[Humanist] 24.553 hardware? privacy?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Dec 5 12:07:34 CET 2010


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 553.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (39)
        Subject: togetherness and privacy

  [2]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (45)
        Subject: importance or irrelevance of hardware


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 04 Dec 2010 10:47:21 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: togetherness and privacy


In "Is there love in the telematic embrace" (Art Journal 49.3, Autumn 
1990), Roy Ascott wrote that, "The individual user of networks is always 
potentially involved in a global net, and the world is always 
potentially in a state of interaction with the individual." He was 
writing before mobile/cell phones, of course, and so didn't foresee the 
half of what was about to happen. But no matter for the question I want 
to ask: what can we say is the effect of this potential always so near 
at hand?

One could say that we're pushed into renegotiating the balance of 
public-connected and private-disconnected. The push toward collaboration 
in research is part of the change, however much one discounts 
bandwagon-effects, so also the "lone scholar" caricature, the prevalence 
of team-think and so on and so forth. But renegotiation, with its trendy 
political / diplomatic / unionist associations, covers up more serious 
matters. The question isn't only a matter of what we might be losing in 
the loss of private-time. It's also a question of how we are reacting to 
the threat of that loss.

One very interesting phenomenon in this regard is the deliberate 
avoidance by terrorists of high-tech communication networks, all too 
easily penetrated. This makes me wonder, among scholars nowadays is 
there any tendency for people deliberately to avoid being connected? 
I do know that academics who become famous often tend these days 
either to claim not to have an e-mail address or to employ someone to 
run interference for them. Anthropologists and others who do fieldwork 
are sometimes out of touch for long periods; I wonder, do they enjoy 
the isolation? But I am really asking about the less well-known stay-
at-homes, those (if there are any) who unplug to avoid the distraction,
or who avoid checking their e-mail (attesting to a level of self-control
I admire but cannot manage).

Comments?

Yours,
WM
-- 
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,
www.uws.edu.au/centre_for_cultural_research/ccr/people/researchers;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sat, 04 Dec 2010 12:42:13 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: importance or irrelevance of hardware

Some years ago Brian Cantwell Smith, speaking somewhere on the notion of 
the digital, argued that it was unimportant -- that, as with digitised 
music, what counts is the music. Roy Ascott, in "Is there love in the 
telematic embrace?" (Art Journal 49.3, Autumn 1990), discussing the role 
of the computer in that which he called "telematic art", writes:

> It is the computer that is at the heart of this circulation system,
> and, like the heart, it works best when least noticed -- that is to
> say, when it becomes invisible. At present, the computer as a
> physical, material presence is too much with us; it dominates our
> inventory of tools, instruments, appliances, and apparatus as the
> ultimate machine. In our artistic and educational environments it is
> all too solidly there, a computational block to poetry and
> imagination. It is not transparent, nor is it yet fully understood as
> pure system, a universal transformative matrix. The computer is not
> primarily a thing, an object, but a set of behaviours, a system,
> actually a system of systems. Data constitute its lingua franca. It
> is the agent of the datafield, the constructor of dataspace. Where it
> is seen simply as a screen presenting the pages of an illuminated
> book, it as an internally lit painting, it is of no artistic value.
> Where its considerable speed of processing is used simply to simulate
> filmic or photographic representations, it becomes an agent of
> passive voyeurism. Where access to its transformative power is
> constrained by a typewriter keyboard, the user is forced into the
> posture of a clerk. The electronic palette, the light pen, and even
> the mouse bind us to past practices. The power of the computer's
> presence, particularly the power of the interface to shape language
> and thought, cannot be overestimated. It may not be an exaggeration
> to say that the "content" of telematic art will depend in large
> measure on the nature of the interface; that is, the kind of
> configurations and assemblies of image, sound, and text, the kind of
> restructuring and articulation of environment that telematic
> interactivity might yield, will be determined by the freedoms and
> fluidity available at the interface.

Yes -- and no? Can one see beyond the machine while not losing sight of 
it as a shaper of what is seen?

Comments?

Yours,
WM

-- 
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,
www.uws.edu.au/centre_for_cultural_research/ccr/people/researchers;
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.





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