[Humanist] 24.319 tainted app

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Sep 8 03:04:27 CEST 2010

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 319.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2010 23:41:13 +0100
        From: "John A. Walsh" <jawalsh at indiana.edu>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 24.316 tainted app
        In-Reply-To: <20100905202814.5B5CE67C8D at woodward.joyent.us>


You write, "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?"

You've probably read the stories, but if you Google "Foxconn," the
firm that actually builds iPhones, iPads, and the like, I think you
will find some news stories that report many conditions for which we
might reject the love and spurn the object. The Foxconn workers live
in giant factory/cities of something like 300,000 or more inhabitants,
living in dormitories, doing repetitive, unfulfilling work, working
extremely long hours, and earning wages of about £90 per month. Given
that the iPad has a starting price of £429.00, it's unlikely the
people who build the iPad could ever afford to own one. I assume most
Humanist participants would not own iPads if we had to pay four months
wages for one.

While the iPad may be well designed (I certainly think it is), in no
way is it "crafted"--well or poorly. It is, instead, manufactured.
And there is a great difference between craft and manufacturing.
Dropping a chip into place or inserting a screw on an assembly line
does not constitute craft. It is mindless, unfulfilling labor. The
processes by which these devices are made are plagued by classic
division of labor problems, and, being a Victorianist, I can't help
but quote Ruskin here:

"It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the
men:—Divided into mere segments of men—broken into small fragments and
crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is
left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts
itself in making the point of a pin or the head of a nail." (from "The
Nature of Gothic" in _The Stones of Venice_).

I do believe that the process by which these devices are produced
break men and women in small fragments and crumbs of life, and for me
that is a very convincing reason not to love and perhaps to spurn
these devices. I also think that whatever attraction people feel
towards these objects would more properly be classified as lust rather
than love.

And in the interest of full disclosure I must add that I own an iPad.
I use it a great deal, and I enjoy it a great deal. But while I own it
and use it and enjoy it, I also suspect it may be a tool of the devil,
for many reasons, only a few of which I touched on here.


On Sun, Sep 5, 2010 at 9:28 PM, Humanist Discussion Group
<willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 316.
>         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                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.
> Comments?
> Yours,WM
> --
> 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,
> www.uws.edu.au/centre_for_cultural_research/ccr/people/researchers;
> Editor, Humanist, www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, www.isr-journal.org.

| John A. Walsh
| Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Science
| Indiana University, 1320 East Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN 47405
| www:  http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/jawalsh/
| Voice:812-856-0707 Fax:812-856-2062 <mailto:jawalsh at indiana.edu>

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