12.0581 feedback

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Mon, 26 Apr 1999 22:14:12 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 581.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Mon, 26 Apr 1999 21:56:09 +0100
From: Francois Lachance <lachance@chass.utoronto.ca>
Subject: feedback to/from imagination


You have provoked some thinking about the locus of "feedback".


> software might act, as it were prosthetically for someone whose imagination
> doesn't have the necessary ability.


It is not the attribution agency to an artefact (software) that
concerns me here. It is the "additive assumption" to be found in the
invocation of a prosthetic model of techno-enhancement. I am fond of
stating the information overload can create disabling conditions for
the participants in computer-mediated communication and that these conditions
can provide experiences which guided by analysis prove to be creative
moments. Radical reorganization of one's sensorium is not however the
sine qua non of creativity. The ability to forecast a reorganized
sensorium for self and others is.

This ability is of course what I would like to place under the rubric
of "imagination". In doing so, I believe we can build in a
meta-function for imagination. Software could stimulate the
imagination not only by what it does but also by what it does not. The
precondition to a metafunctional imagination is the ability to compare.

Of course, I am here privileging communication and the social
dimenisions of imagination. However, be it the use of a software
application or the use of a garden rake, human interaction with
technological products is also an interaction with the trajectories of human
thought and energy (labour if you will): the always-already movement
of ghosts in the machine.

I stress the notion of trajectory here because the interaction is not
only with lifeless artefacts or reified labour but also with the
traces of aspirations and hope. Software is future-directed and as
such play with any type of software must in some sense stimulate
imagination. Play, in the company of guides, may do so even more. (And
yes, guides need not be present in the flesh; guides can be
intelligent agents -- digitalized or otherwise.)

So where is the feedback?

Feedback ---> neither ghost nor machine <--- Feedback

In most cybernetic models feedback is a relation between components of
the same system. But what if feedback were considered as a relation
between systems?

The imagined and the actual are components of the real. The actual is
a possible world. The imagined contains both possible and impossible worlds.
Yes, this of course means the impossible is real (but not actual). In
any case, possible world semantics could help us understand feedback
as a transworld phenomenon: bridge or river between the actual (one
possible world among many) and other possible and even impossible worlds.

--> Further reading:
Possible worlds in humanities, arts, and sciences : proceedings of
Nobel Symposium 65 / edited by Sture Allen.
Berlin ; New York : W. de Gruyter, 1989, c1988

Willard <-- Thanks to the flow of moderator messages, I am now intrigued
by the separation possibilities of bridges (bridge as channel) --
something to help me tackle the limits of node-link explanations in the
discourses on hypertext.


Francois Lachance
*If pastry making is to chemistry
**and if bread baking is to biology
Then gardening is to physics ***

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