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Humanist Archives: Oct. 18, 2022, 6:28 a.m. Humanist 36.217 - On Browsing, and the ghosts in the machines

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 217.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
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        Date: 2022-10-17 10:58:59+00:00
        From: Mcgann, Jerome (jjm2f) <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.215: on browsing and affection

Dear Willard,

Would you send me the citation – I want to see that little book.
[In the UK, it seems, On Browsing is not yet published, or so says Amazon; in 
N America it is, but Amazon says it's out of stock. I'm waiting for it too! -WM]

Immediate critical response: neither does the book operate from a place of
affection, if one means the inert object.  But the makers of algorithmic engines
do, just as the makers of book machines – all their many agents  -- from authors
and editors to paper makers and typographers -- do.

The way to “slow down” is to make the user the focus of the design and coding,
not the machinery.   We want contact with the ghosts in the machines.

BTW, the problem with Lagerkvist’s work, which I greatly admire, is that she
doesn’t address the imperative question: “What is to be done?”  Practically. The
Analytical Onomasticon addressed that question and came up with some very
important insights.  Like Satan, you have to pass through “Chaos and Old Night”
to get to the human world.  That region is what Lagewrkvist  calls “the digital
limit situation”.   The world’s order(s) are all precariously (existentially)
invented to hold off that time before time when “Earth was not nor globes of
attraction But Eternal Life sprung” (Blake).  Order is a dream of unimaginable
Order.  Its axiom is this:
                A equals A iff A does not equal A


From: Humanist <>
Date: Monday, October 17, 2022 at 1:34 AM
To: Mcgann, Jerome (jjm2f) <>
Subject: [Humanist] 36.215: on browsing and affection

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 215.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2022-10-16 19:41:04+00:00
        From: <>
        Subject: On Browsing and Affection


This snippet from a recent publication from small Canadian publisher Biblioasis
struck a note. In _On Browsing_ Jason Guriel contends:


[T]he algorithm doesn't operate from a place of affection.


Leaning on his memory of physical locations, Guriel praises curation, lauds
serendipity, and pays tribute to the affordances that assist one in slowing
down. By the end of the short book that sets browsing the physical against
scrolling screens, Guriel himself deconstructs his dichotomy and imagines
succeeding generations of late adopters immune to the enchantments of speedy
consumption. He is quite eloquent on the need to create one’s archive as a hedge
against the disappearance of artefacts accessed by streaming alone. In the end,
he intimates that old practices of caring for the physical are transferable to
the purely digital.

François Lachance, Ph.d.
Life cannot be told.
It is lived in the telling.

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