[Humanist] 24.296 tainted app

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Aug 30 23:23:44 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 296.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>                      (45)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.294 tainted app

  [2]   From:    Stefan Werner <stefan.werner at uef.fi>                      (11)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.293 new app: FryPaper

  [3]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (29)
        Subject: sticky sins?

  [4]   From:    Jan Christoph Meister <jan-c-meister at uni-hamburg.de>      (95)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.294 tainted app - Symbolism of the shiny

  [5]   From:    Vivian Tsang <vtsang at hollandbloorview.ca>                 (21)
        Subject: Fwd: [Humanist] 24.294 tainted app

        Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2010 16:27:52 -0400
        From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.294 tainted app
        In-Reply-To: <20100829200345.A2CA563072 at woodward.joyent.us>

Oh please.  Unless you sew your own clothing, walk to work, and grow
your own food no one can make this argument.

Jim R

Dr. James Rovira
Program Chair of Humanities
Assistant Professor of English
Tiffin University
155 Miami Street
Tiffin, OH 44883
(419) 448-3586
roviraj at tiffin.edu
Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety

        Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2010 23:32:04 +0300
        From: Stefan Werner <stefan.werner at uef.fi>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.293 new app: FryPaper
        In-Reply-To: <20100829024042.44848635BC at woodward.joyent.us>

On Sun, Aug 29, 2010 at 5:40 AM, Humanist Discussion Group
<willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> Here is a moment in the development in our besetting technology
> to be treasured. It's free -- and also available on www.stephenfry.com.

Since you mention Stephen Fry and moments to be treasured please also
have a look at his 2008 birthday speech in favor of free (not as in
beer, but as in speech) software at http://www.gnu.org/fry/ or

Best regards,
Stefan Werner
University of Eastern Finland

        Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2010 07:55:21 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: sticky sins?
        In-Reply-To: <20100829024042.44848635BC at woodward.joyent.us>

David Postles indirectly raises a very interesting question with wide 
application: to what degree does the morality of the making of an object 
inhere in that object? This is different from the practical concerns of 
someone motivated to stop evil practices by boycotting their products or 
by more radical actions. But in both cases I ask isn't all money 
blood-money? One could argue that if you do good with your iPhone 4, or 
with any thing that is bound to involve unethical practices, then your 
celebration of the iPhone, or whatever, is justified. Note, however, 
Fry's celebration of Wilde, who lived in an age of strong convictions 
about what was good and what was not, and recall what happened to him.

The case of computing is a particularly interesting one historically, 
esp during the Cold War, when the "electronic battlefield" was a weird 
reality and when the use of computers to control nuclear missles was in 
the public gaze, indeed celebrated. This was also a time when computers 
were only the big hulks affordable only by large organizations and used 
often (as undoubtedly they still are) for nefarious purposes. What then 
did it mean for the ethically conscious scholar to mess with machines?

I am not at all suggesting that we turn aside the problem, rather that 
we consider how human a problem it really is.


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

        Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2010 13:07:33 +0200
        From: Jan Christoph Meister <jan-c-meister at uni-hamburg.de>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.294 tainted app - Symbolism of the shiny apple
        In-Reply-To: <20100829200345.A2CA563072 at woodward.joyent.us>



thanks for the pointer. After reading Fry's appleophatic piece (and 
after watching his sickenengly sycophantic video clips on the subject of 
his initiation to the iPad) I wonder whether he shouldn't have put his 
wit and eloquence to better use. In fact, the entire debate on Apple's 
pros and cons and the mystique of its gadgets has a coquettish ring that 
smacks of a somewhat dated and self-conscious postmodernist attitude. 
Are we really still celebrating our technophile follies tongue in cheek, 
or aren't we plainly rationalising our niche brand of 21st century 
consumerism by giving it a bit of manierist veneer made up of 2 parts 
chic-design pleasure and 1 part software ergonomics appraisal?

Don't get me wrong; to my Nietzschean mind there's nothing wrong with 
conscious aestheticism. I, too, believe that my MacBook Pro is the 
sexiest, best-designed piece of laptop hardware currently on the market. 
I also believe that the Mac's 'Finder' is one of the crappiest and most 
dumbing pieces of software I have ever encountered. Drop me on a Pacific 
island for a four week holiday and I'll happily take my Mac along, but 
send me on a space mission and sure as hell I will resort to my Lenovo - 
but you might decide otherwise and that's OK with me.

I guess we can afford this attitude of laissez-faire since in our line 
of work computing devices are not really of an existential significance 
- we might like to believe that our life will come to an end if the 
thing fails, but it surely won't.  On that score it is perhaps also 
unfair to compare a comparatively young technology like personal 
computing devices with a more established one like, say, motor vehicles 
- yet the fact of the matter is that Macs, PCs, smartphones of the 
various brands and the likes of all these tools and gadgets still have a 
long way to go before they will come close to the intuitive usability, 
level of reliability and existential impact in terms of how they 
effortlessly augment our lives that one gets with, say, a 5-series BMW. 
Take one of those for a spin and you will experience the difference that 
still sets an all-encompassing sensual encounter with modern technology 
apart from the bursts of clinical mind-fuck and  virtual omnipotency 
provided by digital consumer goods, moreover as that pleasure is already 
subsconsciously negated by the anticipation of the next product launch. 
(Husserl would have had a field day here - it's a life under the 
condition of 'Protension' par excellence.)

But then this is not really the argument worth spending any more time 
on: which brand of xyz (smartphone, e-book, notebook, 
pocket-size-jacuzzi, motor vehicle or identity enhancer of whatever 
nature) is better, sexier, more rewarding or even more functional than 
the other, and for how long.

My point is: can't we elevate this debate onto a different level? Yes, 
one might be the moral one; I think there is absolutely nothing wrong 
with re-raising the moral question of the downsides of capitalist 
consumerism and how our first world lust for goods and gadgets impacts 
on the lives of  other human beings. A second that comes to mind is the 
political one: here we are as Digital Humanists, raising our voices for 
the noble cause of Open Access - and at the same time we should be happy 
to defend as a minor aberration a marketing and product ideology that 
has a decisively fascist ring to it? That's a really strange relapse of 
ego-te-absolvo post-modernist relativism.

Finally, a third take on the subject that would really interest me is 
the question of the conceptual cost-benefit ratio that comes with 
improved hard- and software ergonomics. Let me use an example to 
illustrate what I mean by this. When I eventually got rid of my 1982 
rust-bucket of a Nissan Patrol and swapped it for a 1992 V6-Mitsubishi 
this was a really soothing experience: a much more comfortable drive, 
better suspension, no rain water leaking in from the roof and through 
the doors etc.. But to this day it gives me the creeps to imagine 
breaking down on a desert trip with the newer vehicle: it has - fuel 
injection. That's something that you cannot repair with a hammer and a 
screwdriver; it's something controlled by a piece of circuitry and 
electronics that lives inside a block of melted black plastic. And I 
also still yearn for the brute-force torque of a petrol-guzzling 
straight six engine, for the atavistic pleasure of experiencing the 
basic principle of the machine. Ultimately, for me the pleasure resides 
in understanding how it works - even if that can only be consciously 
experienced ex negativo, that is, when it doesn't.

Technology gets smoother, easier to handle, wraps itself around us and 
our needs (or what we believe to be our needs) and thus gradually 
attains the quality of a natural extension of our selves that becomes 
completely opaque. Is this what we as Humanists and custodians of man's 
critical faculty should really aspire to and propagate? Aren't things 
that break, resist and that we can take apart and re-assemble much more 
rewarding to our intellect than the smooth and shiny placebos that drop 
into our laps and which we then wave at one another in childish 
amazement? Isn't it high time we rather spent some thought on the 
symbolism of the shiny apple on the lid, of the multi-color crusader's 
flag that waves at us on log-in?


(PS: Not sure what to make of the penguin though.)

Jan Christoph Meister
Professor für Neuere deutsche Literatur
(Literaturtheorie, Textanalyse, Computerphilologie)
Fakultät für Geisteswissenschaften
Fachbereich SLM I - Institut für Germanistik II
Von-Melle-Park 6
20146 Hamburg
Office: +49 40 42838 2972
Cell: +49 172 40 865 41
Web:  www.jcmeister.de

        Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2010 10:21:35 -0400
        From: Vivian Tsang <vtsang at hollandbloorview.ca>
        Subject: Fwd: [Humanist] 24.294 tainted app
        In-Reply-To: <20100829200345.A2CA563072 at woodward.joyent.us>

But at the current market price, how can any of the computing devices not be
"blood diamonds" (i.e., produced under disturbing conditions)? With or
without the news coverage? Either the labour is cheap, or the raw parts are
cheap (low quality?)... something has to be cheap.

There is much to complaint about the ethical business practices in the
computing world. For example, many companies promote themselves as being
environmentally conscious. But by putting out new products at a faster and
faster rate, they are essentially asking people to produce more and more
waste (by purchasing more and more toys), regardless of how environmentally
friendly the computing components are. But what do we do? Do we boycott
certain companies? Do we stop using computers altogether? As users and
consumers, it seems that we are just as much to blame as these companies.

Vivian Tsang
Post-Doc Fellow
Bloorview Research Institute

       Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2010 14:35:45 +0100
       From: "Postles, David A. (Dr.)" <pot at leicester.ac.uk>
       Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.293 new app: FryPaper
       In-Reply-To: <20100829024042.44848635BC at woodward.joyent.us>

I'm disappointed that people can promote Apple products after the recent
revelations about the working conditions at Foxconn in China.

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