[Humanist] 26.275 computing and modernity?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Sep 5 08:37:43 CEST 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 275.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2012 07:34:32 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: computing and the conditions of modernity

In Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age 
(Polity, 1991), Anthony Giddens describes the conditions of living as we 
do now, in what Ulrich Beck calls a "risk society", with emphasis on the 
constant flux of individual identity. He mentions the notion of the 
postmodern but argues that its supposedly distinguishing features (esp 
fragmentation) do not distinguish it from the modernity he discusses.

I find Giddens' analysis appealing because -- I am struggling to get 
this right -- he sets us and our doings within a condition of flux, 
choice and peril (i.e. modernity) rather than posits a great cultural 
shift from one state to another (i.e. from the modern to the 
postmodern). The difference I am trying to get at is that between 
changing (present participle) and changed (past participle). And in his 
modernity the relationship between the constant changing, choosing and 
being imperiled and the events and inventions often assigned as causes 
is a complex network of feedback and feed-forward.

Giddens does not mention computing nor related technologies, and that 
brings me to my question: does anyone here know of literature that 
centres on computing from such a sociological/cultural-analytic 
perspective *without positing that because of computing or more or less 
simultaneously with its invention and then development in hardware (i.e. 
Turing 1936 to Turing 1950 approximately) we have stepped through a door 
into a new age*?

Of course digital computing can be traced back to specific inventions, 
publications and so on. But why (and how!), I wonder, does the machinery 
we have seem so much at home in the world Giddens describes?


Willard McCarty, FRAI / Professor of Humanities Computing & Director of
the Doctoral Programme, Department of Digital Humanities, King's College
London; Professor, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics,
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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