[Humanist] 25.500 where the thrill is

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Nov 22 09:44:56 CET 2011


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 500.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Stephen Woodruff <Stephen.Woodruff at glasgow.ac.uk>          (8)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.496 where is the thrill?

  [2]   From:    Daniel Allington <da3477 at open.ac.uk>                      (70)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.496 where is the thrill?


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2011 09:39:35 +0000
        From: Stephen Woodruff <Stephen.Woodruff at glasgow.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.496 where is the thrill?
        In-Reply-To: <20111120081554.5A17F2076B3 at woodward.joyent.us>


I think the relationship you are describing, including "pleasure from the elegance", its presence and its disappearance, is that of a musician with his instrument.
regards
Stephen Woodruff

Humanities Advanced Technology & information Institute
11 University Gardens
Glasgow G12 0JU
Scotland / UK
0141 330 4508



--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2011 10:15:03 +0000
        From: Daniel Allington <da3477 at open.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 25.496 where is the thrill?
        In-Reply-To: <20111120081554.5A17F2076B3 at woodward.joyent.us>


Dear Willard

I think that what underlies your 'where is the thrill?' question is the distinction between two different relationships to technology: that of the hacker and that of the end-user. The end-user expects the technology to be adapted to him or her - often, this means an intuitive GUI, but the most important principle is that It Just Works. The hacker, by contrast, expects to have to adapt him- or herself to the technology. These can of course be the same person at different times. Being a library rather than an application, the Natural Language Toolkit is suited to the 'hacker' mentality. To run with your radio analogy, it isn't a radio but a set of components that - in the right hands (not mine, by the way!) - might be useful for research into radio technology. And *there's* the thrill.

Regards

Daniel

Sent from Samsung Mobile

Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 496.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>        Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2011 09:06:07 +0000
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: where the thrill is
>
>
>Yesterday I spent many hours with only partial success trying to install 
>the Natural Language Toolkit (http://www.nltk.org/) on my Mac. After 
>numerous difficulties with numerous websites, chasing bits and pieces in 
>various stages of development, I began to suspect that I was grossly 
>overlooking a rather obvious truth: that the reward many must be 
>enjoying from treading the same path is not at all what I was seeking -- 
>that, to reach to the proverbial, their reward is in the journey, not 
>the arrival. I want to arrive!
>
>This morning I turned to a book on my desk for some temporary 
>distraction: Brian Winston, Misunderstanding Media (London: Routledge & 
>Kegan Paul, 1986). In the process of describing the emergence of 
>television into popularity after World War II, Winston relates the visit 
>made by David Sarnoff and a colleague, both from the Radio Corporation 
>of America, in 1920 to "an independent radio engineer who had perfected 
>a uni-control radio that was simpler to operate" than the device then 
>manufactured by RCA. Sarnoff's colleague "was busy pointing out how 
>useless the device was since the joy of radio was clearly to have a lot 
>of knobs to tune and the enjoyment of the privacy of a headset." 
>Sarnoff, however, exclaimed, "This is the radio music box of which I've 
>dreamed." Winston concludes that, "Failure of vision, as much as 
>unthinking enthusiasm for technology, can lead equally well to the 
>misunderstanding of media" (p. 53).
>
>It's surely not that we less technologically enraptured want to run away 
>from our machine, rather than we long to merge with it and for that reason 
>find all the prickly bits intensely frustrating. Thinking about this again 
>I wonder about this merging. As I understand the phenomenologist's 
>argument, mastery of this tool in front of me means its disappearance. 
>Perhaps it does disappear sometimes, but I derive so much pleasure from 
>the elegance of its design that I would mourn the loss permanently and
>regret it even for a moment. So is the idea of "interface" correct after all: 
>that it is not to be overcome in prosthesis, like the blind person's stick, 
>but provide a location, a medium within which to work? If so, then how do 
>we think about this medium? How do we improve it? Does the response 
>we make vary with the device?
>
>And by the way, I *love* listening to radio, not tuning it. If I had a pacemaker, 
>I wouldn't want to be logging in and making adjustments. Perhaps what we 
>call "the computer" is unique in maintaining this interface as the locus of 
>attention?
>
>Comments?
>
>Yours,
>WM
>-- 
>Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's 
>College London; Professor (fractional), University of Western Sydney; 
>Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org); Editor, 
>Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/




More information about the Humanist mailing list