Saturday, November 15, 2008

Final Insights

Sadly, it is the last day of the conference. I suppose all good things must come to an end at some point. So far, this conference has been a wonderful experience and highly engaging and thought provoking. And this is not only referring to the discussions by the distinguished speakers. In between sessions and during meal breaks have been just as fascinating for me as it is a chance to sit with these same people and hear them speaking and debating about a myriad of topics. Being able to speak with these highly intelligent people has been one of my favorite parts about this conference and I look forward to hearing more from them today.

But now it is time to hear Krakauer and Hayles...

As I continue this after the fact, I realize how many different ideas I was exposed to during the conference. From what I can accurately recall of Krakauer and his discussion titled "Architects of Matter & Information," humans have distanced themselves from nature. Humans differ from the rest of nature in the responsibilities – we modify the select environment of our own and of other animals. An example of this would be the atomic bomb and its effects. Krakauer said that the environment of the species is shaped by the species, for which he gave the example of the natural selection of the pepper moth. He continued on by speaking of the "cultural time travel" that artifacts from human history makes possible. The human species, along with many other species, constructs heritable riches but uniquely humans construct durable informational riches. In this way humans live not only in the present but in a vast, stored cultural history. To show these points he used a time versus space diagram and then showed how it could be, in a sense, manipulated to be a "life cone" or a "culture cone." But the thought that stuck out to me the most came at the end of the discussion where Krakauer said, "I think its time to forget Darwin and Aristotle." There is a new field and we can take far greater risks than just sticking with the traditional.

Hayles, to me, had probably the most unique presentation where she talked about the humanities themselves in a speech called: "How we Think: the Transforming Power of Digital Technologies." She said that in looking at the humanities there was the traditional versus the new digital humanities. She said the the National Humanities center building was built on the foundation of the traditional humanities. It has the open space for conversation and scholarly activity, yet during other times the scholars go into their own room and do research. It is the unconscious assumptions that she wants to explore in order to discover how relationship with digital humanity has changed the scholar is how they view their work and themselves. To look into this, she did research through interviews with sixteen people who are involved with digital humanities. This was in order to continue with forming a distinction between big Science and Big Humanities. Within this realm of thought, there is machine reading which changes the types of questions and answers according to Hayles. She gave examples of digital humanities works like that of Tanya Clement. The digital humanities are able to open the difference between peer review and online reviews. This further goes into the possibility of forming new alliances between the expert amateur and the expert scholar. After the discussion someone challenged that this digital humanities poses the problem of forgetting the human, to which Hayles responded that humans are writing the material.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

This conference sounded really interesting, and like a great opportunity for you to learn things in more detail than you would get to in a classroom, from the people doing the actual research. I wish this opportunity had been extended to a greater variety of students.