between self, axe, wood, and fire, are not so certain. But if to say 
so has been, in the face of Christian or Cartesian orthodoxy, taboo, 
then what has the cyberneticist had to work with?

Again, I stress that we should take care not to overgeneralize, and 
suppose that because an idea has been unthinkable, or rare, or 
suppressed, in our world, it must always have been so across the 
globe. However learned they were, the cyberneticists did not, after 
all, have access to the whole of human thought: their educations 
exposed them to only so much. (And if ideas from the East had 
already, by their time, been long veiled in the West by self-serving 
Western ideologies regarding them, that too is about the West.)

So the question, why didn't the cyberneticists wonder how new this 
idea was, is really not about the idea, but about them and their 
culture. My answer (hazarding a guess) is that they were a smart 
bunch, and like many smart people, did not imagine there was ever 
anyone else as smart, or maybe only as lucky, as themselves. 
(Although I would make an exception for Bateson.)

Yet maybe the perennial philosophy is actually new -- every year -- 
and the cyberneticists were right to consider it so.

Cheers,
Wendell

========================================================
Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez at mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.                http://www.mulberrytech.com
17 West Jefferson Street                    Direct Phone: 301/315-9635
Suite 207                                          Phone: 301/315-9631
Rockville, MD  20850                                 Fax: 301/315-8285
----------------------------------------------------------------------
   Mulberry Technologies: A Consultancy Specializing in SGML and XML
========================================================



--[6]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 20 Oct 2009 15:25:01 +0100
        From: "Hayler, Matthew" <mh276 at exeter.ac.uk>
        Subject: r.e.: boundaries of the human hand
        In-Reply-To: <20091017105823.154163F768 at woodward.joyent.us>


Hi, 

This is the first time I've replied to the list so please forgive me if I should have sent this email elsewhere.

Further to your discussion I thought that Frank Wilson's The Hand (http://bit.ly/37ZLhA) might be of some use, particularly his discussion of craftsmen becoming 'at one' with their tools in much the same way as generations of apes became at one with the branches which supported their transit.  I've found his discussion of 'secondary heuristics' (a term he borrows from Henry Plotkin - http://bit.ly/4ayS51) to be particularly elucidating to my understanding of the importance of tactility to texts, something which I discuss a little in this post - http://bit.ly/1GnCyG - which may also be of interest.

Thanks for the always thought-provoking discussions

Best

_Matt Hayler

http://4oh4-wordsnotfound.blogspot.com





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