October 23, 2002 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Postmodernism is hard to define; however it is easy enough to apply to academic writing. The ideas set forward by Foucault have now been (successfully?) combined with computer programming. Not sure what it all means? Take a look at some background reading for art-theory-challenged.
posted by blindcarboncopy (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I started reading the CompSci paper, and while there are some interesting snippets, it's quite poorly written. The authors also have a rather skewed idea of what computer science is all about, favoring a program-centric, as opposed to, say, a CPU or information theory approach.

See here for more comments.
posted by Ayn Marx at 10:36 AM on October 23, 2002

Here's another computer scientist's take on postmodernism:

"Academics get paid for being clever, not for being right."
posted by Gif at 10:59 AM on October 23, 2002

I read most of that CSci paper and a bunch of Slashdot comments, and it seems like a carefully-designed troll. High-falutin' computer scientists with Masters degrees vs. the self-taught programmer who 'gets results, damnit'.
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:59 AM on October 23, 2002

Good point Fabulon7. The /. post was heated topic of discussion around the lab this morning. The engineers thought this was an adequate means to getting things done while our comp sci people shuddered at the thought of such a decentralized approach. From experience both methods can produce good results. Perhaps this is a case of different methods being suited better for different personalities or academic pedigree (CompSci vs. CompEng)?
posted by Gif at 11:22 AM on October 23, 2002

Foucault wasn't a postmodernist. He was a structuralist and poststructuralist.
posted by cx at 11:48 AM on October 23, 2002

The Onion's take:
Grad Student Deconstructs Take-Out Menu
posted by CrunchyFrog at 11:50 AM on October 23, 2002

*ahem* I know both the authors of that paper. Decent and learned academics both.

It may help to know that they are both deeply engaged with issues in software engineering and good practise. The paper was written to be presented at a conference, and I imagine it would make a really interesting and stimulating presentation for a bunch of OO geeks - the intended audience.

I think you have to read it as "ha ha only serious".
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:54 AM on October 23, 2002

I'm not saying it was written as a joke, or that it isn't interesting. I only meant that this sort of a thing, valid or not, is bound to cause horribly snooty fights in the weirdly-macho world of the CompSci gurus.
posted by Fabulon7 at 12:20 PM on October 23, 2002

The "Postmodernists on Jerry Springer" piece was very well done. I spent a nontrivial number of years getting a master's in English before I decided that I preferred working with computers. Most parodies of postmodernism aren't learned enough to deploy the lingo correctly. This one does a good job.

As for the comment about Foucault being poststructuralist rather than postmodernist, I'd see that as a fairly hair-splitting difference. You could argue that poststructuralism is a subset (or a superset) of postmodernism, but I can't see arguing that they're not related. And, even if you make that point, Foulcault has certainly influenced a lot of postmodern thought (or 'thought,' depending on your view).
posted by wheat at 12:43 PM on October 23, 2002

I realise my comment lacked any argumentation. Sorry.

Well... I guess I would include both postmodernism and poststructuralism in a reflexivism superset. But to me, they are two very different approaches - two very different methodologies - even though the end result may look the same.

Foucault's thinking may seem postmodernist in that it frees man from modernist conceptions, yet Foucault's idea - IIRC - is that man should free himself from conceptualizing such things as sexuality all together - only then would you really be free. Foucaults focus is on language - the discourses - and how they excert a power over us.

In postmodernist thought too - such as in the writing of Bauman for instance - the key to freeing yourself from modernist conceptions lies in being reflexive, but the problem is not that a discourse is excerting it's power on us, forcing us into acting in a certain way. The problem is that postmodernist man knows that the world he sees today may very well have changed tomorrow, and thus he has to make sure that the choices he makes and the institutions he internalizes isn't going to be burden for him tomorrow. If he wants to be free he has to become a chameleon - able to change one lifestyle and identity for another - the instant the environment changes. And very important: He has to realize that he can never stay in one place.

To summarize: Poststructuralists would abolish the concept of sexuality entirely and just do it. Postmodernists wouldn't abolish the concepts - they would just make sure they weren't labeled as something they couldn't get out of.

What's similar? It's similar because they base themselves on the realization that what you are, and what you do - and most importantly how you perceive the world - is something that is changeable. How you should react to this is quite different.
posted by cx at 3:51 PM on October 23, 2002

Ho Hum
posted by y2karl at 6:30 AM on October 24, 2002

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