[Humanist] 24.735 labour not saved

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Feb 23 07:34:54 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 24, No. 735.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2011 11:26:40 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: labour not saved

Many here will, I expect, be compelled by their experiences with our 
various automated systems to agree with labour historian David R 
Roediger, in "The Failed Promise of Electronic Applications", The 
Chronicle of Higher Education for Tuesday 22 February. Forgive the 
frustratingly, unnecessarily complex URL: 
Clarity at a glance, yes?

> I should have been the last person to be fooled by the labor-saving
> promises of new electronic systems to handle applications for faculty
> jobs and for graduate admissions. I am, after all, a labor historian,
> and one deeply influenced by the convincingly skeptical writings on
> academic work and on the social history of technology by the late
> David F. Noble.

he writes. But of course he was fooled, as all of us, at least 
officially, seem to have been. "Shut up and learn the system" is more or 
less what we've been told.

> That those problems are so little remarked upon, or, to my knowledge,
> systematically investigated, testifies to the power of a priori
> assumptions. Such assumptions hold that new technologies are
> obviously labor-saving ones and that outsourcing is automatically
> cost-saving. As such, e-applications can be assumed to be efficient
> and economical even if they take the form of successions of
> unsatisfactory profit-chasing ventures, create much duplication of
> effort, and save precious little, indeed no, time or work for faculty
> or staff members.

Yesterday, for the 1000th time, I caught myself muttering as I walked 
away from my machine, "I hate computers!!!" But, I must admit, they do 
give us much to investigate.


Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London, www.mccarty.org.uk;
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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