File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 605

From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 06:08:25 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: [Humanist]  22.620 looking back

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 620.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to:

  [1]   From:    James Rovira <>                      (13)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.616 looking back

  [2]   From:    "Miran Hladnik, Siol" <>      (12)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.615 looking back

  [3]   From:    Siobhan King <>                   (45)
        Subject: RE: [Humanist]  22.616 looking back

        Date: Sun, 15 Mar 2009 09:01:59 -0400
        From: James Rovira <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.616 looking back
        In-Reply-To: <>

I agree, Renata, that new technologies are significantly different
from previous ones.  Our ambitions for, and attitude toward, these
technologies is not significantly different from the past.  I'm
assuming, of course, that those discussing technology on this forum
are not engaged in the development of these technologies themselves
but are primarily concerned with technology from a humanities
standpoint.  I would agree that knowledge of past technology is only
marginally significant for the development of future technology.  That
does not tell us anything, however, about whether or not these
technologies are useful or desirable or what our attitude toward them
should be.  The fact that we can do something does not mean that we
should.  Study of the past gives us tools to think about these issues.

Jim R

        Date: Sun, 15 Mar 2009 16:00:34 +0100
        From: "Miran Hladnik, Siol" <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.615 looking back
        In-Reply-To: <>

dear renata, i agree with you. however, be aware that you are opposing 
the very conservative essence of the humanities. humanists are people who 
professionally cultivate the historical awareness and try to conserve it. you 
recognize the humanist by saying that there is nothing new in the world and 
that all the human knowledge has been already written down millenia ago in 
the sumerian tablets. what seems so new -- no, this is once again only old 
experience in a fashionable new dress. humanists dedicate major attention 
to the past. equipped with the historical models of behaviour they were able 
to easilly manage the present and predict the future. till now. though there is 
less and less instruction in the past, it still makes fun looking back. why 
shouldn't we have a little fun? and it is still instructive: it is good to know
the past and its mistakes to find an alternative path for the future. -- miran

        Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2009 17:05:29 +1300
        From: Siobhan King <>
        Subject: RE: [Humanist]  22.616 looking back
        In-Reply-To: <>

Yes, I think you make a good point here.

One example of this kind of thinking is the comparison scholars make between the advent of the internet and the advent of the printing press. The analogy is interesting. There is some benefit in comparing the types of impacts each event has had on society. However using the analogy of the printing press to understand the internet is not always particularly helpful especially if you are interested in the social phenomena associated with each. 

We often fail to get beyond Eisenstein when trying to explain the internet because we constantly make the comparison between the internet and the printing press. I think over-emphasising the similarities hobbles us when trying to understand the internet on its own terms. The language and concepts we apply to the virtual world that are from the print world don't always match. Copyright for example is problematic online. This relies on persistent identity of authors that is easier to manage in real life. Not so online. Another analogy is the word "publishing" which in local legislation (New Zealand National Library Act 2003) is interpreted as uploading anything online. So something as small as making a comment on a friend's wall at facebook may be interpreted in law as publishing. (Indeed creating a facebook page has been interpreted as publishing, as someone has been charged with libel last year. 

That's not to say the old concepts are consistently mismatched but our commitment to the old views prevents us from constructing new concepts for the new environment.

Siobhan King

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Humanist Discussion Group
Sent: Sunday, 15 March 2009 8:05 p.m.

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 616.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to:

        Date: Fri, 13 Mar 2009 12:26:16 -0300
        From: renata lemos <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.615 looking back
        In-Reply-To: <>

dear james, neven and willard.
thanks for your comments, but I do not think you truly understood the deeper
meaning of my questions. when I asked willard if he believed that the
answers, or guidelines, to our future could be found in the past, I meant to
provoke reflection on the real nature and depth of the technological changes
that are happening in the present.

of course knowing about the past is important. but sometimes, looking back
searching for references could actually be misleading. picture this: someone
who is walking searching for a new river and all of a sudden finds the sea.
this person has never seen the sea and does not know what it is like. the
river and the sea are water, but if this person looks back to his/her
previous knowledge or experience of rivers trying to get insights into the
nature of the sea, and the possibilities of the sea, these insights would
only be limited to say the least; and would most probably be misleading.

what I am trying to say is that present emerging technologies are the sea.
they are still technology, but trying to compare them with previous
technologies is like comparing a river to the sea. maybe, just maybe, one
could learn much more about the brand new possibilities of the sea of
present technological achievements by actually going into the sea and trying
to swim, and actually experiencing the sea, than to look back to previous
accounts and theories of rivers trying to find a way to navigate in the sea
- which is entirely different...

I hope I am getting my point across better this time. in order to illustrate
the magnitude of this sea, here is a little account of present
possibilities, available online:

Cognitive Expansion Technologies

William Sims Bainbridge

List posts to:
List info and archives at at:
Listmember interface at:
Subscribe at:


Humanist Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005