Historical sketch at Union


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Historical sketch at Union

  1. 1. Emergence in the information ecology: an historical flourish Emerging technologies workshop Hosted by Union College December, 2006
  2. 2. Plan of the talk <ul><li>Theoretical considerations </li></ul><ul><li>Historical antecedents </li></ul><ul><li>Emergence in </li></ul><ul><li>time and space </li></ul>(Middlebury waterfall, spring 2006)
  3. 3. One theoretical question <ul><li>What about technological determinism? </li></ul><ul><li>“ In information ecologies, the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology.” </li></ul><ul><li>-Nardi and O’Day, 1998, 1999 </li></ul>
  4. 4. One theoretical question <ul><li>Alternatively: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Out of the dialectical exchange between the media-technological ‘base’ and the discursive ‘superstructure’ arise conflicts and tensions that sooner or late result in transformations at the level of media…” </li></ul><ul><li>-Friedrich Kittler, 1999 </li></ul>
  5. 5. A second theoretical question <ul><li>How do information technologies change? </li></ul><ul><li>Janet Murray’s two-step argument </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Theater->film </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Printed page->Web </li></ul></ul><ul><li>( Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace . Cambridge: MIT, 1997.) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Antecedents <ul><li>But first, a bit of media literacy criticism: </li></ul><ul><li>“ [T]his discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. …” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Antecedents <ul><li>And: </li></ul><ul><li>“… The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth…” </li></ul>
  8. 8. Antecedents <ul><li>Even worse: </li></ul><ul><li>“… they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.” </li></ul><ul><li>-Plato, Phaedrus (370 or so BCE) </li></ul><ul><li>Jowett translation </li></ul>
  9. 9. Antecedents <ul><li>Early modern information overload, 1685: </li></ul><ul><li>“We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire…” </li></ul>
  10. 10. Antecedents <ul><li>“… Unless we try to prevent this danger by separating those books which we must throw out or leave in oblivion from those which one should save and within the latter between what is useful and what is not.” </li></ul><ul><li>-Adrien Baillet, Jugemens des sçavans sur les principaux ouvrages des auteurs (Paris, 1685) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Antecedents <ul><li>The humble marginal annotation </li></ul><ul><li>Glossators (Franciscus Accursius, Denis Godefroi) </li></ul><ul><li>Then the Geneva Bible </li></ul>
  12. 12. Antecedents <ul><li>Managing texts, readers </li></ul>(Early English Books Online)
  13. 13. Antecedents <ul><li>Responses to overload </li></ul><ul><li>Cyclopedia (Ephraim Chambers, 1728) </li></ul><ul><li>Encyclopedie (1751-1772) </li></ul><ul><li>(Another precursor, lacking the technology: Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, 636) </li></ul>
  14. 14. Back to the future <ul><li>Antecedent: before the blogosphere </li></ul><ul><li>“ hupomnemata … consisted of notebooks or aide-memoires in which one could write down examples and relfections, in order to work on the self, and to produce the truth about oneself...” </li></ul>
  15. 15. Back to the future <ul><li>“ In other words, by writing down things learned, one can create a &quot;treasure&quot; constituting &quot;reminders&quot; which one might need to call upon when one's memory is weak... “ </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Jeremy W. Crampton, The Political Mapping of Cyberspace (2004, 91-92) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Back to the future <ul><li>Or: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Of other parts of life, memory can give some account; at some hours I have been gay, and at others serious; I have sometimes mingled in conversation, and sometimes meditated in solitude; one day has been spent in consulting the ancient sages, and another in writing Adventurer s.” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Adventurer #137 (February 26, 1754) </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Early internet history <ul><li>The historical internet was and is social </li></ul><ul><li>The great visionary Pentagon geek </li></ul><ul><li>The anarchist experiment that worked </li></ul><ul><li>Eternal recurrence: </li></ul><ul><li> groupware </li></ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul><ul><li>And onwards… </li></ul>