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Humanist Archives: Feb. 4, 2023, 7:04 a.m. Humanist 36.376 - a book of interest

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 376.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2023-02-02 12:19:19+00:00
        From: Joris van Zundert <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 36.372: a book of interest

Dear Willard,

Thank you for pointing me to Geoghegan's work. A fascinating and important read.

Slightly off topic for the book maybe, but I was struck by Geoghegan quoting
Mead commenting on cybernetics:

“We were impressed by the potential usefulness of a language sufficiently
sophisticated to be used to solve complex human problems, and sufficiently
abstract to make it possible to cross disciplinary boundaries. We thought we
would go on to real interdisciplinary research, using this language as a medium.
Instead, the whole thing fragmented.”

How true that feels for digital humanities as well, no?

All the best


Dr. Joris J. van Zundert
Researcher & Developer in Humanities Computing
Dept. of Computational Literary Studies / DHLab
Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences<>

visiting address
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 185
1012 DK  Amsterdam
The Netherlands

postal address
P.O. Box 10855
1001 EW  Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Jack Sparrow: I thought you were supposed to keep to the code.
Mr. Gibbs: We figured they were more actual guidelines.

             Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 36, No. 372.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
                      Hosted by DH-Cologne
                Submit to:

        Date: 2023-02-01 16:00:20+00:00
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: a book of interest

The following book will be of considerable interest to many here, I
suspect: Bernard Dionysius Geoghegan's Code: From Information Theory to
French Critical Theory. Duke University Press, 2023. Allow me to quote a
paragraph from the Introduction:

> Code: From Information Theory to French Theory shows how efforts to
> formulate expert and technical responses to grave po litical crises
> drove the reciprocal transformation of the natural and human sciences
> in the twentieth century. In par ticu lar, it traces the dark
> industrial and colonial crises that bound adherents—including
> scientific philanthropies, social scientists, philosophers and
> literary critics, natural scientists, and engineers—in a common
> epistemic cause that celebrated digital research as a basis for
> confronting political violence. Rejecting familiar narratives of
> cybernetics and computing as the offspring of World War II
> engineering, I argue that liberal technocrats’ 1930s dreams of
> eliminating aberrancy through noncoercive communicative techniques
> oriented the informatic programs of World War II and the Cold War.
> That dream and its paradoxical outcomes started in the rise of
> Progressive Era philanthropies committed to supporting communication
> research, traveled through media-driven studies of colonies and
> mental patients from the 1930s through the 1950s, drove the rise of
> laboratories in Cold War linguistics and anthropology, and finally
> roosted in the semiotic adventures of 1960s Paris intellectuals.
> Across these endeavors, an organizing concept of code—indexed to
> computing but derived from technocratic social science—lent
> proponents a powerful trope for reinterpreting the global subjects of
> the human sciences.

And pages earlier the author's epigraph from Stuart Hall, “Ideology and
Communication Theory”:

"All the repetition and incarnation of the sanitized term information,
with its cleansing cybernetic properties, cannot wash away or obliterate
the fundamentally dirty, semiotic, semantic, discursive character of the
media in their cultural dimensions."

Read it tonight :-).


Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

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