Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature

Author Archives: Pooja Mehta

Blog 2: DH vs H

September 12th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

From my perception of the Hayles reading, I would say that digital humanities differ from simple humanities by the fact that digital humanities really do allow for you to interact with the text and encourage different paths to the main purpose of the text. These projects that we were presented with are prime examples of digital humanities, with each one going through and presenting new ways to interact with the media, and giving us information beyond what the media itself affords. For example, the video that presented how brushstrokes can help us identify authentic Van Gogh paintings from copies. With just the physical painting, we can see—well, the painting. But by digitizing it, converting it to a black and white image and using computer algorithms to analyze the brush stroke patterns, we gather two pieces of information that the physical painting could have never told us—what exactly is Van Goh’s distinctive brush style, and if the painting is, based on its brush style compared to Van Gogh’s, an genuine painting or a worthless copy.

Digitizing texts gives it dozens of affordances that a hard copy simply cannot do. For example, in this TED talk, we see analysts show us historical trends and social culture through the word count of texts that were written in the past. This is simply not possible with hard copies of books, because the time and effort it would take to do a manual word count on enough literature to gather any sorts of conclusions would vastly outweigh the benefits of discovering that information. By adding the ‘digital’ to humanities, we now get the opportunity to look through hundreds of thousands of pieces of information and extract what we need from it in a matter of minutes. This incredible benefit is, in fact, the foundation for Google’s project to digitize all of the literature available to us, a benefit that Marche argues “is a story of several, related intellectual failures.” Marche argues that digitizing the humanties removes the “humanity” from the work all together, but I disagree. I, like many others who have written in response to him, would like to believe that by giving us this ease in analyzing texts, we are now more likely to look at a piece of literature because we can go directly to the part that we want, rather than having to pore through the entire book and sift through endless pages of information that is not useful for the task we are trying to achieve.

Aiden, E. and Michel, J. (2011, September 20). What we learn from 5 million books? Video.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Eck, Allison. “How Forensic Linguistics Revealed J. K. Rowling’s Secret.” PBS. PBS, 19 July 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. Online.

Neuromancer and DiVE Novel Response

September 7th, 2014 | Posted by Pooja Mehta in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The DiVE is a cube made of movie screens, and into which an entirely new experience can be projected. While I was in there, I felt as though that if we could get better graphics and more biointeraction with the scene that was being projected, it would be very easy to forget that what was being projected onto the screen was not real life, but instead a program that our senses and mind are bring tricked into believing. That being said, while reading Neuromancer, it made me wonder, “Is Armitage nothing but virtual reality taken one step further, into virtual mentality?” In Neuromancer, we are given a short blurb about Armitage’s past, as Corto. “Case watched Corto work corporate defectors in Lisbon and Marrakesh, where he seemed to grow obsessed with the idea of betrayal, to loathe the scientists and technicians he bought out for his employers…[he] had been taken to a Paris mental health unit and diagnosed as schizophrenic,” and then “[he was] provided with microcomputers and encouraged, with help from students, to program them. He was cured, the only success in the entire experiment (Gibson).” Basically Corto goes crazy after Screaming Fist, and as a cure he undergoes an experimental treatment that bestows a new personality upon him. The DiVE came so close to tricking us into believing that we were in a different place then we really were—is it possible that it could progress to the level where it tricked us into believing we were totally different people, and change all of our Cortos into Armitages? There is an entire episode of “Futurescape” that talks about the idea of preserving interactive personalities on computers, a similar concept to the ROM, and then being able to still maintain a relationship with a person long after they have passed away. So then, is it so unreasonable to think that we can reverse the process and take a personality from a computer and put it into a person? Of course, the original personality will still be there, and if the artificial one fails, like it did with Armitage, then what? Do we have a Jekyll and Hyde situation, where one personality tries to kill another and ends up damaging the person? Or is it a battle of man vs machine, where one wins and the other has to succumb?

If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t want to know the answers. Its scary to think of the implications of programmable personalities. For some reason, this reminds me of slavery—how hard would it be to just program a group of people to be submissive and obedient? And then, if they “want” to be in the position they’re put in, is it wrong to put them there? If we’re programmed, is our right and wrong just 0’s and 1’s?


All text references from the E-Copy of Neuromancer: