Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Q&A Goes Horribly Wrong
Classicists engage in frequent debate about whether the field is “too white,” whether Western civilization is a manufactured idea and what new lines of inquiry will ensure classics’ continued relevance -- or even its survival.
But at an annual gathering of classicists this weekend in San Diego, that debate crossed the line from professional to personal, from real inquiry to racism.
The incident involved an attack on Dan-el Padilla Peralta, an assistant professor of classics at Princeton University, by an independent scholar named Mary Frances Williams. It happened during a question-and-answer period at a panel on the future of classics Saturday at a Society for Classical Studies conference.
Panelists included Peralta, who spoke about an alleged incident of racial profiling at the conference site, in which two classicists of color were stopped and asked for identification. He also cited classics journal publication data showing that authors are largely white, and pushed for diversification of the field. Another speaker was Sarah Bond, an associate professor of classics at the University of Iowa whose research and public outreach often focuses on the idea that our notions of race in the classical world are much more informed by Eurocentric Renaissance views than historical reality.
Scott Jaschik contributed to this article
Thursday, January 17, 2019
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen, Anthem
What world does contemporary information technology inhabit? Is it the imaginary nineteenth-century world of progress and advance, novelty and invention, open frontiers and endless development? Or the twenty-first- century world of risk and uncertainty, growth and decay, and fragmentation, dissolution, and breakdown?
This chapter is an exercise in broken world thinking. It asks what happens when we take erosion, breakdown, and decay, rather than novelty, growth, and progress, as our starting points in thinking through the nature, use, and effects of information technology and new media. Broken world thinking is both normative and ontological, in the sense that it makes claims about the nature of technology and its relationship to broader social worlds, some of which may differ from deep rooted cultural assumptions. But it is also empirical and methodological, an argument and provocation toward doing new and different kinds of research, and new and different kinds of politics, in media and technology studies today.
Text by Steven J. Jackson
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Saturday, January 12, 2019
The digital revolution isn’t over but has turned into something else
All revolutions come to an end, whether they succeed or fail.
The digital revolution began when stored-program computers broke the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Numbers that do things now rule the world. But who rules over the machines?Once it was simple: programmers wrote the instructions that were supplied to the machines. Since the machines were controlled by these instructions, those who wrote the instructions controlled the machines.
Two things then happened. As computers proliferated, the humans providing instructions could no longer keep up with the insatiable appetite of the machines. Codes became self-replicating, and machines began supplying instructions to other machines. Vast fortunes were made by those who had a hand in this. A small number of people and companies who helped spawn self-replicating codes became some of the richest and most powerful individuals and organizations in the world.
Then something changed. There is now more code than ever, but it is increasingly difficult to find anyone who has their hands on the wheel. Individual agency is on the wane. Most of us, most of the time, are following instructions delivered to us by computers rather than the other way around. The digital revolution has come full circle and the next revolution, an analog revolution, has begun. None dare speak its name.Childhood’s End was Arthur C. Clarke’s masterpiece, published in 1953, chronicling the arrival of benevolent Overlords who bring many of the same conveniences now delivered by the Keepers of the Internet to Earth. It does not end well.
Text by George Dyson