Miranda Trimmier, “Quantum Drift”.
In recent discussion of some apps which have been developed to allow visitors to engage with historical sites, I encountered some resistance from some people who make the argument that this somehow ‘cheapens’ the experience. The argument goes that in having a cultural experience, however broadly this may be understood, there needs to be something approaching a one to one correspondence. Cultural artefact X plus individual Y combine to create authentic experience Z. This reminds me of the analysis offered by Susan Sontag in On Photography. Read More
“For some, no doubt it is less comforting to think of rural Bangladeshis using cell phones than to imagine them sharing the experiences of the day at the hearth with their families. But the fact that the rural communities in developing nations can and do use cell technology brings them just that much closer to their “developed” counterparts. Not in the sense of having more technology at their disposal, but in the sense of thinking about communicating with people in similar ways, of being accustomed to maintaining relationships over distances, of acting on one’s desire to talk at the moment one has it, of possessing the confidence and the technology to project one’s needs and desires towards disembodied authorities and remote friends when one needs to.”
“The pursuit of authenticity in the attributes of the other constitutes a degraded form of critique. Its fundamental predicate – as convenient for the marketing executive as it is for the travel agent – is that we question and modify our own practices and seek authenticity in those of others.”
William Ray, The Logic of Culture, pp. 175-176, p. 178.
The title leads one to expect a diversionary tour of the history of the technologies and the debates regarding measurement, and to an extent it is. Sadly, this perfectly serviceable intention is sidelined in favour of a wacky partisan position, in the process making Robert Tavernor the Baigent and Leigh of measurement.
This book is worth reading for the substance and the history, and not the crankery of his interpretation of matters, which makes him come across as a mixture of resentful autodidact (which he isn’t) and flat Earther. The tone is very uneven, and worth turning a deaf ear to. Just in terms of this interpretation (wanting a turn to supposedly more ‘human’ measures), his examples are self-serving. Why he cannot see the efforts at greater accuracy in measurement as a testament to the human mind is baffling. This sense of bafflement is why I have come to regard Tavernor’s position as “not even wrong”. His crankery is so far in the deep end that to engage with him is to risk destabilising reason. To take exception to metric measurement, as he clearly does, need not imply taking exception to rigour in argument and logical coherence.
I do not intend here to get into the arcana of Business Intelligence 2.0 (BI 2.0), because I am not one of its acolytes. That is, I am not trying to sell you anything. What I want to point to is one central problem with the entire notion of Business Intelligence, which is related to other, similar problems with information. In that self-serving white paper from 2002, “Business Intelligence 2.0: Are we there yet?” (pdf link here), Gregory S. Nelson gives what he sees as a speculative projection of where BI 2.0 might take us. In between repeated, and worrying references to Star Trek, he suggests that through BI 2.0, hey-presto
Decisions, facts and context will be developed through “crowdsourcing.” No longer will reports (or how data is structured) be left up to the designer, the environment will evolve as users make the data and derived insights work better through contributions of many.
This can be called the fallacy of absent agency, common to most popular applications of the concept of emergence to society (Nelson misattributes this to evolution rather than emergence), which operates under the assumption that all that takes place in the realm of Web 2.0 happens magically, without the intentionality of human actors being present. Read More
One point which I believe is worth making regarding the ongoing and eternal dispute between techno-sceptics on the one hand (such as the ever-compelling Dale Carrico at Amor Mundi) and the techno-utopians and techno-ideologists on the other hand (take your pick…) is the differing degrees of investment in the ideas being discussed. Carrico refers to these acolytes of undiluted progress as Robot-Cultists, both for specifically rhetorical and tactical reasons, but also in terms of the group identity they seek to foster for themselves. I am tempted to play Good-Cop to Carrico’s I’ll-beat-a-confession-out-of-them-yet-sarge-Cop (making me a techno-scepto-wimp?), and to say that this identity isn’t quite so monolithic as to warrant being called a cult, but perhaps is closer to something like a religious order.
Thus there are not just Dominicans, Jesuits, Norbertines, Benedictines, Poor Clares, etc., but there are the tiniest gradations in between some of these orders (not the first two though, who put a premium on coherence before differences of conscience). Thus there are the positively po-mo number of Benedictines (extra po-mo given that many of the differences are boil down to choices in footwear and other clothing…). Accordingly, the techno-utopians all seem to the following the same basic message, as promulgated by the various Cardinals of the Silicon Vatican (after Steve Jobs’s death, there has still been no white smoke to say “habemus papem”). The message that is sent out is that the share price is holy, and thus our works our good. Read More