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



Hi Michael,

First I want to apologize that in my previous email, I made some errors. Apparently, I seem to have a problem with double negatives either adding them in or leaving them out which provides the opposite meaning that I intended. 

Of course, just as in speech, we can correct ourselves on the list. I hope I can show myself not to be attempting perfection here but rather exploration, which is always not going to be well formed nor well polished. But what good thinking is? Just look at the work of Vygotsky and how much we ponder indefinitely, "What did he MEAN when he said THAT?"

So... with regard to Marx and Vygotsky and their 19th and 20th century sensibilities and how their consciousnesses align with the development of the Internet [which feels strange to say, because I see consciousness as singular not plural, but OK that's a different debate all together. :) ].

First, I am not being dismissive of their contributions; I am not saying nothing that they say applies. I am merely saying what I think is obvious: that they could not anticipate what the Internet would do to us, because even we cannot. 

Likewise, I don't think we could be so bold as to say what technologies actually do to us to undertake deep space travel, if we ever were to be able to legitimately do that without our bodies turning into mole-like enigmas of flesh, held for light years in non-gravity metal rocket shipping containers. I know that Vint Cerf was working out how to sort out interplanetary IP addresses about 20 years ago, which I thought when I learned about it, to be very peculiar thing, as I don't believe that it's a problem yet. 

Maybe it's the Deep Space Boy Scout ethic. I don't know.

I'm happy dealing with this lovely planet we find ourselves, and I am more concerned with the problems here on the surface (like the Fukushima crisis), than introducing new ones brought into our lives by intrepid space-travel fetishists, and these astronauts do not look like walking cooked spinach yet. Having said that, I'm OK with science fiction and science fantasy, and I do mourn the loss of Leonard Nimoy. 

Here's an aside: I wonder what Wittgenstein would have made of Mr. Spock. We know Ludwig loved American detective magazines. Would he have enjoyed Star Trek? Star Wars? Babylon 5? Battlestar Galactica? I do not know.

But regards to the theory: we can employ the frameworks that we have inherited from Marx and Vygotsky (and other theorists), and apply them. Of course... the theories will shift as we use them. If they don't shift, then all problems do become nails, and so we perhaps should never consider our hammers always to be perfectly wrought tools, but instead prototypes that always beckon us to come up with a better design. Just like a theory is never finished, neither is a tool, or the meaning of a word.

At some point, however our prototypes become "normalized" and then it becomes about reinventing wheels, or a better mousetrap, or the tool becomes free swag at the next specialty convention or conference, as with calculators, and then…landfill. Additionally, the problems that the tool was meant to solve suddenly becomes less troublesome, less magically solved, less novel in existence. In the tool's wake there are always behind it new problems caused by these new solutions, and we are back to the drawing board again and again and again.

You remind me Michael that I have On the Question of Technology on my shelf and I need to read that. So thanks for reminding me. I'd like to recommend to the list a good book on Heidegger by Iain Thomson called, "Heidegger On Ontotheology: Technology and the Politics of Education" (2005).

I did enjoy your thought sculpture of centrifugal internets and centripetal cultures. In answering your question, "Should we depend on culture to put constraints on our uses." The libertarian technocrats have it (from what I sense) that technology can solve all the problems that technology cause us, and we only live in a monoculture, so why should we constrain anything? 

Those of us concerned with the philosophy of design, know that this doesn't work but only sustains the same version of the problem just in a different device. If we shield our eyes while looking back on history, technology seems to create more complex realities than fostering simpler ones. There is more to it than that, but I'll leave that there for now.

So this seems to indicate that culture is the only way to constrain our uses of the tool. I would offer however that instead of centrifugal vs centripetal, perhaps it is more a double helix whereby one side may appear to twist more intensely than the other, from a distance, when actually they are traveling in parallel, in a spiral, close up. So I don't see tools as inward pointing outward, and culture as outward pointing inward exactly, but I appreciate why you depict it that way.

I also like the endeavor of rendering Vygotsky's dreams and asking what they were made of. 

Kind regards,

Annalisa