[Humanist] 24.52 what went wrong, or not

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon May 24 07:18:21 CEST 2010


                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 52.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Joe Raben" <joeraben at cox.net>                            (19)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.51 what went wrong?

  [2]   From:    Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>                       (100)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.51 what went wrong?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 23 May 2010 11:08:17 -0400
        From: "Joe Raben" <joeraben at cox.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.51 what went wrong?
        In-Reply-To: <20100523055039.B9F4A5910B at woodward.joyent.us>

I spent several hours at the "Cybernetic Serendipity" exhibition in 1968, 
and remember that very little of it related to computers. Chief among the 
exhibits was a totallly whimsical guess at what a computer might be if its 
memory was an elephant head comprising tennis rackets for ears and a vacuum 
cleaner hose for a trunk; a bed of vertical metal rods that waved like water 
when a hand was passed over them; a film, "Weekend," by Jean-Luc Godard, a 
criticism of bourgeois materialism featuring a ten-minute-long tracking shot 
of an interminable traffic jam; and similar  expressions of imagination 
having very little relation to the reality of computers in general or their 
specific utility in humanistic endeavors.

Perhaps these were appropriate responses to the artistic possibilities 
provided by the new technology, but in my judgment they did little to 
further the public awareness of the computer's potential to alter the 
intellectual environment. That they related not at all to the events 
occurring in the social and political spheres seems to deny this exhibition 
the label of "seminal event."


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Sun, 23 May 2010 10:51:55 -0700
        From: Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.51 what went wrong?
        In-Reply-To: <20100523055039.B9F4A5910B at woodward.joyent.us>


I rather imagine the reason for very slow adaptation is the diminished, and
ever-diminishing funding for Humanities Divisions in Academia.  President
Yudoff of the vast UC, last November actually gave an interview I saw on
video, youtubed, in which he said that Sciences and Engineering and Medicine
are doing okay, but, well, the Humanities and Sociology have less and less
monies available yearly.  It was rather blatantly crass, but at least
honest. We dont and probably wont have it for such folks, in short.
Jascha Kessler

On Sat, May 22, 2010 at 10:50 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 51.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>        Date: Sat, 22 May 2010 22:15:17 +0100
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: what went wrong?
>
>
> Two authors in the superb collection, White Heat Cold Logic: British
> Computer Art 1960-1980, ed. Paul Brown, Charlie Gere, Nicholas Lambert &
> Catherine Mason (2008), come to the same conclusion about the
> incunabular period of computing and the arts: conditions were better
> then, much better.
>
> After describing work of the most exciting kind, John Hamilton Frazer,
> in "Interactive Architecture", asks, "So what went wrong?" He says,
>
> > Digital culture suffered from two contradictory tides between 1960
> > and 1980. On the one hand we witnessed the development of important
> > new technologies; on the other, these technologies were exploited and
> > trivialized. Technology moved fast -- in many ways faster than
> > expected -- but the social and political and economic systems did
> >  not. (p. 50)
>
> Indeed. The fact that even now academic positions directly in the digital
> humanities are very rare, that academic departments dedicated to the field
> must number on the fingers of one hand, if not less, despite everything,
> shows how slow-moving these systems are. Too slow by the measure of a
> professional career. But, I think, we should look to ourselves rather than
> apportion blame: how much do we push these systems, question them?
>
> Another. Reviewing perhaps the best known early exhibition of computerart,
> in "Cybernetic Serendipity Revisited", Brent MacGregor concludes
> with a penultimate section entitled. "Serendipity Ain't What it Used to
> Be". He observes,
>
> > The exhibitors in Cybernetic Serendipity were a combination of
> > artists and scientist-engineers experimenting in a way not possible
> > today.... Questions... were asked and answered in 1968 in a way they
> > wouldn't be today.... Creative people wrote code, not funding
> > applications. (p. 92)
>
> It's hard to gainsay that trivialization, and its hard to buck
> socio-economic trends. But surely, kindled by the fact that we have
> made the bed we're tossing and turning in, we can leap out and remake it,
> or at least argue over how it could be remade.
>
> "It is important to remember", MacGregor writes, "that this seminal event
> [Cybernetic Serendipity] took place in 1968, a year after the optimistic
> 'summer of love' and roughly at the same time as the Soviet invasion of
> communist Czechoslovakia.... There were riots in Chicago against the war in
> Vietnam and presidential candidate Senator Robert Kennedy was shot in a Los
> Angeles hotel" (pp. 84-5). A complex historical reality, not at all
> uniformly encouraging, under the sinister influence of the Cold War, with
> summery love only for some, only some of the time. So it's not at all a
> matter of simple nostalgia. Rather I would extract encouragement. I would
> ask, if back then we could be curious and get excited about the
> possibilities, why not now? What's stopping us?
>
> Comments?
>
> Yours,WM
>
> --
> Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
> King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
> Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
> Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

-- 
Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393,4648
www.jfkessler.com
www.xlibris.com





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