[Humanist] 25.47 limits of mediation?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed May 25 23:37:53 CEST 2011

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 47.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Thu, 26 May 2011 07:34:35 +1000
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: mediation

I've been asked what I think about "the digital mediation of knowledge" 
in the disciplines of the humanities. My first reaction to this is to be 
troubled by the word "mediation", picking up on the sense given in the 
OED as 2.a,

> Agency or action as an intermediary; the state or fact of serving as
> an intermediate agent, a means of action, or a medium of
> transmission; instrumentality.

Understood in this way, mediation seems immediately to prejudice the 
case quite unhelpfully, by starting us off thinking in 
information-theoretic terms of senders, receivers and transmission 
between them. (I do not deny that the information-theoretic model is 
useful -- our devices, including the one I am using at the moment, prove 
usefulness -- only that this usefulness is limited.) And this returns me 
to the question that has recently had considerable traction here, namely 
about tools, esp considered phenomenologically. I am thinking that 
"mediation" and "just a tool" are very close cousins.

I am wondering now, who has most illuminatingly gagged on 
"mediation", as I seem to be doing? For whom has the problem most 
interestingly been problematic? What do we think about this?

I suspect that I am thinking in a rather elementary way about this 
matter, so elementary, beginner's observations would be welcome, at 
least by me. If someone has nailed this question dead then I want to 
know all about that nail, but I suspect that this is one of those gifts 
that keeps on giving.

Help with this will be most welcome.

Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
College London; Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western
Sydney; Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org);
Editor, Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

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