10.0747 software, religion, culture, censorship

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 28 Feb 1997 05:55:42 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 747.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca> (41)
Subject: software(s) of culture(s)

[2] From: Francois Crompton-Roberts <F.Crompton- (27)
Subject: Re: 10.0723 a Serious Request

Date: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 14:01:48 -0500 (EST)
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: software(s) of culture(s)


Be it the babe or the wrinkled aged, talk of talk as Jerome Bruner
reminds us in <cite>Acts of Meaning</cite> is ever fascinating.

Burkert's own words can also explain the persistence of atheists and
the withering away of the religous discourse that refuses to tackle
the mysteries of change as wells as of continuity.

> informs it. Likewise, in his latest book, <cite>Creation of the Sacred:
> Tracks of Biology in early Religions</cite> (Harvard, 1996), Walter Burke=
> resorts to the same device in his attempt to explain the persistence of
> religion, and the commonality of its basic forms. "To use another metapho=
> verbalized culture, transmitted by teaching and learning, may be called t=
> 'software' of humanity, easy to copy and pass on regardless of its
> complexity. Still, the question is whether this software can be chosen an=
> modified arbitrarily, or whether it remains bound to certain precondition=
> of the original programming, to patterns and effects left by the 'hardwar=
> that generated it" (p. 21).=20

"Verbalised culture" signals the existence of other cultures
non-verbalized and just as taught and learnt. Imagine revisiting the
iconoclastic controversies as a case of pro/contra jamming software.

Freethinkers have been known to decorate their walls, floors or
ceilings with Buddhist mandelas. But that is not hardware. However
there seems to be an assumption at work in the Burkert text that the
architectural site of ritual (church or temple) is equivalent to
hardware. But what of a Navaho sandpainting? a Walbiri songline? or
the productions of agitprop street Theatre?

My point, in short, is that religious phenomena and the particulars out
which they are composed just like theatrical phenomena=20
(I'm following Richard Schechner here <cite>From Theatre to
Anthropology</cite>) cannot be dichotomized, especially into hard and
soft. What is at work in these cognitive & aesthetic domains is the
interlocking of

Human interaction with cultural artefacts permits access to possible worlds=
The dialectic for me, for some, the tension, between chance and
necessity plays a role in shaping the teaching/learning situation and
its outcomes. Therefore, culture is not merely passed on, copied,
replicated. It is reproduced; its possibilities sifted and sometimes shifte=



Date: Wed, 26 Feb 1997 16:41:46 GMT0BST
From: Francois Crompton-Roberts <F.Crompton-Roberts@qmw.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 10.0723 a Serious Request

> Well, if you had all the scripts on computer disks, you could run them
> through a program which would calculate some kind of content descriptor,
> some kind of rating. Then parents could program their TVs to block out an=
> programmes with certain kinds of descriptor or rating, right? Some kind o=
> automatic categorization, topic identification, that kind of thing. Is
> no-one doing research on that sort of text analysis? Specifically as appl=
> to broadcasting? Has anyone tried to apply automatic content identificati=
> methods to this kind of domain?

Now there's a thought. Perhaps software to mark student essays without
we having to read them could be devised? Or would the students
get there first and develop a general-purpose essay-writing program?
We could cut out the middlemen (middlepersons?) entirely!

The serious side of this is governments' evident wish to censor
the Internet. You cannot hear the word "Internet" these days without
simultaneously hearing the word "pornography". I am sure it is
quite deliberate, to soften up public opinion for the introduction of
censorship. If they carry on like this, it will be difficult to resist:
"You mean you don't want to protect our children from filth?". Try
telling your local MP (that's British for Representative), as I have
attempted to, that the average High-Street bookshop contains far
more porn, in proportion, than the Internet... mine wouldn't even

Fran=E7ois Crompton-Roberts