The readings for this week all seemed to speak to, in one way or another, the kinds of possibilities for subjects and for acting subjects in our world of "global" technologies.
The overriding concern in these texts for me this week, though, are regarding how these texts seem to package the changes that have occurred in our societies and how those changes have impacted who we are able to be in our worlds. In some ways, I felt compelled by arguments that claim that we are in a new age, an age that has never had the same kinds of impacts as the internet will bring about. Yet, I think this is because I want to be compelled by these arguments. I want to believe that I am living within a time of great change, a time where revolutionary things are happening and where new possibilities are constantly emerging. In my own academic work, though, I have stressed the importance of looking to the places where new technologies simply reproduce or perpetuate social structure in the same ways (or worse, in ways that seem as if new possibilities are emerging but, really, the same old inequalities are just made more covert).
I'm worried because, in all of these texts, I see a strive for an almost-too-clean break from the past. And whether theorists seem to lean on the side of technology as damning or technology as liberating, I see all of these texts striving to create these distinctions that I'm not quite sure I'm comfortable with. These distinctions are distinctions between old and new; productivity and waste; sharing and selling; good ethics and bad ones. Yet, when we create these divisions, as admittedly, it is so easy to do with technology, I think we are losing out on something that is most valuable: we are losing out on understanding technology as it is used...always (or almost always) in conjunction with other technologies--technologies as old as writing systems themselves and as new as the iPad.
Carr's piece on Cushings, for example, centers on the distinction between those whose brains can work harmoniously with computers and those, like himself, whose brains are better circuited to read books. Although Carr has a sentence near the end of his piece that states, "A great many will likely be somewhere between the extremes, thankful for the Net's riches but worried about its long-term effects on the depth of individual intellect and collective culture". Here, although Carr acknowledges the dichotomy he is working within, he still holds it up by presenting "many" of us as stuck between two poles. I certainly don't deny that often books and more contemporary technologies are *presented* as extremes; yet, I'm worried that focusing on these as extremes will undercut the ways in which *both* of these technologies (books and computers, for example) can be used to do particular kinds of work. I guess what I'm saying is, I think Carr and other technology theorists spend a lot of time looking at macro trends instead of considering how books and computers serve different purposes and can be used toward different ends.
Another one of these distinctions exists in the way Miller distinguishes between the creative and critical. In this case, my concern is that Miller seems to be forgetting how the creative and critical are always in relationship with one another. To say that he values the creative over the critical, I think, is forgetting that the creative is always in relationship (whether directly or indirectly) to the critical (even if this is happening subconsciously).
I’m more interested in creative thought than in critical thinking. I think work in the humanities has been both stimulated and paralyzed by the race to expose the flaws in the conceptual foundations of this or that hermeneutic system. And I might as well admit that I also have difficulty with the larger claim that the primary aim of work in the humanities is to generate knowledge. If one is dealing with work that is either nonfalsifiable or inconsequentially falsifiable, then one isn’t involved in the generation of knowledge. Rather, one is moving between the realms of belief and subjective experience, tracing the inner landscape that defines our humanity. Finding the limits of what we know is an abiding activity of higher education and an essential part of clearing space and time for future endeavors to better understand the human condition. But equally important are the efforts to get to work in that newly cleared space....My interest in pedagogy is an expression of my desire to find ways into the spaces that have been laid waste by critique, analysis, argumentation. How, for example, to build a model for education once the university has been declared a ruin, branded irrelevant, yoked to the dead carcass of the automotive industry and sent careening off a cliff? How to create a classroom where students are asked to sit with real world problems, to engage with multiple variables simultaneously, to plunge into the bottomless sea of information that has been unleashed by the World Wide Web? (Miller).
Although I can certainly empathize with Miller's desire to see something in the "newly cleared space," I guess what troubles me most is the notion that these things work apart from one another. And, although this separation is one that is probably correlated with technology, last time I checked, it is a separation that pre-dated the computer (literary analysis/creative writing). I think that technology, in some ways, *can* but will not always help us facilitate critique and production. But we need both of these just as we need to read to write and write to read. These are mutually dependent.
The video we watched, despite claiming that we are the machines, that machines are us, which was probably the lesser of the dichotomy arguments, still claimed that form and content can be separated out on the internet. I have to think about this more, but I guess it is something I am highly suspicious about. As I've said in the discussion space, doesn't re-packaging mean re-making?
Among the most troubling distinctions, though, is the distinction made regarding the "spirit of the net" as collaborative and not for profit. While the net does encourage participatory and democratic action in certain spheres, I think to assume that it is anti-corporate and anti-profit at its spirit creates an, again, too-easy revision. It is particularly irritating to me because these are the kinds of claims that end up equating online action as participatory without think about the extent to which this "spirit" existed prior to technology.
It is stated:
Since 1995, I’ve been writing about and talking about what I call the “Spirit of the ‘Net.” The Internet was not meant for marketing and selling but for communication and connection to people and information. Understanding this, even today, can flip your marketing and selling strategy on its head, but you’ll have far more success respecting the spirit of the ‘Net, rather than throwing money at hard-sell tactics.
Here, we are asked to believe that connecting and communicating are better ways to use the Net than "hard-sell tactics;" yet, ignores the fact that communicating and connecting are often co-opted by those in power to create more supposedly "ethical" positions for those that are simply using technology in "better" (i.e. more savvy ways). To be clearer, there is nothing inherently better about communicating or connecting, rather, it is what that communicating or connecting is doing or enabling that is important.
Ah, there is so much more to say (and I don't have time to edit this right now)...but I will revisit this all soon...