[Humanist] 30.189 social media

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jul 20 07:52:32 CEST 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 189.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Dino Buzzetti <dino.buzzetti at gmail.com>                   (44)
        Subject: Re:  30.182 social media

  [2]   From:    Henry Schaffer <hes at ncsu.edu>                             (46)
        Subject: Re:  30.185 social media

        Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2016 13:37:27 +0200
        From: Dino Buzzetti <dino.buzzetti at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  30.182 social media
        In-Reply-To: <20160718072328.7A50277CC at digitalhumanities.org>

Thank you, Willard !  Yes, you are totally right.  Actually, what
I wanted to say is that it was precisely through Humanist, this
precious community shaping means (in this sense a 'social medium'
at full title), that I learned about an unpleasant 'truth' (with so
many qualifications) concerning a certain kind, now so popular,
of 'social media'.
Yours,                -dino

On 18 July 2016 at 09:23, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

> Out of paradoxes may come qualifications. Thanks to Dino Buzzetti for
> reminding us of Epimenides, who illustrated a problem in logic by
> telling a story about a fellow from Crete who declared that all Cretans
> are liars. But I think that 'social media' comprise a broad genre of
> online mechanisms to which Humanist, by ongoing design, does not belong.
> Just as rumours passed around in the village square differ from news
> programmes and discussions on radio so, I would say, Twitter, Facebook
> et al. differ from the kind of thing Humanist is. Once upon a time it
> was the only game online, or nearly, and we could be rather peppery, in
> danger of flame-wars (some of which I had to put out). But in its rather
> sedate middle age its eyes are turned if not to eternity then certainly
> to old questions in new guises rather than the latest of whatever. At least
> characteristically, sometimes, we manage that.
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
> Humanities, King's College London; Adjunct Professor, Western Sydney
> University

Dino Buzzetti                                          
Department of Philosophy     
University of Bologna
​                                ​
Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII
via san Vitale, 114                   I-40125 Bologna BO
e-mail:  dino.buzzetti(at)gmail.com
web: http://web.dfc.unibo.it/buzzetti/

        Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2016 10:48:10 -0400
        From: Henry Schaffer <hes at ncsu.edu>
        Subject: Re:  30.185 social media
        In-Reply-To: <20160718072328.7A50277CC at digitalhumanities.org>

On Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 1:15 AM, Humanist Discussion Group

>         Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2016 10:48:18 +0200
>         From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>
>         Subject: Re:  30.178 social media vs truth; computer theology
>         In-Reply-To: <20160716071527.4049F7B66 at digitalhumanities.org>
> ...
> When humans were the computers, we took on trust the results
> of their computations.  Since we gave the computations these
> people did, and many more kinds of computations they didn't
> do, to (machine) computers, we take on faith the results of
> these computations.  We give computers (the machines) a
> God-like quality: we adopt a religious or faith-based stance
> towards computers.

  Some, maybe many, do. But not those in the computer area. We are always
concerned about the accuracy of computation and the possibility of errors.
Various types of checking for errors abound in computation, and in data
storage and communication. (E.g. see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Error_detection_and_correction and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECC_memory )

  Even in computation even when there are no "errors", the results may be
wrong because of the imperfect mapping of numbers *in the computer* to
numbers *in mathematics*. (E.g. "underflow" with floating point and
"overflow" with both integers and floating point.) Computer designers and
users have argued for a long time as to the proper tradeoffs between how
many bits/digits to allocate to numbers since that affects both error rates
and costs.

  Today with the great decreases in costs, we have much less concern, but,
especially in research computation, the numerical length ("precision") must
be considered and often must be explicitly specified. (E.g. float or double
or long double)

> At least this is how I see it in the way people use and treat
> computers in practice.  The idea that we treat computers as
> (impressive) human made tools [most say technology here]
> derived from human designing and making, and rendered using
> technologies discovered and developed by humans, and thus
> accepted and treated as useful but mere human artifacts, just
> doesn't correspond to observed human practices.

  Depends on where one is observing. :-) I spend enough time with those in
the high-precision/super-computing arena to know that some humans feel

> ...

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