11.0274 Online developments

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Fri, 19 Sep 1997 20:01:39 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 274.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Fri, 19 Sep 1997 19:56:02 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: Online developments

The latest issue of the Guardian Online is fatter than usual, indeed
bursting with items interesting and, in one case, rather disturbing.

(1) Duncan Campbell, "Screw the Internet: Spooks on both sides of the
Atlantic are interested in retaining their power to monitor the world's
telecoms traffic". But for the small details we could probably all write the
article with reference to our knowledge of tendencies in government and
what, some say, is wrongly called "paranoia". In case you've been somewhere
else since the beginning of time, or at least since Sir Francis Walsingham
did the job for Elizabeth I: "Intelligence agencies in the US have stepped
up their campaign to control the flow of information over the Internet,
counterattacking an unholy alliance of civil libertarians and business
chiefs who back the introduction of secure encryption technologies to
protect personal privacy and commercial data online." Amendments won to a
draft pro-encryption law replace "rights to sell effective encryption
systems to the world with regulations to ban even US citizens from using
them. The agencies and their political backers are now demanding that any
American whose electronic communications cannot immediately be read by US
intelligence should, after January 2000, face up to five years'
imprisonment. Furthermore, they want the US to use its political and
industrial power to force the rest of the world to follow suit." The new
government in the U.K. is considering....

Yes, it would be difficult even for some well-funded agencies to employ
enough people to read all those messages, but since they are in electronic
form, supercomputers can be put to the task to run text-analytic algorithms
on the data stream. Perhaps there's employment for some of us in this
exciting new development. One must consider both sides of the question,
however. In other words, we are now coming to bear on the full range of
human failures as well as edenic visions. As computing humanists, we have

(2) Celia Locks, "Soundbites".
"All these malfunctions can be traced to the years when the industry has had
absolutely no money, and we have had to find ways to survive using spare
parts and old techniques." Viktor Blagov, deputy chief of Russia's mission
control, on this week's computer breakdown on board the Mir.

(3) Fred Pearce, "And it was here, on this very spot". A review of
educational CD-ROMs, with *very* high praise for Attenborough's Antarctic
(BBC Multimedia, 29.99 pounds). Also Jim McClellan and Paddy Allen's review
of Disney's Magic Artist, also very highly praised.

(4) Microfile, a note on how swindlers are "taking to the Internet in a big
way", and a URL for those interested in the trade,
<http://www.fraud.org/internet/intinfo.htm>, the Internet Fraud Watch. Also
a note about Intel's initiative to make the video camera a standard
accessory to ordinary PCs; "Not that everyone shouldn't get a computer-based
camera as soon as possible. Connectix has launched a software package called
Digital Radar.... The program detects motion around your desk, takes
pictures and stores them on your computer's hard disk. It can be set up to
sound an alarm...."

(5) Douglas Rushkoff, "The Web will return after this commercial break",
about the failure of online adverts to do the job -- because they are so
annoying and can be ignored, mostly. "[T]he art of advertising is to create
desires in passive recipients. Since those of us on the Web are attempting
to be active, not passive, we are not a good audience. We already have our
desires, and are trying to exercise them. We don't need them replaced by
other ones.
"The bigger problem for advertisers online is that interactive technology
makes commercials obsolete. In economic terms, the Internet closes the gap
between supply and demand. You can get whatever you want by simply accessing
it and then clicking. You don't stop and play an ad for someone once they
are inside your store."


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk

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