[Humanist] 26.275 computing and modernity?
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Sep 5 08:37:43 CEST 2012
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 275.
Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2012 07:34:32 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: computing and the conditions of modernity
In Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age
(Polity, 1991), Anthony Giddens describes the conditions of living as we
do now, in what Ulrich Beck calls a "risk society", with emphasis on the
constant flux of individual identity. He mentions the notion of the
postmodern but argues that its supposedly distinguishing features (esp
fragmentation) do not distinguish it from the modernity he discusses.
I find Giddens' analysis appealing because -- I am struggling to get
this right -- he sets us and our doings within a condition of flux,
choice and peril (i.e. modernity) rather than posits a great cultural
shift from one state to another (i.e. from the modern to the
postmodern). The difference I am trying to get at is that between
changing (present participle) and changed (past participle). And in his
modernity the relationship between the constant changing, choosing and
being imperiled and the events and inventions often assigned as causes
is a complex network of feedback and feed-forward.
Giddens does not mention computing nor related technologies, and that
brings me to my question: does anyone here know of literature that
centres on computing from such a sociological/cultural-analytic
perspective *without positing that because of computing or more or less
simultaneously with its invention and then development in hardware (i.e.
Turing 1936 to Turing 1950 approximately) we have stepped through a door
into a new age*?
Of course digital computing can be traced back to specific inventions,
publications and so on. But why (and how!), I wonder, does the machinery
we have seem so much at home in the world Giddens describes?
Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
University of Western Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
(www.isr-journal.org); Editor, Humanist
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