[Humanist] 24.409 coal-fired computers & ethics
Humanist Discussion Group
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Oct 15 19:14:41 CEST 2010
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 409.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
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Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2010 20:09:31 -0700
From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
Subject: Coal Fired Computers
UK media artists Graham Harwood and Matsuko Yokokoji, together known as
YoHa,have recently created an installation "exploring the ecologies that
have created and maintained power, and the subsequent health residues
and crisis of fuelling that power". It consists of "a coal-fired boiler
[that] powers a network of computers" that challenges us to consider
"the relationships between power, art and media". See
There are a number of ways to be challenged. One is certainly not to be
stopped by a Luddite view on the juxtaposition that YoHa point to. We
are unlikely to react in such a way, I would think. More important for
us is to worry the ethical question yet again. Once upon a time (correct
me if I am historically wrong) an artist who worked in bronze, even if
he did not produce ornate swords and spears, might have worried the
ethics of his situation. Now our bronze is the computer. So what do we
*do* in response?
Those who have read Paul N. Edwards' The Closed World are well aware of
how the computer bronze-like is steeped in gory intentions and deeds.
And now it, and therefore we, are complicit. Should ethics become an
explicit part of what do and teach? Doing so would help to make what we
do appear, as it is, serious.
My thanks to Assoc Professor Brett Neilson for pointing to Coal Fired
Computers in the latest issue of GrapE-Vine, Issue 46 – 15 October 2010,
Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney.
Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, staff.cch.kcl.ac.uk/~wmccarty/;
Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney,
Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.
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