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

It's very easy to confuse the activities one is engaged in presently with
modernity itself. But one of the great advantages of the documentary on
Soviet psychiatry that is being passed around on another thread is that it
shows just how wrong we are about the differences that make a difference.
The documentary, where it treads on differences that make a difference at
all, seems to wonder about which of two psychotechnologies holds the key to
the future of treating mental illness: Pavlov...or Freud. But the
difference that would and will make a difference was already there--in
Russia if not in America--and it wasn't either one. Today, I think that
everybody on this list probably has a better answer than either of the
options we are offered, just by virtue of being on this list.

So I guess I remain to be convinced that the computer-mediated
communication that I'm engaged in is of the same world significance as the
invention of the printing press. For one thing, it's not enough for an
artifact to be invented; it has to be required for a definite social need
whose satisfaction can transform social relations. The Chinese like to say
that they gave four great inventions to world civilization (paper, the
compass, gunpowder, and  printing). Needham points out, though, that having
invented paper, the Chinese used it for toilet tissue and playing cards;
having invented the compass, they then virtually banned overseas travel;
having invented gunpowder, they made fireworks with it to amuse children.
Even printing--while the Chinese did invent movable type, they didn't have
an alphabet, so it didn't have the same effect on the unit of analysis of
language that printing had on the West.

Finally, I am always a little surprised that people who utterly reject the
attempt to model schools, hospitals, and even families as business
enterprises are so willing to accept the analogy between commodity
production and the production of text. I don't think that teachers are in
the business of producing commodities: we are, as anybody with student debt
can acknowledge, engaged in a much more primitive form of accumulation.
Similarly, I think that when we "produce" text we don't exchange labor with
capital or produce commodities, and when we "consume" text it has the
curious property of continuing to exist in exactly the same form. So here
too I think we are engaged in something much more ancient--in fact, a form
of primitive communism.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

On 10 March 2015 at 09:41, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co>

> David,
> Don't computers make a difference by making possible what we are doing
> now? The printing press has largely been in the hands of a few. Computers,
> at least as they are today (who remembers mainframes?), make it possible
> for Everyman to not merely consume text, but also produce it. I find that
> pretty impressive.
> Martin
> On Mar 9, 2015, at 7:14 PM, David Kellogg <dkellogg60@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Halliday says that the tape recorder is probably the second most
> important
> > technological development in linguistics (the printing press, which he
> > correctly ascribes to China and not to Gutenberg, is the first). It was
> > with the printing press that private reading really became
> > practical--reading became an intra-mental activity, a kind of socialized
> > inner speech. But it was with the tape recorder that the clear
> distinctness
> > (temporal and lexicogrammatical) between written and spoken speech became
> > clear for the first time.
> >
> > Nevertheless, the tape recorder has had an impact on pedagogy that is
> > almost negligible. In EFL, where I now work, it served to make a huge
> > amount of money for the distributors of language laboratories. But
> language
> > laboratories worked by fencing learners into cubicles, and replacing the
> > subject-subject relation we find in natural language use with a
> > subject-object relation which we find in crude versions of Activity
> Theory.
> > There are now language laboratories lying unused in almost every major
> > university on earth.
> >
> > Halliday ALSO says this: whenever we try to replace an evolved solution
> > (like face to face pedagogy) with a designed or an invented one (like the
> > language laboratory, or asynchronous CMC based instruction), the first
> > attempt almost always fails. The reason why it fails is that it
> > overemphasizes the hardware and underemphasizes the interface. The most
> > spectacular example of this (according to Halliday) was the collapse of
> > volitionally planned economy in the Soviet Union, but a counter-example
> is
> > the way the land reform was carried out in China in the 1950s (when
> > Halliday was there and in which he took an active part).
> >
> > David Kellogg
> > Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> >
> > On 9 March 2015 at 21:31, Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu> wrote:
> >
> >> Hi Annalisa,
> >>
> >> I wonder if the role of culture is not so much in determining how we do
> >> use tools as into how we should be wary of using tools.  Culture is by
> its
> >> nature I think centripetal in nature.  Tools, especially such as the
> >> Internet tend to be centrifugal.   Should we depend on culture to put
> >> constraints on our uses.
> >>
> >> There is a phrase I first heard two years ago that now I seem to hear
> >> every other week,  "If you have a really good hammer, everything starts
> to
> >> look like a nail."  Really good technologies start to make everything
> look
> >> like a nail it seems - especially in our medicine show society where we
> run
> >> towards the next barker/grafter before we are done cursing out the last
> for
> >> the damage he/she has done.
> >>
> >> I think in this sense Heidegger's "On the Question of Technology" is a
> >> profound mea culpa that every person working in technology should be
> forced
> >> to read and discuss on an annual basis - the dangers of becoming too
> >> enamored with the hammer.
> >>
> >> Culture has its own dangers thought that I think we also must own up to.
> >> It wants to stay a centripetal force, bring everything back in, keep
> things
> >> as they are.  The (perhaps dialectical) relationship between tools and
> >> culture - I think Vygotsky caught the mood, these are the things both
> >> dreams and nightmares are made of.
> >>
> >> Michael
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> >> xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Annalisa Aguilar
> >> Sent: Sunday, March 08, 2015 7:30 PM
> >> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> >> Subject: [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
> >>
> >>
> >>