[Humanist] 24.316 tainted app

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Sep 5 22:28:14 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 316.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 05 Sep 2010 12:45:28 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: love of a good tool

A rant on iEnthusiasms, to provoke you further.

Ok, hype and all that. The promo man's profitable pseudo-religion and all
that. Everything we can say about how (in our case) particular computing
products are marketed to audiences of groupies (not stockholders) who clap
and cheer, perhaps even shed tears, when prominence in the industry and huge
profits at their expense are announced. Coolness defined by wealth we know
to be derived in part from the heavy hands of tyranny and oppression.
Cynical profiteers. All that.

But, I put it to you, more than all of that is at play in Stephen Fry's or
some, perhaps many others' proclaimed love of iPhone 4, iPad or iWhatever. I
am not saying that hype etc. isn't involved. Only that a beautifully
designed and manufactured tool, with the skilled designers and manufacturers
behind it, can be loved without high moralistic condemnation. I am saying
that Oscar had a point. I'm saying that it's a complicated world, where
innocence and guilt are confusingly intermingled, e.g. in our tools and our
relation to them.

Northrop Frye used to say that despite all the manifest and historically
documented evil that may have surrounded the production of a great work of
art, we can see that it was made in a state of grace. I won't argue that
iPhone 4 is up to the standards of Giotto or the scribe(s) who wrote out the
Book of Kells. But changing what needs to be changed there are technological
things of beauty, no?

Perhaps if more of us had the experience of the artist/crafts- man and woman
we'd simply be able to love a well designed and crafted object. But when, under
what conditions, must we reject that love and spurn the object? Consider,
for example, the typography of the Third Reich, where maintaining the separation 
becomes much more difficult.



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.

More information about the Humanist mailing list