The Critical Net Critic
November 7, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

The Gutenberg press, as Carr is well aware, did not precede or produce the literate subject, but merely facilitated its generalization by making the production of books more economical. Along the way it undoubtedly—through some of its own formal characteristics—exerted an influence on the text it carried... But there is a tendency in the critique of technology to over-emphasize such factors at the expense of farther-reaching socio-historical explanations.
In the latest issue of New Left Review, Rob Lucas discusses the work of Nicholas Carr and calls for a socioeconomic approach to the history of computing.

Carr previously: 1 2
posted by RogerB (7 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Who mourns for the neighborhoods torn down to build the Information Superhighway.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:26 AM on November 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

My problem with the socioeconomic approach, from the limited amount of Carr I've read, is that it seems to treat the historical result as just one result among many potentials, and then attempts to determine the socioeconomic factors that might have determined the historical outcome. That seems valuable. Nonetheless, if the historical result became the historical result because of certain "ecological" factors that shape which socioeconomic factors tend to matter more, then the socioeconomic factors are just as epiphenomenal as they are expository, which unravels a bit of the heuristic potential of Carr's approach.

This isn't to suggest that there aren't unfortunate mystifications on the other end of the extreme - the technoutopians and the technoluddites are both guilty of rather odd flights of fancy that assign far too much agency to the technology. But to suggest, instead, that we need to seek explanations grounded in "ownership" and "power" is itself a mystification on the opposite end of the spectrum, and begs the question as to whether different technological or medialogical ecologies change the social conception of things like "ownership" and "power."
posted by hank_14 at 11:53 AM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is a fine line between neuro-plasticity and Silly Putty. And while it would be fascinating, our posts and comments here are not suited to direct translation into an oral medium
posted by ahimsakid at 1:18 PM on November 7, 2012

Appearing primarily as technological matters, which enswathe the globe in an indifferent and universalizing technical logic, concretely these technologies are inseparable from the relations of the late 20th-century American capitalism which produced them. An analysis that pushed against this obfuscation might attempt what Adorno called a ‘reductio ad hominem’, exposing the social roots of this technological complex to grasp it as a key mediation in the reproduction of late capitalist society.

Gotta love the scholars who study dead languages.
posted by shivohum at 1:39 PM on November 7, 2012

Kind of have to feel sorry for someone so insulated they have to cite Adorno (after using the word 'enswathe') then have nearly everyone say "Who?"

Must have studied under Thorsten Veblen. ("Who?")
posted by Twang at 3:27 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's insulated to cite Adorno? "Enswathe" is pretty terrible, I'll give you that, but what's so out there about mentioning Adorno?
posted by hank_14 at 8:19 PM on November 7, 2012

Up with this sort of thing! I haven't finished it and can't say I agree or disagree, but the tech world is sorely lacking this kind of thought, which is what happens if you have a culture of habitually trashing the humanities as "not hard enough" I guess. If you liked that you might like What we talk about when we talk about the Internet.
posted by ianso at 5:32 AM on November 8, 2012

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