ASIST2017: Technology as Humanism (plenary)

Oct 31 2017 Published by under Conferences

Technology as Humanism: Rebooting the Digital Revolution

William Powers, MIT Media Lab

Border of science/humanities is where innovation happens and that's where he sees us.

Library - he thinks of accessibility, order, quiet, control

Researched the "death" of the book.

Shakespeare - Hamlet - "tables" - like dry erase notebook. Lots of discussion at the time about information overload with all the books newly available. "Hamlet's Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal Shorenstein Center 2006 led to book Building a good life in the digital age. Digital maximalism - more digitally connected you are, the better.

Philosophers of Screens (7 dead white males)

  • Socrates - the alphabet will rot your mind! if it's fixed on the page
  • Seneca - "restless energy of a hunted mind" Internal mental exercises
  • Gutenberg - sort of relic-looking selfie sticks with mirrors so pilgrims in crowds could experience the relics
  • Shakespeare - "this distracted globe" (speaking of his own head and those of the audience)
  • Franklin - "all new tools require some practice before we can become expert in the use of them"
  • Thoreau - failed inner life reflected in too much mail (like if you're doing it right, in his opinion, you don't need to talk to anyone else if you have a good inner life)
  • McLuhan - "how are we to get out of the maelstrom create your own ingenuity"

Internet sabbath - useful

Books since his - Carr Shallows, Schulte Overwhelmed, Newport Deep Work, Turkle Conversation....

Digital detox.

Turns out print books are doing find and ebook sales slip. Millenials like paper diaries and notebooks.

Leo Marx - Machine in the garden - "mechanistic habits of the mind"

Working now with people interested in bias in algorithms and in getting stories

Q: social machines, really?

A: not robots, but humans and machines and aspects of humans with machines

.. see great tweets from Kaitlin Costello


also great question - you're saying some utopia or ideal, but before there were a lot of have-nots and disadvantaged...



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