[Humanist] 30.60 language before

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon May 30 08:55:56 CEST 2016

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 60.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 28 May 2016 18:01:08 +0100
        From: Marinella Testori <testorimarinella at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  30.57 language before
        In-Reply-To: <20160528064309.93E8868B2 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Willard,

While pondering on what expressed by Dr Pascoe, I came across a book of
which you and other readers are likely already aware: "The Second Self:
Computers and the Human Spirit" by Sherry Turkle (2005, MIT Press Edition).
I found it online in its Twentieth Anniversary Edition, and it sounds
so timely for my questions that I plan to have a close reading.

Thank you!


2016-05-28 7:43 GMT+01:00 Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>:

>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 57.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Fri, 27 May 2016 07:25:45 +0000
>         From: Bill Pascoe <bill.pascoe at newcastle.edu.au>
>         Subject: Re:  30.54 language before?
>         In-Reply-To: <20160527045721.D88706894 at digitalhumanities.org>
> Dear Willard,
> Some more thoughts, as requested.
> Among the things that most characterise us as Homo Sapiens are our
> abilities with language and with tools. If tool use, or 'technology', and
> language, are necessary conditions for being classed as Homo Sapiens, we
> have always been cyborgs. When it boils down to it, a computer is a
> language tool. It's invention and core functionality is symbol processing,
> and its higher order functioning is also largely about communicating,
> representation, etc. It seems a mistake then to think of computers as being
> separate to our 'true', 'real' or 'essential' humanity though they are
> often characterised as such. What could be more human? You don't see other
> plants and animals inventing computers. Why they do seem alien is their
> newness. Latour and others have written a lot about the process of
> technology adoption. I like to characterise it as the opposite process to
> the Russian formalist technique of 'ostranenie' or 'making strange', where
> something that is automatic is purposefully problemat
>  ised to make you notice its functioning - or Heidegger's example of how
> we don't notice we are using the floor until it falls out from under us. In
> our distinctly human process of adopting new technology, the cybernetic
> process, it is difficult and problematic at first, and little by little
> becomes fully automated, and our interactions with technology become
> unconscious. We don't think about how to turn on a light bulb. Learning to
> drive is difficult but eventually you simply go to work without noticing
> the accelerator, brake and indicator. At this moment in history, there are
> drastically more people than ever in the world, all positioned in a system
> of technological competition that leads to many new technologies happening
> at once. It's only this speed that makes new technology seem 'unnatural' -
> lots of new technology comes at us all at once and we get technoshock,
> technophobia, the shock of the new, etc. Analogue devices seem more natural
> to us, but were extraordinary in
>  their day. Cooking pots are tools, but they seem very natural. If you
> speak to a 'digital native' they will argue vehemently that interaction
> through social media is a valid form of socialisation and is not unreal.
> There are also examples of how machine communications bring people together
> physically who would not have otherwise have even known each other existed,
> even living in the same city - subcultural meet ups, finding gigs online
> and going to them in person etc.
> To return to the WM's original point, this metaphor for humans and things
> generally being made of code, being read as a language, is relatively new.
> Mayans thought/think men were made of maize, which makes sense because
> they ate a lot of it, and so were. Christians thought/think people were
> made of flesh and soul. Enlightenment people thought of body and mind, and
> that body was a sort of pneumatic clockwork and the mind, real in the sense
> that maths is real, yet immaterial. Not surprising considering the
> technological and scientific changes of the time. Now we change the analogy
> again to match our technology - technology is about how things work, so it
> makes sense that as it changes so our analogue for how we humans work also
> changes. Anyone in the future aware of these differences across the ages
> will be able to critique the naturalisation of the human as bio-code, just
> as we can, but we are indeed in a unique place to watch it as it happens.
> What is there to take note of beyond noticing that the shift to the
> bio-code and the digital human metaphor is happening? What we think we are
> and how we think we work will have ram
>  ifications in all areas of culture - justice, medicine, economic
> differences, warfare, rights and transgressions of all kinds, what we
> choose to research and what we do not even notice. So I suppose it would be
> interesting to see how this changes reasoning in legal cases, in people's
> economic status, access to health care, in how it is used as the reason and
> justification for taking this or that action. That is where the shift in
> ideas and analogues has real physical material consequences in people's
> lives.
> Dr Bill Pascoe
> eResearch Consultant
> Digital Humanities Lab
> Centre for 21st Century Humanities
> T: 0435 374 677
> E: bill.pascoe at newcastle.edu.au
> The University of Newcastle (UON)
> University Drive
> Callaghan NSW 2308
> Australia

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