[Humanist] 22.417 thing knowledge

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sat Jan 3 07:16:19 CET 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 417.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    "Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna" <anna.bentkowska at kcl.ac.uk>      (96)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 22.410 video games and longings

  [2]   From:    "Arata, Luis Prof." <Luis.Arata at quinnipiac.edu>           (11)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.415 thing knowledge

        Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2009 13:07:39 +0000
        From: "Bentkowska-Kafel, Anna" <anna.bentkowska at kcl.ac.uk>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist] 22.410 video games and longings
        In-Reply-To: <20081228094157.96C1E2AEB2 at woodward.joyent.us>

Further to Willard's recommendation and comments on John Lanchester's article on video games, "Is it Art?", in the London Review of Books 31.1 (www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n01/lanc01_.html) some of you may also be interested in the collection of essays 'Videogames and Art', ed. by Andy Clarke and Grethe Mitchell, Intellect 2007. Many contributors take the question – is it art? – for granted, which suggests that they think they know what art is in the first place! Ernest W. Adams, gives us a game designer's take on the question 'Will computer games ever be a legitimate art form?'.  For him art is a grey area, yet he is brave enough to look for common characteristics in art and games (e.g. both have the capacity to express ideas). Jim Andrews considers videogames as literary devices. Another author believes that videogame art is art that retains a sense of humour. Etc, etc. All in all, much food for thought.
Imagination – as Willard points out - is the key. In art, work and longings!

Best wishes, 
Dr Anna Bentkowska-Kafel
Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King's College London

anna.bentkowska at kcl.ac.uk

        Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2009 12:15:50 -0500
        From: "Arata, Luis Prof." <Luis.Arata at quinnipiac.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.415 thing knowledge
        In-Reply-To: <20090101102643.84EBD2AEC8 at woodward.joyent.us>

Dear Willard and colleagues,

The thread “thing knowledge” has been fascinating. Trying to make sense, I offer the following comments that at best build on what contributors to this thread have already expressed more clearly.

Pushing beyond Nietzsche’s perspectivism, perhaps from some perspective there is a matter of power associated with the prototype/theory issue. In this light, a theory tends to propose how something else is out there, in a true/false fashion, and a prototype tends to shun from trenchant assertions about how something out there is all about. This may appear as a weakness, hence the apologies when compared to the more powerful, commanding theoretical style. Within this perspective, to exclaim that a prototype is a theory is to refuse such weakness. Yet in this narrow sense the protest falls short. The effort is also unproductive: battling it out with theory leaves out the far more interesting, valuable, productive uses of prototypes.

Shifting the perspective, Lev Manovich’s statement that a prototype is a theory, becomes a nicely illuminating tautology. No apologies needed. We can say that a theory is a very special type of prototype (or, more generally, a type of model) constructed to make truth representations about something out there. A theory is a prototype (a model) about external truth matters. But as engineers and makers from all disciplines are aware, there is more to be done than theorize. Things have to be built, tasks accomplished, repairs made, explorations carried out. This does not diminish the value of theoretical discourses. On the contrary. They are an integral part of what we make, how we see experiment and see ourselves in the world. Yet theory does not constitute the entire fabric. It seems that more is accomplished through prototypes (models) that have little or no clear theoretical basis beyond personal/community styles, inclinations, and beliefs.

What seems to be different about this second perspective is that it widens beyond the ‘knowledge of the world’ issue towards the ‘doing & building things in the world’ attitude. It still includes ontological matters but in a more pragmatic way. This has a benefit: rather than keep fueling warfare between theories, there is now room for diversity, for coexistence, and for mutually enhancing cooperation among former antagonists, or at least rivals. A gift of new media is that it facilitates such interactions.

To comment on Willard’s question: <“WHAT IS AN "EXPERIMENT"? When would a replacement of "to experiment" by "to try out" result in an improvement of sense?>, it seems that people like Edison are more of the “try out” type: more playful, eclectic, even artistic, more concerned with discovery than proof, more risk-taking explorers, more ingenious, more of the engineer.

Best wishes for the new year,
Luis Arata
Professor of Modern Languages
Quinnipiac University
luis.arata at quinnipiac.edu

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