[Humanist] 29.618 subtle influences at home?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jan 13 08:24:44 CET 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 618.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2016 07:17:22 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: subtle influences at home

Those who know about the history of cybernetics will be familiar with 
the idea of homeostasis (self-regulation), with origins in both 
physiology and mechanical systems. Many of us, but not all, were shaped 
in subtle ways by the implementation of this idea in the ordinary 
thermostat. For what they might be worth, my musings this morning begin 
on the one hand with some people I know, not far away from here, who 
remain basically unaffected by homeostasis -- they turn the heat on and 
off, end of story -- and on the other by the latest round of 
thermostats, such as the Nest (https://nest.com), which domesticate 

There are stages in between, for example timers and somewhat more 
sophisticated programmable thermostats. But the Nest et al simply learn 
from one's temperature-setting behaviour. I wonder, has anyone studied 
the influence of technology on such a low-key domestic level? The Nest 
is said to light up when you approach it -- a friendly hello, as it were 
-- but is otherwise apparently quite demure, quietly forgettable, unlike 
the smartphone not drawing one's attention to it but receding into the 
background, therefore, I would think, powerfully influential.


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Digital Humanities Research
Group, Western Sydney University

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