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[Xmca-l] Re: Why Computers Make So Little Difference



Hi Michael,

Comparing the Internet to the printing press, they possess similarities, but it would be like comparing a worldwide shipping system (with trucks, trains, and ships, and docks, and longshore men, etc) to an Ancient Egyptian chariot. Perhaps. I say that since only certain people could enjoy chariots, which required at least a horse and a driver; not everyone had a printing press, or a book, and few could read. Nothing about the printing press itself that predicts distribution. That is more the desire for knowledge, and at that time it was combined with the desire to know the Bible. Other content came later. And then the judgements of who was allowed to learn to read and to write (as well as to read and to write what). 

It is an interesting project to compare them, however. 

I would like to emphasize what you said, Michael, that we still don't know what the Internet is doing to us. It is still not clear how the tool will change us: how we will augment to tool and how it will change us in the Möbius strip kind of way.

If it's OK, I would like to repeat something I said in the recent past that I think that even Marx (or Vygotsky) could predict the Internet. Seems Orwell was closer in some ways. In 1992, for example, I had no idea what the WWW was. In 1994 I learned about BBS, FTP, newsgroups, and email, though I know these tools were around a lot longer than when I learned of it. 

So if we can't know and we are here living through these developments in real time, how could Marx? How could Vygotsky? I believe there is a quality about these tools that does transcend their 19th and 20th century consciousnesses. Some things are going to be constant, say that humans still need food to eat. But do we need selfies? Do we need Facebook pages?

I liked your Mumfordesque comparison to clocks and how they changed our sense of time, and their creation of boundaries where there are actually none (or there are just signifiers of: sun out/sun not out). Of course, the clock also changed how we sleep, since we can do things later by lamplight (and later by lightbulb) and so we go to sleep later than we used to. 

This is to point out that it isn't a tool in isolation that changes us, but in the environment in which it appears, as well as other historic and cultural realities and also how one tool interacts with other tools and importantly with the people who use them. I take it everyone here already knows that, so I don't meant to belabor that and give the impression that I think you don't! :)

Kind regards,

Annalisa