[Humanist] 25.498 where the thrill is (or isn't)

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Nov 21 07:46:01 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 498.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2011 12:13:30 -0800
        From: Jascha Kessler <urim1 at verizon.net>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.496 where is the thrill?
        In-Reply-To: <20111120081554.5A17F2076B3 at woodward.joyent.us>

Well, Willard McC.,

I had a pacemaker [the Zephyr, Chaucer's spring breeze?] installed three
months ago, not the size of the old cigarette packet,  but a thicker silver
dollar...also gone the way of specie in our epoch of the printing presses.

 Wheeled in at 10 am, awakened at 3 pm, taken home on my own legs at 4pm.
 Only caveat after a month: do NOT ever stand before your microwave oven.

 Recalibrated for a good normal pulse after 1 month, by some electronic
gadget hung on my shoulder, read on a screen, and now scarcely visible in
its location and certainly ticking electronically away with no symptoms of
anything since I fell asleep on the gurney.

Jascha K

So, nothing ought to interfere with one's screen, eyes, fingers, or
thinking brain.

On Sun, Nov 20, 2011 at 12:15 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 496.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>        Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2011 09:06:07 +0000
>        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
>        Subject: where the thrill is
> Yesterday I spent many hours with only partial success trying to install
> the Natural Language Toolkit (http://www.nltk.org/) on my Mac. After
> numerous difficulties with numerous websites, chasing bits and pieces in
> various stages of development, I began to suspect that I was grossly
> overlooking a rather obvious truth: that the reward many must be
> enjoying from treading the same path is not at all what I was seeking --
> that, to reach to the proverbial, their reward is in the journey, not
> the arrival. I want to arrive!
> This morning I turned to a book on my desk for some temporary
> distraction: Brian Winston, Misunderstanding Media (London: Routledge &
> Kegan Paul, 1986). In the process of describing the emergence of
> television into popularity after World War II, Winston relates the visit
> made by David Sarnoff and a colleague, both from the Radio Corporation
> of America, in 1920 to "an independent radio engineer who had perfected
> a uni-control radio that was simpler to operate" than the device then
> manufactured by RCA. Sarnoff's colleague "was busy pointing out how
> useless the device was since the joy of radio was clearly to have a lot
> of knobs to tune and the enjoyment of the privacy of a headset."
> Sarnoff, however, exclaimed, "This is the radio music box of which I've
> dreamed." Winston concludes that, "Failure of vision, as much as
> unthinking enthusiasm for technology, can lead equally well to the
> misunderstanding of media" (p. 53).
> It's surely not that we less technologically enraptured want to run away
> from our machine, rather than we long to merge with it and for that reason
> find all the prickly bits intensely frustrating. Thinking about this again
> I wonder about this merging. As I understand the phenomenologist's
> argument, mastery of this tool in front of me means its disappearance.
> Perhaps it does disappear sometimes, but I derive so much pleasure from
> the elegance of its design that I would mourn the loss permanently and
> regret it even for a moment. So is the idea of "interface" correct after
> all:
> that it is not to be overcome in prosthesis, like the blind person's stick,
> but provide a location, a medium within which to work? If so, then how do
> we think about this medium? How do we improve it? Does the response
> we make vary with the device?
> And by the way, I *love* listening to radio, not tuning it. If I had a
> pacemaker,
> I wouldn't want to be logging in and making adjustments. Perhaps what we
> call "the computer" is unique in maintaining this interface as the locus of
> attention?
> Comments?
> Yours,
> WM
> --
> Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
> College London; Professor (fractional), University of Western Sydney;
> Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org); Editor,
> Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

Jascha Kessler
Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
Telephone/Facsimile: 310.393.4648

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