[Humanist] 24.323 tainted app

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Sep 8 22:59:53 CEST 2010


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 323.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    KC <traveler at barking-sands.com>                          (139)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app

  [2]   From:    Stephen Ramsay <sramsay.unl at gmail.com>                    (28)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app

  [3]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (34)
        Subject: the universal taint

  [4]   From:    "Stephen Woodruff" <s.woodruff at arts.gla.ac.uk>             (9)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app

  [5]   From:    Gary Shawver <shawver at nyu.edu>                             (6)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2010 13:57:28 +1200
        From: KC <traveler at barking-sands.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app
        In-Reply-To: <20100908010428.07F5E687C1 at woodward.joyent.us>


I'd love to have seen the song tune that the old writers for *Mad Magazine* might have set this previous posting to....  So everyone should really think carefully about buying an iPad (but I've got mine, so there!)....

cheers, KC

On 8/09/2010, at 1:04 PM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 319.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2010 23:41:13 +0100
>        From: "John A. Walsh" <jawalsh at indiana.edu>
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.316 tainted app
>        In-Reply-To: <20100905202814.5B5CE67C8D at woodward.joyent.us>
> 
> 
> Willard,
> 
> You write, "Perhaps if more of us had the experience of the
> artist/crafts-man and woman we'd simply be able to love a well
> designed and crafted object. But when, under what conditions, must we
> reject that love and spurn the object?"
> 
> You've probably read the stories, but if you Google "Foxconn," the
> firm that actually builds iPhones, iPads, and the like, I think you
> will find some news stories that report many conditions for which we
> might reject the love and spurn the object. The Foxconn workers live
> in giant factory/cities of something like 300,000 or more inhabitants,
> living in dormitories, doing repetitive, unfulfilling work, working
> extremely long hours, and earning wages of about £90 per month. Given
> that the iPad has a starting price of £429.00, it's unlikely the
> people who build the iPad could ever afford to own one. I assume most
> Humanist participants would not own iPads if we had to pay four months
> wages for one.
> 
> While the iPad may be well designed (I certainly think it is), in no
> way is it "crafted"--well or poorly. It is, instead, manufactured.
> And there is a great difference between craft and manufacturing.
> Dropping a chip into place or inserting a screw on an assembly line
> does not constitute craft. It is mindless, unfulfilling labor. The
> processes by which these devices are made are plagued by classic
> division of labor problems, and, being a Victorianist, I can't help
> but quote Ruskin here:
> 
> "It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the
> men:—Divided into mere segments of men—broken into small fragments and
> crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is
> left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts
> itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail." (from "The
> Nature of Gothic" in _The Stones of Venice_).
> 
> I do believe that the process by which these devices are produced
> break men and women in small fragments and crumbs of life, and for me
> that is a very convincing reason not to love and perhaps to spurn
> these devices. I also think that whatever attraction people feel
> towards these objects would more properly be classified as lust rather
> than love.
> 
> And in the interest of full disclosure I must add that I own an iPad.
> I use it a great deal, and I enjoy it a great deal. But while I own it
> and use it and enjoy it, I also suspect it may be a tool of the devil,
> for many reasons, only a few of which I touched on here.
> 
> John


--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2010 21:07:36 -0500
        From: Stephen Ramsay <sramsay.unl at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app
        In-Reply-To: <20100908010428.07F5E687C1 at woodward.joyent.us>


On Tue, Sep 7, 2010 at 8:04 PM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
> While the iPad may be well designed (I certainly think it is), in no
> way is it "crafted"--well or poorly. It is, instead, manufactured.
> And there is a great difference between craft and manufacturing.
> Dropping a chip into place or inserting a screw on an assembly line
> does not constitute craft. It is mindless, unfulfilling labor.

I don't wish to detract from John's thoughtful, if grim assessment of modern
technological manufacturing -- a message that is as depressing as it is
necessary to hear.

I will say, though, that "craftsmanship" has always seemed to me the right
term for the art of programming.  For those who are interested, I might
suggest a book by Pete McBreen called *Software Craftsmanship: The New
Imperative* (2002).  In it, he sets craftsmanship against terms like
"software engineering," and suggests that our ideas about how to produce
software efficiently (from management of projects to unit testing) have
fallen prey to the same Tayloristic notions that have produced the bleak
landscapes John describes.

Steve

-- 
Stephen Ramsay
Associate Professor
Department of English
Center for Digital Research in the Humanities
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
PGP Public Key ID: 0xA38D7B11
http://lenz.unl.edu/



--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 08 Sep 2010 12:43:22 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the universal taint
        In-Reply-To: <20100908010428.07F5E687C1 at woodward.joyent.us>


Not to detract one bit from John Walsh's note on the horrible conditions 
under which our nifty gadgets are manufactured. But isn't the dilemma 
inescapable for human beings? Aren't we circling around the edges of 
what in a former era people would have called the fallen condition? Can 
we not at every stage of civilisation find in the development of its 
implements similar violence, cruelty, oppression, greed &c? Hasn't 
warfare frequently if not as a general rule always been the great engine 
of technological development?

In the late 1960s those of us then alive and old enough to be part of 
the counterculture may recall the wholesale rejection of civilised ways, 
the migration out to communes and so on and so forth, revolted as we 
were by the blood on the hands of everyone in power (or so it seemed) 
and by the complicity of our complacent elders. And if we remember 
further, what we're likely to recall is the re-discovery of the serpent 
in the garden. I suspect few of us then saw that our edenic desires were 
supported by the certain knowledge that we could get a job ("sell out to 
the Man") anytime we wanted, or better, get a fresh infusion of cash 
from our parents. Thus came the 1980s and so on and so forth.

Or perhaps we joined the Weather Underground, determined to change things 
rather more quickly by violent means.

Or perhaps we were like the two Steves and their garage computer....

Is the answer to the moral dilemma to use our iPads only for good? Again 
I summon Oscar. We can play, and with sufficient skill, do it beautifully. Is 
that enough?

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.



--[4]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2010 11:52:42 +0100
        From: "Stephen Woodruff" <s.woodruff at arts.gla.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app
        In-Reply-To: <20100908010428.07F5E687C1 at woodward.joyent.us>

While I agree there is a difference between craft and manufacturing, the notion of a "crafted" device even in this age of mechanical reproduction (sorry) is perhaps not so clear.

Damien Hirst apparently has three workshops -  see http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/arts/article-23410356-inside-damien-hirsts-factory.do: "..f*** this, I hated it. As soon as I sold one, I used the money to pay people to make them..." 

In his (fascinating!) autobiography Benvenuto Cellini describes his (16th century) workshop of assistants and its clear he didn't touch much of the work 'he' produced.

If we admit the devices are desirable, where does the appeal come from? Perhaps Benjamin was wrong. Is the presence of the original any longer the prerequisite for authenticity? Are our concrete devices now signifiers and the referents now in the virtual world: the mystique with Apple? 

Stephen Woodruff
HATII


--[5]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2010 11:38:56 -0400
        From: Gary Shawver <shawver at nyu.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.319 tainted app
        In-Reply-To: <20100908010428.07F5E687C1 at woodward.joyent.us>

Does anyone here know how people outside academia live? What were the conditions these people encountered before their employment at Foxconn? What are the real alternatives? Do we remember that it is precisely these kinds of jobs that eventually provided a good living for many in the west who did not have a college education, or desire one? Speaking of tainted products, before we remove the proverbial mote, perhaps we ought to address the beam. How many of us have used the Marx product in articles and books, often with approbation, without a single acknowledgment of the tens of millions it has murdered? 

On Sep 7, 2010, at 9:04 PM, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

> The Foxconn workers live
> in giant factory/cities of something like 300,000 or more inhabitants,
> living in dormitories, doing repetitive, unfulfilling work, working
> extremely long hours, and earning wages of about £90 per month. 





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