[Humanist] 24.926 in denial

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri May 6 06:52:58 CEST 2011


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 926.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>                    (39)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.923 in denial

  [2]   From:    Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>                        (40)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.923 in denial


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 05 May 2011 12:42:26 -0400
        From: Wendell Piez <wapiez at mulberrytech.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.923 in denial
        In-Reply-To: <20110505053841.BF5BB13DF22 at woodward.joyent.us>

Willard and HUMANIST:

Part of the problem I'm having in this discussion is that we haven't 
agreed (and probably can't) on the context of the claim "the computer is 
just a tool", whose import we are debating.

Consider the following two statements:

"I don't think social media are properly a subject of humanistic 
criticism. The computer is just a tool."

"It is not the technology that troubles me, but the administration's new 
surveillance policies. The computer is just a tool."

I suppose that most readers of this list will tend to disagree with the 
first statement, while they might sympathize with the second (or can 
imagine themselves to be sympathetic, were it not a hypothetical).

What's the difference? The first reduction, the computer is "just" a 
tool, implies that it is therefore of less interest or importance, as if 
tools were not significant. It relies on a non sequitur: because the 
computer is a tool, what we do with it -- and what we can do only with 
it -- is outside the scope of humanistic inquiry. The second reduction 
differentiates between the (insignificant) tool and the (significant) 
intentions and actions it enables and embodies: the computer is a tool, 
and what we do with it *is* of interest.

So we are split between saying that no, tools are significant in 
themselves, and saying that yes, part of their significance is in their 
relation to other things of significance. But isn't that true of 
anything we consider significant?

"'Intimations of Immortality' is all about mortality, the loss of wonder 
and connection. The poem is just how he expresses it."

Cheers, Wendell

On 5/5/2011 1:38 AM, Gerda Elata-Alster wrote:
> The correct question then would be: what is a tool?

-- 
====================================================
Wendell Piez                            mailto:wapiez at mulberrytech.com
Mulberry Technologies, Inc.                http://www.mulberrytech.com
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--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Thu, 5 May 2011 12:14:28 -0700
        From: Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.923 in denial
        In-Reply-To: <20110505053841.BF5BB13DF22 at woodward.joyent.us>


Cant resist: in the Bronx decades ago you could call an incompetent,
moronical kid a "tool."  As for philosophy, it is I recall the opening
discussion by Heidegger in his BEING AND TIME.
Jascha Kessler


-- 
Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393.4648
www.jfkessler.com
www.xlibris.com





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