Thursday, May 10, 2007

HUMlab Seminar: Actually Bridge the “Two Cultures” in Techno-Science

I have just returned from Professor David Hakken's seminar in HUMLab, Transdisciplinarity in Cyberspace Ethnography, or Can We Leave Off Mere Toleration and Actually Bridge the “Two Cultures” in Techno-Science? (nice short title). I really enjoyed Prof. Hakken's summary of a line of technological thought and action beginning with the writings of Norbert Weiner (who I have read about but never actually read, but I think I will). Being a literary/language person (if we are going to talk disciplines here) and from my recent stumbling in the field something clicked from the seminar.

In the last few days I have been enjoying From Modernism to Postmodernism American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century by Jennifer Ashton. The life and work of Gertrude Stein is a major topic in Ashton's text (a fascinating one I think). Within this Ashton devotes pages to the connections between the work of William James and Stein's system of images and tropes. Taken up in Ashton's critique of Stein's The Making of Americans (1925) are mind, self, repetition, remembering, and plasticity ("plasticity means the possession of a structure weak enough to yield to influence, but strong enough not to yield all at once. Each relatively stable phase of equilibrium in such a structure is marked by what we may call a new set of habits" William James Pychology a brief Course 1892:126). This conneted for me in Hakken's discussion on the transdisciplinary possibilities in relation to IT (writing, language, novels are all forms of IT, as are computers and so on). According to Ashton, Stein was attempting to describe "everything" to come to a point of knowledge (that which is knowledge) where one does not need to describe the thing any more. Having no need of description (representation) is to have knowledge.

The streamed video of David Hakken's seminar should be online soon. I am going to Helen Petterson's thesis defence tomorrow where he is to be the opponent (congratulations Helena!!! UCLA awaits). It should be interesting.


meika said...

I was thinking the same thing the other day about CP SNow's two cultures, glad I don't have to write anything about it now, :)

I was reading my new copy of Island and I was thinking its just like a very slow blog, but full of literary literariness, worthy essays, careful reviews, short stories with little to interest me (even the horror one, though I appreciated the daringness of putting genre fiction in such a little magazine) and poetry ranging from the cheeky (when viewed alongside the worthy essays) to the why publish that? Its-not-actually-bad-but...
It the bios that disappoint the most full of editor of this here or currently doing PhD in literary stuff there, and I think, something is missing. It's like the efforts to be relevant to Tasmania, or at least be worthy of respect even though it comes from Tasmania, are overcome by the thus generated sweat of passionless professional as-interesting-as-a-cigarette-packet-design-before -they-put-the-health-warnings-on production and selection values

How, I wondered, where, I hazarded, could technological questions be addressed, now i haven't looked at a copy inages before number 108, but really, it could have come from 1983 when I first looked at these then exciting magazines as a late teen, and why do so many literary types avoid questions of tech as not relating to the human condition, basically they hate SF because it questions the eternal unchanging state of the human condition, as though what it means to be human can not be asked outside of some paleolithic unchanging dreametime literary canon

and now you can't experiement with form because Virginia and James did that before WW2 and its be done now, you can go home to your cows

yeah right

(and stop experimenting with snap it s interupting my system of opening all links in the background as I choose)

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Yea...exactly Meika..I kind of like Snap (multiple facets to the page, gives it a shimmering depth, choice is an illusion) but you have to enter into the rythm of it. Click on the preview and it opens a new window. Click twice on the link and it will open. It works better in Firefox.

Yea...form. There is a pressure building on the concept of form and language. We can never do the experiments that James and Virginia did and why should we. But we can be inspired by their courage and step off our own window ledges and see if we can fly. Not many people have that courage these days as they are so filled with the ideas and images from other sources (advertising and Hollywood being prime offenders).

It brings to mind a quote from the bard of the bottle, Charles Bukowski; "When the spirit wanes, form emerges". When the mad feeling for the thing lessens we start concentrating on the shape it will take and its place in the landscape.

You are blessed to be living in Tasmania. I am also on the periphery in many ways and it allows for a self-reflection and inspiration that I found very difficult in London, Berlin, Amsterdam or Sydney.