1.30.2003

Them

They are out there...

From TLR

From 1999 to 2002, I was the editor/publisher of an online publication called "The Luddite Reader," a site that reviewed luddite
(or luddish) books, movies, and music. Here is a book review from that collection.

The Telling by Ursula K. Leguin.

Globalism is destructive of indigenous cultures. The dominant monoculture (us) supplants all cultures we encounter. An older example
would be how the aborigines have been treated (and continue to be treated) in Australia, or how we have marginalized our own Native
American population. In this, Le Guin's most recent (and final?) novel of her Hainish series, this problem is presented in the form of a
planetary parable, where a new technoculture, Aka, a tightly-controlled capitalist government know as the Corporation, considers all
citizens to be pure "producer-consumers."

The Aka is systematically destroying all vestiges of the ancient ways: "The Time of Cleansing" is the phrase (with obvious parallels
to China's Cultural Revolution) used to describe this era. Libraries and books are destroyed, the old language and calligraphy are
outlawed, and natives caught trying to keep any part of the past alive are punished and then re-educated.

Le Guin's protagonist, Sutty, is an ethnographer sent from earth by the Ekumen to study the culture of the planet, but during her
60 year space journey the "cleansing" takes place and she is left to study an illicit remnanct of the culture that is known among
the people as "the Telling." The Telling appears to be a blending of religion and knowledge-keeping, a faith in narrative and respect
for what has been known and the passing along of wisdom. The Aka culture is a faith in the new and in technology.

Sutty observes the change thusly:

   From a great consensual social patter within which each individual sought physical and spiritual satisfaction, they
   had made it a great hierarch in which each individual served the indefinite growth of the society's material wealth and
   complexity. From an active homeostatic balance they had turned it to an active forward-thrusting imbalance... The
   difference...was between somebody sitting thinking after a good meal and somebody running furiously to catch the bus.

   (a wonderfully luddish observation.)

The Telling is more of a thought-problem than a story. Some readers may find its ending unsatisfying. In some ways, it's the obverse of
Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," river journey and all. Also, if you have ever wondered what it would be like to live among the Book People
of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, this is it.

Off

Go.

1.14.2003

Mr. Kurt, He Said:

Interesting Kurt Vonnegut interview:

   Well, technology has fucked us up in many ways. What I’ve said about the computer
   revolution is that it’s allowed white collar criminals to do what the Mob would have
   loved to do -- put a pawn shop and a loan shark in every home!

Word Watch: Inforamus

    The new breed of digital illiterati exhibit a complete misunderstanding or indifference to
   the distinction between subscription and free online information as well as a chilling
   aversion to reading books. These "scholars" waste untold hours fruitlessly but insistently
   looking through thousands of Alta Vista search results, vainly hoping against hope that
   somehow all the right answers will tumble forth.

   The research for a typical undergrad paper nowadays seems to consist of two hours of
   fruitless WWW browsing followed by a reluctant visit to the library. During this visit, one
   poorly formatted query is submitted to a full-text periodical database, the first five
   full-text articles on the results list of 800 hits are downloaded, and then it's Miller
   time.

   While we may deplore such practices, or smirk at them, the dangerous reality is that a new
   class of information consumer has arisen ... The inforamus is someone doing bad searches
   with an inadequate search engine in a morass of disorganized, incomplete, and sometimes
   inaccurate information, and who is perfectly happy with the results. If, as the library
   literature suggests, trained reference librarians answer questions correctly only half the
   time, how do you think the inforamus is doing?


            -- David Majka, American Libraries, June/July 2001

Found via Wood_s_lot pointer to David Bratman's site.