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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Human and Computer

On March 15 Ben Williams wrote: "I think the reference to Foucault's
idea of language as a paradigm for the human condition as justification
for the computer-human equation reveals the limitations of structuralism
in general: its tendency to ignore material difference in favor of
abstract similarity. My opinion is that computers are a form of
intelligence, one that has been abstracted from certain very particular
aspects of human intelligence, but which is also quite different from
the human sensibility considered as a whole."

I agree, though I think there is a richer understanding of the notion of
discourse. Foucault also speaks of discourses as "technologies of power"
and shows that all discursive formations are bound up in specific
material practices, each with their own potential for mobility and
inertia. The question, as Wong puts it in his Human and Computer post,
then becomes one of our position in collective structures or systems (or
what some people here have called "distributed systems," situations
where part of the deck you're playing with is embedded somewhere outside
your control). Based on one's sense of position, one then makes tactical
moves in the hope that they'll ripple out through the larger system.

The question is, on what basis do you make the tactical moves? Using
what common sense? I'm not sure, to address another of Ben's concerns,
that we should always use technologies as conceptual models or metaphors
for consciousness. The model of networked systems has given rise to
ideas of cultural nomadism, the schizophrenic personality, punctual or
disjunctive identity, etc. These ideas have been liberating in some
ways, but the tactics and experiments they enable often seem to make
ripples for ripples' sake, which can be individually interesting - like
Bram van Velde painting in the dark - but which give no purchase for
action at the systems level (the collective level). Personally I feel
that the schizo-paradigm in the universities has helped neutralize a lot
of potential resistance to the new forms of domination at work in the
abstracted, highly channeled societies of information exchange.

The problem of one's position in a distributed system isn't new. Hegel
and then Marx perceived it and tried to deal with it through their
notions of the historical process. They wanted people to merge into some
kind of super-subject of the process, like a steam engine speeding
one-way down the tracks. That paradigm has given pretty poor results all
around. So I reckon there should have to be new, maybe non-technological
models of consciousness and collective agency. Who can offer them, what
forms of communication can best propagate them?

Brian Holmes

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