The ‘Dark Side’ of the Enlightenment

The Alchemist

“The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone,” by Joseph Wright, 1771

Dan Edelstein, a Stanford French professor, has been exploring an aspect of the Age of Enlightenment that is less familiar to most, the so-called “dark side” of the enlightenment. He described the differentiating factors. “The prevailing understanding of the enlightenment is one in which there was only scientific and rational thinking, but there was also a significant number of people contributing to the enlightenment who were absorbed in dubious scholarly pursuits like alchemy, mythology, astrology and secret societies.”(link)

These ‘dubious scholarly pursuits’ are still with us. ‘Web 2’ perhaps?

Building Social Media Infrastructure to Engage Publics

An interesting new report from the Centre for Social Media at American University is Washington DC.

This field report traces how a committed group of volunteers harnessed the micro-blogging tool Twitter to create innovative public media 2.0 experiments—first to actively engage users to report on their voting experiences in the 2008 U.S. election, and then to document their experiences of the 2009 presidential inauguration. Along the way, these two projects demonstrated how journalists and advocates can effectively leverage a range of both commercial and open source social media tools to organize, publicize and implement citizen reporting projects, creating infrastructure for related future projects. Organizers have since worked to archive and repurpose the code and collaboration materials from these efforts for use in 2009 election monitoring initiatives in India and Iran (link)

What is technological determinism?


Technological determinism is circulated, maintained, and advanced within the pre-existing hierarchies in the world in which we live. Determinism has its own political agendas, its own rules, its own contexts and hierarchies and antagonisms to an imagined ‘other’. Determinism utilises a proprietary language and culture and although it cloaks itself in ideas of inter-disciplinary, deterministic discourse discourages intellectual critique, dissent, and justifies itself with the high ground of capitalist practicality. Deterministic rhetoric is only interested in other knowledge so that it can demonise it, remediate it, appropriate it, make it better, wrestle it out of the hands of the ‘elite’ and make it more ‘democratic’, more in touch with ‘the people’.

I wrote this some time ago (link).  A rather disturbing report I recently read on Web 2 and Education prompted me to re-visit this writing

Report: After the AHDS: the end of national support?

A panel discussion at the opening of the recent Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts conference at Dartington College of the Arts posed the question what happens after the end of the Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS); is this the end of national support?

The Arts and Humanities Data Service is a national service with the primary role to preserve, curate, and provide access to the digital output of the humanities in the UK. The Service is also active in the enhancement and promotion of digital scholarship in the UK as well as internationally. After eleven years of service, the AHDS recently lost its funding from the JISC (Joint Information Services Committee) and the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council). The Service will cease to exist in its present form in March of 2008.

Continue reading “Report: After the AHDS: the end of national support?”

Pollies embrace Google for the ‘e-election’

From the Melbourne Age

John Howard says the internet is “not some sort of gimmick” and has invited voters to have a conversation with him on YouTube.

Peter Garrett believes the web will play a “really really critical role” in the upcoming election, which Joe Hockey has dubbed the “e-election campaign”.

The Prime Minister, opposition environment spokesman and Workplace Relations Minister broadcasted the comments over YouTube this morning in glowing endorsements of Google’s new federal election website. (link)

What is HASTAC?

A consortium of humanists, artists, scientists, social scientists, and engineers from universities across the country, HASTAC (“Haystack”) is committed to new forms of collaboration across institutions, disciplines, and communities to promote creative uses of technology. Since 2003, we have been developing tools for multimedia archiving and social interaction, gaming environments for teaching, innovative educational programs in information science and information studies, virtual museums, and other digital projects. HASTAC leaders have served as consultants to U.S. and international organizations and governments on grid computing and cyberinfrastructure. Our aim is to promote expansive, innovative uses of technology in formal education and lifelong learning (link).