12.0222 gleanings

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Thu, 24 Sep 1998 21:37:09 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 222.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Thu, 24 Sep 1998 21:28:28 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: gleanings

>From the Guardian Online for today (see <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>):

(1) Michael Cross, "A very peculiar practice", the lead story, on the
computerisation of the U.K. National Health Service. The problems reported
in the article with the way records are kept here is no exaggeration, as I
discovered one winter's night two years ago in a decayed surgery (doctor's
office) deep in the wilds of Poplar. But the real difficulties, at least the
ones that have international appeal, lie in the nature of the problem of
computerising medical information. It's the absence of computing at the
"point of care", i.e. at the doctor's fingertips when interviewing the
patient, rather than as a backroom storage device for the bureaucratic
transcribing of information long after the patient has left.

(2) Jack Schofield, "Free Net service hits high street", on the rise of
completely free online services -- free, that is, except for the price of
the telephone call. The companies providing these free services make their
money through the connect charges (of which N Americans are blissfully

(3) Dan Jellinek, "Just one last hit", on a paper by Janet Morhan-Martin,
professor of psychology at Briant College, Rhode Island, to be presented at
the Addictions '98 conference (entitled "comorbidity across the
addictions"), opening in Newcastle tomorrow, for which see
<http://www.elsevier.nl/locate/addictions98/>. It seems that some people are
now arguing for compulsive Internet use as an addiction, e.g. also Dr.
Kimberly Young, founder of the Center for Online Addiction,
<http://www.netaddiction.com/>. The online-addiction theorists have found,
or think they have found, an exact match between the criteria defining
substance-abuse addiction and compulsive online use. The following are listed:

1. You promise to cut down time online but are unable to do so
2. You lie about the time spent on the computer
3. You experience negative consequences as a result of time spent
4. You participate in high-risk behaviour
5. You have an over-developed sense of your computer's importance
6. You have mixed feelings of euphoria and guilt from being online
7. You have feelings of anxiety when something shortens your time
8. You are preoccupied with computer activities
9. You use the computer to avoid problems in your life and feelings
of inadequacy
10. You have financial problems as a result of computer use

The problem I have with the above criteria is that all of them mutatis
mutandis are equally satisfied, for example, by being deeply, passionately
in love. Is totally absorbing devotion to another person an "addiction"? We
do speak of "love sickness", and have for a very long time (see Ciavolella
and Beecher's edition of Nicholas Ferrand's treatise), but I cannot but help
be reminded of my son's statement in primary school one day that he was
"allergic" to skates. Of course the question of what is sickness and what
health is not so easy to answer. At least here some people seem to have
invented a relatively harmless industry for themselves.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
<Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk> <http://ilex.cc.kcl.ac.uk/wlm/>
maui gratia

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