Notes for Sherry Turkle The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit
Key concepts: body syntonic relationship, depaysement, evocative object.
Related theorists: Hofstadter, Papert.
The Evocative Object
(24) The computer stands betwixt and between. In some ways one the edge of mind, it raises questions about mind itself.
GROWING UP WITH COMPUTERS: THE ANIMATION OF THE MACHINE
Child Philosophers: Are Smart Machines Alive?
Why the Computer Disturbs
A New Disorder: “Are Smart Machines Alive?”
The Construction of the Psychological
“Where Do Little Computers Come From?”
Computers in the Culture of Living Things
The Psychological Machine
Video Games and Computer Holding Power
(65) Protest against video games carries a message about how people feel about computers in general.
Heart of computer culture is rule-governed world: here is Turkle the psychologist stumbling upon what others state explicitly; see Negroponte in NMR.
(66) Video games are a window onto a new kind of intimacy with machines that is characteristic of the nascent computer culture. . . . At the heart of the computer culture is the idea of constructed, “rule-governed” worlds. I use the video game to begin a discussion of the computer culture as a culture of rules and simulation.
The Myth of “Mindless”
(67) There is nothing mindless about mastering a video game. The games demand skills that are complex and differentiated.
Redeeming pinball rejected outright for their mechanical limitations and putative lack of computational specificity via platform studies, for example Bally, Williams, Gottleib, and long tail.
(68) Working out your game strategy involves a process of deciphering the logic of the game, of understanding the intent of the game's designer. . . . This “computational specificity” becomes clear when you contrast the games with the “grandparent,” pinball.
(69) Pinball games were constrained by mechanical limitations, ultimately by the physical laws that govern the motion of a small metal ball. The video world knows no such bounds. Objects fly, spin, accelerate, change shape and color, disappear and reappear.
Diverge from Turkle with a modern interpretation of the different between video games and pinball, for now the great challenge is computing embodiment: loop back through pinball machines with my project encapsulating multiple philosophical discussions about computing.
(69) The physical pinball machine – the legs it stands on as well as its posts and flippers – are part of the game. The video game is different: here all of the action is in a programmed world, an abstract space.
Jarish and the Computer within the Game
I reject Turkle's analysis because of her attitude about pinball (grin).
To Joust and
(75) The entertainment industry has long believed that the highest payoffs would come from offering the public media that combine action and imaginative identificaiton.
Another approach returns to the experience of computer programmers decades after using the same machines Turkle describes.
(75) The polarization between action and imaginative identification breaks down in the presence of the computer: with the computer behind them the video games provide imaginative worlds into which people enter as participants. Other kinds of microworlds – television, sports, Disney rides, pinball – might offer the holding power of action, of imaginative identification, of losing oneself in a world outside of the habitual. . . . But the computer can bring it together, and video games were the first place where the culture as a whole, rather than just the culture of competent computer programmers, got to experience how powerful this is.
This vision of goals for computer games does not appear to explicitly question answered with embodiment, unraveling Clarks problem of representationally heavy explanations of how embodied organisms navigate their worlds.
(77) Technological advances have enabled designers to create games that provide visually appealing situations and demand a diverse and challenging set of skills. But the ambition is to have the appeal of Disneyland, pinball, and a Tolkien novel all at once. Games like Joust do not offer the imaginative identification with a character and a situation that literature does.
Gnomes, and Computer Culture
(79) Video games offer a chance to live in simulated, rule-governed worlds. They bring this kind of experience into the child's culture and serve as a bridge to the larger computer culture beyond.
(81) You can postulate anything, but once the rules of the system have been defined they must be adhered to scrupulously. Such are the rules for creating “rule-governed worlds.” . . . The aesthetic of rule-governed worlds is passed on through Dungeons and Dragons and science fiction before most children ever meet a computer.
Oneself in a Simulated World
(82) Like Narcissus and his reflection, people who work with computers can easily fall in love with the worlds they have constructed or with their performances in the worlds created for them by others. Involvement with simulated worlds affects relationships with the real one.
(83) In all of this, something is missing, something that is abundantly present in the open-ended role playing that children offer each other when one says “You be the Mommy and I'll be the Daddy.” . . . In this kind of play children have to learn to put themselves in the place of another person, to imagine what is going on inside someone else's head. There are no rules, there is empathy. There are no dice to roll, there is understanding, recognition, negotiation, and confrontation with others.
Her argument to MMORPGs through psychology is convincing: do we talk about current generation or those who grew up with using early personal computers prior to their obsolescence, as she hints about what these folks may be doing in the future by what their adult counterparts were doing in addition to not learning programming.
(83) Doing some things precludes others. And, even more important, an individual develops a style. In this case, there is good reason to think that a generation develops a style.
(84) Executives, accountants, and surgeons stand behind the junior-high-schoolers in games arcades. For people under pressure total concentration is a form of relaxation.
(85) The games combine a feeling of omnipotence and possession – they are a place for manipulation and surrender.
Video games hold out promises of touching infinity in a game that never stops, and perfection of computer presence within them.
(87) As a computational object, the video game holds out two
promises. The first is a touch of infinity – the promise of a game
that never stops.
(88) The games hold out a related promise, also tied to the computer's presence within them. This is the promise of perfection.
The psychologist interpreting a symptom that Norman related to taught helplessness.
(90) People who try out video games and say they hate them, or who actively dislike their first experience with computer programming, are often responding to this same promise. Not everyone wants to be around the perfect mirror. Some people dislike what they experience as the precision, the unforgivingness of mathematics. . . . It was felt as a pressure, as a taunt, as a put-down.
(92) Young people are building their generation's culture now; video games and computers are among their materials. Growing up with a technology is a special kind of experience. Although mastering new things is important throughout life, there is a time in growing up when identity becomes almost synonymous with it.
This second self of the introvert is the quintessential prototype of the artist lost in creation that is not the immediate performance of embodied, collective reality but a future state when the artwork is consumed.
(92) When children begin to do their own programming, they are not deciphering somebody else's mystery. They become players in their own game, makers of their own mysteries, and enter into a new relationship with the computer, one in which they being to experience it as a kind of second self.
Child Programmers: The First Generation
(93) Consider Robin, a four-year old with blond hair and a pinafore, standing in front of a computer console, typing at its keyboard. . . . She is playing a game that allows her to build stick figures by commanding the computer to make components appear and move into a desired position. The machine responds to Robin's commands and tells her when it does not understand an instruction. Many people find this scene disturbing. . . . And the degree and intensity of her involvement suggests that (like the children at the video games) it is the medium itself and not the content of a particular program that produces the more powerful effect.
Because it is easier to press keys than control a pencil computers introduce very young children to writing; at the same time a threat is felt concerning our notion of childhood.
Computers bring writing within the scope of what very
young children can do. It
is far easier to press keys on a keyboard than to control a pencil. .
. . The computer is a forgiving writing instrument, much easier to
use than even an electric typewriter.
(94) We find it easy to accept, indeed we are proud, when children develop physical skills or the ability to manipulate concrete materials earlier than we expect. But a basic change in the child's manipulation of symbolic materials threatens something deep. Central to our notion of childhood is the idea that children of Robin's age and younger speak but do not write.
(94) Opening the question of children and writing provokes a reaction whose force recalls that evoked by Freud's challenge to the sexual innocence of the child.
The questions she raises about whether childrens minds are opened or their thinking narrowed into more linear and less intuitive is answered by studying what different kinds of children make of the computer rather than seeking a universal, isolable effect; her subsequent work testifies to her commitment to pursuing this approach.
Her studies clearly shift from emphasis on programming to application use, the triumph of the surface over deep structure; see her Wired magazine article accompanying the publication of Life on the Screen (quoted next).
Programming was a technical skill that could be done a right way or a wrong way. The right way was dictated by the computer's calculator essence. The right way was linear and logical. This linear, logical [model] guided thinking not only about technology and programming, but about economics, psychology, and social life. Computational ideas were one of the great modern metanarratives, stories of how the world worked that provided unifying pictures and analyzed complicated things by breaking them down into simpler parts. Programming is no longer cut and dried. Are you programming when you customize your word-processing software? . . . Fifteen years ago, most computer users were limited to typing commands. Today they use off-the-shelf products to manipulate simulated desktops, draw with simulated paints and brushes, and fly in simulated airplane cockpits.
(95) The computer has become the new cultural symbol of the things that Rousseau feared from the pen: loss of direct contact with other people, the construction of a private world, a flight from real things to their representations. . . . If our ideas about childhood are called into question by child writers, what of child programmers? If childhood innocence is eroded by writing, how much more so by programming?
Heim and Feenberg write of the gains and losses inherent in technological change (rather than assuming the progress always involves more gains); what gaps can I investigate, what has become of that first generation of child programmers, how do people use programming in everyday life now, how are children being taught or learning programming on their own today: to pursue these ideas, trace the history of scholarly research on children learning to program (see Note 4 on 339 for the early literature that influenced Turkle) in addition to mapping the trajectory of Turkles work, also keeping the texts and technology emphasis in mind.
(95) Do computers change the way children think? Do they open children's minds or do they dangerously narrow their experience, making their thinking more linear and less intuitive? There is a temptation to look or a universal, isolable effect, the sort that still eludes experts on the effects of television.
Turkle expands range of what is considered programming today, for it does include configuration via surface level manipulators that do not alter source code so that the changes affect the underlying structure of the program: note that if focus is on behavior of the program without diving deep into structure, an epistemological shroud descends.
(96) In a sense, I turn the usual question around: instead of asking what the computer does to children I ask what children, and more important, what different kinds of children make of the computer.
A Setting for Diversity
Programming languages used by children she studied included BASIC, PILOT, and Logo.
(96) The children I observed programmed in a number of languages, including BASIC, PILOT, and Logo.
A Children's Computer Culture
Graphics a favorite area of children learning to program.
(98) When children learn to program, one of their favorite areas of work is computer graphics – programming the machine to place displays on the screen.
Benefit of sharing programs over book reports.
(100) Children can't do much with each other's book reports, but they can do a great deal with each other's programs. Another child's program can be changed, new features can be added, it can be personalized.
Jeff and Kevin
(101) Jeff is the author of one of the first space-shuttle programs. He does it, as he does most other things, by making a plan. There will be a rocket, boosters, a trip through the stars, a landing. He conceives the program globally; then he breaks it up into manageable pieces. . . . Computer scientists will recognize this global “top-down,” “divide-and-conquer” strategy as “good programming style.”
(102) Jeff doesn't care too much about the detail of the form of his rocket ship: what is important is getting a complex system to work together as a whole. But Kevin cares more about the aesthetics of the graphics. . . . He works without plan, experimenting, throwing different shapes onto the screen.
(103) Kevin knows how to write programs, but his programs emerge – he is not concerned with imposing his will on the machine. . . . Since he lets his plans change as new ideas turn up, his work has not been systematic.
Styles of Mastery
Cultural extremes represented by programming styles regarding comfortable manipulation of formal objects versus impressionistic development of ideas relying on language and visual images.
(104) Jeff and Kevin represent cultural extremes. Some children are at home with the manipulation of formal objects, while others develop their ideas more impressionistically, with language or visual images, with attention to such hard-to-formalize aspects of the world as feeling, color, sound, and personal rapport. Scientific and technical fields are usually seen as the natural home for people like Jeff; the arts and humantities seem to belong to the Kevins.
Hard mastery implements plans to impose will over machine; soft mastery the artist/bricoleur emergent, iterative interaction with media.
Hard mastery is the
engineer/scientist imposition of will over the machine through the
implementation of a plan.
(104-105) Hard mastery is the mastery of the planner, the engineer, soft mastery is the mastery of the artist: try this, what for a response, try something else, let the overall shape emerge from an interaction with the medium.
(105) Hard and soft mastery recalls anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss' discussion of the scientist and the bricoleur. . . . While the hard master thinks in terms of global abstractions, the soft master works on a problem by arranging and rearranging these elements, working through new combinations.
Mastery and Personality
Programming style as expression of personality, not just reflection of computer architecture imposed on programmer.
(105) Computer programming is usually thought of as an activity that imposes its style on the programmer. . . . [however] looking for closely at Jeff and Kevin makes it apparent that a style of dealing with the computer is of a piece with other things about the person – his or her way of facing the world, of coping with problems, of defending against what is felt as dangerous*. Programming style is an expression of personality style.
This quick, footnote dismissal of the specificity of different platforms and languages is a niche for my work to operate.
(105) (footnote *) Not all computer systems, not all computer languages offer a material that is flexible enough for differences in style to be expressed. A language such as BASIC does not make it easy to achieve successful results through a variety of programming styles.
Does Turkle use a standard instrument for assessing hard versus soft masters: I will need a means to determine programming style from my interview; perhaps Shapiro has a test based on his neurotic styles.
For example, the hard masters tend to see the world as something to
be brought under control. . . . From the earliest ages most of these
children have preferred to operate on the manipulable – on blocks,
on Tinkertoys, on mechanisms. . . . It is not surprising that hard
masters take avidly to the computer. It is also not surprising that
their style of working with the computer emphasizes the imposition of
(106) The soft masters are more likely to see the world as something they need to accommodate to, something beyond their direct control. In general, these children have played not with model trains and Erector sets but with toy soldiers or with dolls.
(107) Psychologist David Shapiro has used the idea of “neurotic styles” to capture what each of us intuitively knows about him- or herself: we are the same person whether we are solving an intellectual problem or sorting out a personal difficulty.
(107) Shapiro describes an obsessive-compulsive style in terms that recall the relationship of the hard masters with their machines.
(107) On the other hand, Shapiro describes a hysterical style in terms that recall the soft master.
Computer allows bricoleur to operate in formal domain, although later Turkle argues that the surface reigns as technology evolves.
(108) In all of this, the computer acts as a Rorschach, allowing the expression of what is already there. But it does more than allow the expression of personality. It is a constructive as well as a projective medium. For example, it allows “softs” such as Kevin to operate in a domain of machines and formal systems that has been thought to be the exclusive cultural preserve of the “hards.”
Master and Gender
Cultural division by gender between hard mastery for boys, soft mastery for girls.
(109) In our culture girls are taught the characteristics of soft mastery – negotiation, compromise, give-and-take – as psychological virtues, while models of male behavior stress decisiveness and the imposition of will. Boys and girls are encouraged to adopt these stances in the world of people. It is not surprising that they show up when children deal with the world of things.
Anne and Mary
(112) For a hard programmer like Jeff, the bugs are there to ferret out. Anne, on the other and, makes no demand that her programs be perfect. . . . Anne allows a certain amount of negotiation with the computer about just what should be an acceptable program. For her, the machine is enough alive to deserve a compromise.
(114) Anne is programming a computer, but she is thinking like a painter. She is not thinking about sprites and variables. She is thinking about birds and screens.
Gender and Science
(116) In Anne's classroom, nine- and ten-year-old girls are just beginning to program. The fact that they relate to computational objects differently from boys raises the question of whether with growing expertise they will maintain their style or whether we are simply seeing them at an early stage before they become “recuperated” into a more objective computational culture.
(116) Lorraine is the only woman on a large team working on the design of a new programming language. She expresses her sense of difference with some embarrassment.
(117) These words [Lorraine's “the rest of me is imagining what the components feel like”] are reminiscent of women in other scientific disciplines. Barbara McClintock, an eminent biologist, describes her work as an ongoing “conversation” with her materials, and she speaks of frustration with the way science is usually done.
(118) Children working with computers are a microcosm for the larger world of relations between gender and science.
(118) The computer sits on many borders; it is a formal system that can be taken up in a way that is not separate from the experience of the self. As such, it may evoke unconscious memories of objects that like for the child in the uncertain zone between self and not-self.
(119) The idea of “formality” in scientific thought implies a separateness from the fuzzy, imprecise flow of the rest of reality. But using a formal system creatively, and still more, inventing it, requires it to be interwoven with the scientist's most intuitive metaphorical thinking. In other words, it has to be mastered in a soft form.
Consider new relation configuration with FOSS explores other relations beyond gender and science.
(119) So, in addition to suggesting a source of the computer's holding power, women's relationships with computational objects and the idea of the transitional object may illuminate the holding power of formal systems for people who are in the closet contact with them. Even for the hard masters, the “feminine” may be the glue that bonds.
Mathematics for “Softs”
Example of how programming enhances other means of learning.
(122) The conventional route to mathematics learning closes doors to may children whose chief way of relating to the world is through movement, intuition, visual impression, the power of words, or of a “beat.” In some small way that may prove important to our culture as a whole, computers can open some of these doors.
Tanya and a World of Words
(124) What was cause and what effect? Did the power of Tanya's relationship with the computer come from her repressed desire to write or did the intensity and the pace of her learning to write come from the special emotional force of a relationship with a computer? In either case the computer mediated a transformation of Tanya's relationship with writing.
Computers and Cultural Divides
(127) Jeff doesn't draw, or paint, or play an instrument. For him, the computer experience may spark an appreciation of other ways of knowing the world, because for the first time he can feel himself a participant in them. Programming, in this case hard programming, can bring him closer to “softer” pursuits in the arts.
(132) Henry wants his programs to be impressive but mysterious. The goal is the creation of a private world. He expresses this clearly in his labyrinthine code.
Adolescence and Identity: Finding Yourself in the Machine
(137) Putting very young children together with computers encourages a rich and continual philosophizing.
(137) At eight, nine, and ten years old, children are preoccupied not by metaphysics but the need to master.
(138) Adolescents use many different kinds of materials to construct their sense of identity. They use their relationships with clothing, with records, with causes. There is an obvious way in which computers can become part of this process: they can become a way of life.
Does not dive into question of how the machines affect development of style of working with the machines, how our writing machines change us, so important to Kittler and noticed by Nietzsche.
Their style of working with the machine expresses something of who
they are, giving them a chance to see themselves in the mirror of the
(139) Children in the sixth grade of a school I shall call the Jefferson Middle School were given opportunities to program in Logo. The program was a government-funded collaborative project carried out by a local school committee and researchers from MIT.
(140) Where the primary computational objects at Austen were the sprites, here children gave commands to a “turtle.” . . . Thus the turtle becomes the instrument for a kind of TV screen doodling. (A precomputer generation will remember the feeling of making line drawings with Etch-A-Sketch.)
(140) Programming begins when sequences of commands to the turtle are defined, named, and stored away in the computer's memory.
Deborah and the Machine as
(143) Suddenly she found herself, perhaps for the first time, in a situation simple enough for her to feel in control, yet varied enough to allow for creative exploration.
(146) The computer offers a unique mixture of being alone and yet not feeling alone.
(147) The way Deborah used her experience of the machine as an “experience-to-think-with” was unique to her. But using the machine for world-building was something I discovered again and again among children her age.
Bruce and the Mirror in the
(150) Deborah uses the computer as an emotion medium to “play with the other side,” to play with a small world of control and constraint.
(150) Bruce took the same computer and used it, not to “play with what he wasn't,” but to externalize what he felt himself to be, a chaotic person.
Computer use projects internal experience, symptom; also become basis of belief formation about people.
(151) in each case there is projection that reveals something about how the child is thinking, feeling, and organizing experience.
Programming as walking on threshold of machine mysteries, responding to threat of automaticity by power of programming.
(152) For them,
programming is a way of walking on the threshold of the machine's
mysteries, pushing it to its limit as an “unpredictable
(152) His response to the threat of what we might call the computer's “automaticity” illustrates its power to reflect the programmer's personality.
(153) Bruce expresses who he is in his spontaneous behavior with the computer. He also has worked out a set of abstractly formulated beliefs about computers and people.
Computer metaphors become part of posthuman popular psychology, perhaps as psychoanalysis did into French culture.
adolescents we return to our mirrors; in programming, Deborah and
Bruce found powerful ones. Some children become far more explicit
than they about seeing the computer as a mirror of the mind. These
are children who make explicit use of computational metaphors to
think about themselves. . . . It helps us to understand how computer
metaphors can turn into a new popular psychology for the culture at
(156) It is not surprising that her encounter with the computer, with its step-wise procedures, was familiar and could be integrated into her way of talking about herself.
Most programmers do not talk to computer in machine language, though Kittler reports Turing loved low level programming; acknowledges it is a lost art that manufacturers actively suppress.
(157) But most
programmers do not communicate with the machine by “talking to it”
in its machine language, since this would be cumbersome. They
communicate with it in a “high-level language” of which Logo is
just one example (BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, PASCAL, and LISP are
(158) Dennis began to elaborate a model of himself in which he distinguished between his machine language—his “core machine”--and high-level programs written on top of it. . . . The trick was to find a way to do the reprogramming.
Crucial to continue thread of self theorizing from computing experience now that casual programming has waned in favor of interface engagement.
analogies and Dennis' theorizing are not isolated examples of what
happens when people meet up with computers. They are taking first
steps toward playing with the idea of mind as machine, personality as
(160) The program is basically sound; it simply needs to be debugged. Debugging is the search for errors that can be identified and isolated. And once isolated they can be dealt with in a “local” way.
(161) The notion that painful emotional states—depression, inability to act, anxiety—are the result of purely local bugs ignores the complex and resistant structures behind the symptom.
Not mind as program but interaction based, situated, experiential analogies made computer evocative object for children in Turkle studies, adding another layer to Hayles coevolutionary, intermediation theory of machines and minds.
(161) George, like Dennis and Carla, had stumbled on another language for self-reference, a computational language. They have not picked up their ideas through the diffusion of theories about mind as program. Their ideas have been sparked by interaction with the machine itself. The computer is enough like a mind to make analogies between the self and programs seems plausible.
THE NEW COMPUTER CULTURES: THE MECHANIZATION OF THE MIND
Personal Computers With Personal Meanings
(165) Children in a computer culture are touched by the technology in ways that set them apart from the generations that have come before.
(165) Among a wide range of adults, getting involved with computers opens up long-closed questions.
(166) A relationship with a computer can influence people's conceptions of themselves, their jobs, their relationships with other people, and with their ways of thinking about social processes. It can be the basis for new aesthetic values, new rituals, new philosophy, new cultural forms.
Transparent understanding crucial in early days, although her future work moves away from deep understanding.
(166) They shared a quality of relationship with the computer, an aesthetic of using the computer for transparent understanding. . . . this issue of transparent understanding remains an important theme for a new generation's relationship with their machines.
The Birth of a Personal Computer
(167) I spoke at length to members of that first generation of personal computer owners, the people who bought and built small computers in the late 1970s.
(167 footnote) I began my study of personal computer owners in 1978 with a questionnaire survey answered by ninety-five New England home computer owners (their names had been drawn from the roster of a home computer club and the subscription list of a personal computer magazine).
(170) The computer is Janus-like—it has two faces. Marx spoke of a distinction between tools and machines. Tools are extensions of their users; machines impose their own rhythm, their rules, on the people who work with them, to the point where it is no longer clear who or what is being used.
Golden age of craft programming at birth of microcomputers, collective mythology of the shop, revitalized when disruptive technologies recreate conditions (web, floss); alienation of factory model of professional programming.
(170) Those who are old enough remember the time when things were different as a kind of golden age, an age when a programmer was a skilled artisan who was given a problem and asked to conceive of and craft a solution. For those who are young, the memory of such times remains alive in the collective mythology of the shop. Today, programs are written on a kind of assembly line. The professional programmer works as part of a large team and is in touch with only a small part of the problem being worked on.
Personal Computers and Personal
(172) Computers, long a symbol of the power of the “big”--big corporations, big institutions, big money—began to acquire an image as instruments for decentralization, community, and personal autonomy.
(172) Personal computers have entered the American consciousness as a new variation of the Horatio Alger story—the story of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak beginning with a machine in a garage and turning it into the Apple computer corporation. But in the late 1970s another mythology was also born: build a cottage industry that will allow you to work out of your home, to have more personal autonomy, more time for family and the out-of-doors.
(172) Personal computers became symbols of hope for a new populism in which citizens would band together to run information resources and local government.
(173) People imagined a computer-rich future by generalizing from their special style of relationship with home computers, a style which, as we shall see, was characterized by transparency, simplicity, and a sense of control.
(173) The mean and women I am writing about here also used the computer as an “object-to-think-with.” But here the computer experience was used to think about more than oneself. It was used to think about society, politics, and education.
(175) People will not change unresponsive government or intellectually deadening work through an involvement, however satisfying, with a computer in the den. They will not change the world of human relations by retreating into the world of things.
Cites studies of adult programmers for styles related to risk versus reassurance.
(175) Intellectual fragmentation at work and the complexity and smokescreens of political life create new pressures, and with them a desire to find transparent understanding somewhere. In contrasting hard and soft mastery, the issue was planning versus the pleasures of negotiation. Here another contrast is needed: risk versus reassurance.
(176) Risk and reassurance can be played out in programming because the computer presents two possibilities to the programmer: there is the “local simplicity” of the line-by-line program and there is the global complexity of the dynamic processes that can emerge when the program is run.
(177) Howard works on large, “almost out-of-control” programs; Carl chooses well-defined, delimited ones.
(177) This is illustrated by the computer language each prefers, the mode each uses to communicate his ideas and intentions to the machine.
(178) Howard will program only in high-level languages. They let him play with the computer without having to worry about the details of the hardware.
(179) His [Carl's] reasons are subjective: working in assembly language gives him the feeling of having direct contact with what is “really going on” in his computer.
Footnote acknowledges appropriateness of various languages for various tasks; still does not reflect the other way, how using languages affects preference formation of users, though notes overdetermination by other general forces.
(179) Preferences in programming language and programming style are building blocks in the construction of computer cultures, in this case the culture of the first-generation hobbyist and hacker.
A brief take on machine embodiment, picked up with Papert body syntonic relationship.
Joe, like Carl, is looking for a direct relationship with the CPU,
the “body” of the machine. If the “mind” of the computer is
that part of computation which involves thinking in terms of
high-level programs, then relating to the body of the computer means
not only working on hardware, but also working with programs in a way
that is as close as possible to the machine code, the language the
(181) For many pioneers of the personal computer culture, this style of relating to the computer was “overdetermined” in the sense that a host of other, more general forces also came together and were expressed through it.
(182-183) The turtle has holding power because there is what Seymour Papert has called a “body syntonic” relationship between it and the programmer. . . . People are able to identify physically with what is happening inside the machine.
Likewise my own desire to run Unix at home was motivated by frustration with bureaucracy preventing direct experimentation with the operating system.
(183) Third, this relationship with the CPU as extension of self is all the more powerful because it is in contrast with the “other computer” that people know at work. . . . A bureaucracy stands between them and the computer. . . . At home, what is savored is the opportunity to work directly with the CPU.
(192) Doris is beginning to get the idea that although she and the wizard use the same computer, she belongs to one culture and he to another.
Computation and Personal Philosophy
(192) In this chapter I have “tagged” two different styles of relating to the computer—one that focuses on magic, the other on transparency—by associating them with the culture of computer hackers and first-generation computer hobbyists. But these relational styles have a life of their own. They exist outside of these cultures.
(194) But as personal computers enter the lives of wider groups of people, this culture has been overwhelmed by centrifugal forces: an increasing diversity in who participates and why—and “participation” can come to mean no more collective activity than attendance at an occasional meeting.
Hackers: Loving the Machine for Itself
I am continuing the hacker discourse on the philosophy of computing via revisions of this texts and technology dissertation work.
The Social Construction of the Engineer
The Image of the Hacker
Hacker study relates using preInternet nationwide computer net to solicit responses via email and instant messages.
(200) (footnote) The hacker study also used a data-collection strategy made possible by the computer itself.
Engineering students valuation of books, movies, ideas seen in connections to Pirsig and Florman.
(201) Engineering students place great value on those things—books, movies, ideas—that connect their concerns with something larger. Star Wars was loved for the way it offered a bridge, even if superficial, between high technology and a romantic humanism. Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Robert Florman's The Existential Pleasures of Engineering are held in great regard. These works achieved cult status because they describe how intense relationships with technical objects can lead to reflections on the philosophical concerns of the larger culture.
(202) With the computer young people can find channels to a certain kind of virtuosity without passing through the filter of formal education.
(203) To repeat the work and construct an operating system “to one's taste” is unthinkable.
Account of ITS and Data General as passion in virtuosity; if more recent, GNU and Torvalds Linux kernel.
(203) When the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT obtained its
first large computer it did the unthinkable almost without thinking.
. . . ITS was written by people who loved the
(204) In short, hackers play a significant though controversial role in the history of computation. What sets them apart is that they work for the joy of the process, not for the product.
The Hacker Controversies
No doubt Weizenbaum critique also of readers in general, going back to Plato Phaedrus.
(205) The book's [Weizenbaum Computer Power and Human Reason] description of hollow-eyed young men glued to computer terminals is reminiscent of descriptions of opium addicts and compulsive gamblers.
(210) People are not “addicted” to test piloting or race-car driving or computer programming. They are addicted to playing with the issue of control.
Transitional objects, things with the power of drugs maintaining their information content, not irreversibly transduced like Kittler points out of photographic emulsion to light.
can be a Zen-like experience. We have seen this quality as the power
of the transitional object – the object that is felt as belonging
simultaneously to the self and to the outside world. . . . And for
Alex, the computer is this kind of object.
(212) [Alex said or wrote] I think and type ideas in LISP.
Loneliness and Safety
Sex and Romance: Getting Burned
The Game of Adventure
(225) Cultures take their central experiences and play with them through fantasy, ritual, and art. When “winning” is at the center of cultural life, a game takes on this role. For the hacker, where what is most central is mastery over complexity, the game takes the form of a labyrinth.
Crispin Software Wars as a philosophical hack: what does it mean to think about good and evil in terms of societies of running programs in worldwide Internet operating systems, what about the epistemological transparency of running programs; the affordances of copyleft include epistemological transparency, analyzing gray and black boxes within white boxes.
(227) “Software Wars,” by Stanford hacker Mark Crispin, was “published” on the science-fiction mailing list. Crispin takes the Star Wars plot, a battle between good and evil, and transforms it into a battle between good and evil computer cultures.
Rites of Passage
Building Straight from Your Mind
Important point somewhere that some styles of programming work directly from imagination to typing code (fostering the interpreted), and others through many stages of formalization (fostering the compiled): notice that interpreted versus compiled may not reflect a deep underlying preference for bricolage versus hard mastery in the primary styles Turkle identifies but rather consequence (overdetermination) of default philosophies of computing inherent in the affordances of the built environment.
Anxiety and ignorance produce vicious cycles of learned helplessness and even rational avoidance of studying computer code; this is the position Kittler assumes, unfortunately backing up a pessimism with putatively wise statements about the futility of sensibly speaking to anyone, even oneself, about programming, about the art of working code, and that humans no longer know what the computers are doing, or in control of them, further provoking anxieties.
(238) Intimate involvements and identification with machines pose what Bettelheim calls “the unspoken anxiety of our age”: “Do machines still serve our human purpose or are they cranking away by now without purpose? Even more unnerving: are they working away from their own ends which we no longer know or control?”
The New Philosophers of Artificial Intelligence: A Culture with Global Aspirations
If only I had found Turkle sooner.
Chess the early AI prize; now she will continue it is to have the common sense of a two year old human.
(240) For a long time chess was prized by AI scientists as a test bed for ideas about creating intelligence.
Kittler and Manovich already assume software has taken command is off doing its own things.
(242) Indeed, some AI researchers go so far as to say that the industrialist of the future might “itself” be a computer, or, as Edward Fredkin of MIT puts it, “Artificial intelligence is the next step in evolution.”
Programming as a Prism
Simon prediction of program model for psychological theory (Hayles, Edwards, Golumbia).
In 1957 Herbert Simon made
three other predictions. The second and third, somewhat more
extravagant than computer as chess champion, were that within the
same span of ten years a program would compose music of serious
aesthetic value and would discover and prove an important
mathematical theorem. The fourth prediction attracted little public
attention: that within ten years programs would be the
standard form for psychological theory.
(246) The new way of knowing asks that you think about everything, especially all aspects of the mind, in computational terms, in terms of programs and information processing.
AI the new of understanding almost everything, far beyond Socrates and all book writers rules to understand everything (see Phaedrus citation used in masters thesis but note this analysis focuses on Symposium).
(246) In asserting the primacy of program, artificial intelligence is making a big claim, announcing itself, as psychoanalysis and Marxism had done, as a new way of understanding almost everything.
Using Programs to Think About Freud
Example of Norman taking new look at Freudian slips.
Donald Norman, a
psychologist who works within the AI tradition, has taken a new look
at Freudian slips.
(248) Norman believes that since the representations of knowledge developed for computers are efficient and rational, the evolution of human mental mechanisms is likely to have converged along similar lines.
(249) A computational perspective suggests that when we understand the mechanisms of information storage and the programs that control our actions, we will come to see certain slips as likely, so likely that a Freudian search for meaning will be unnecessary and misguided.
(249-250) Marvin Minsky also sees Freudian slips through the prism of programs, and, like Norman, he believes that by reinterpreting them in this way he is coming to Freud's aid: Freud was a good observer, but he simply did not have the appropriate set of concepts with which to think through his theory.
There are too many likely stories for every lisp [slip in typing] vacating Freudian analysis and unfortunately a lot of enjoyable literature including a number of philosophy texts, reading Norman instead; nonetheless these indicators can be collected and use to represent memories in virtual realities including typical visual and now multichannel/multiposition audio media (technologies): this is an example of the philosophy of computing reterritorializing areas developed to analysis of human directed rhetorical texts to programming source code and active shell commands powering instead of constituting or being for human philosophical contemplation, that is, that ephemeral metaphysics that are deduced from the constitution of mid range ordinary Internet usage are not worth studying in detail; one or two examples from the literature by Turkle, Manovitch and Hayles will suffice, then bring in Kittler some more.
(251) Freud's meaning is changed. Self-destructiveness becomes split from passion; its presence is only a commentary on how well an intelligence is working.
Interdisciplinary borrowing necessary for AI to ground itself, but soon viewed as colonization: fits well with Hayles studies, also fitting that Floridi devotes such a large part of Philosophy of Information to AI.
(251) The first justification for AI's invasions and colonization of
other disciplines' intellectual turf was a logic of necessity. The
excursions into psychology and linguistics began as raids to acquire
ideas that might be useful for building thinking machines. But the
politics of “colonization” soon takes a life of its own. The
invaders come not only to carry off natural resources but to replace
native “superstitions” with their “superior” world
(253) Artificial intelligence takes the hacker's aesthetic of free construction and turns it into a theory of the mind.
(254) Another kind of “building” experience involved understanding an existing structure rather than making a new one.
(255-256) A teacher can stand at a lectern and point out how the liver is related to the stomach, but what children see in the viscera of the frog does not suggest system. On the other hand, the structured anatomy of the radio gave Sussman a model that allowed him to see structure everywhere.
Science of Self-Reflection
(256) Minsky has made it clear that as far as he is concerned you can make a machine do only what you yourself know how to do. His method for building programs: engage in self-analytic activity.
Philosophy in Yet Another New Key
Call for logic that assumes and transcends inconsistency, invoking Hofstadter we are the new philosophers: examine solutions built into hardware, programming languages, protocol and database systems as part of critical programming studies.
(259) Thus, AI makes a demand on the philosophy of mind. Traditional logic will not suffice. It needs to be replaced by a logic that assumes inconsistency and then knows how to transcend it.
Science and Myth
(262) Politics, world famine, fending off the possibility of war—these call for the global thinking we are worst at. But we are in the process of creating entities that will do it far better than we.
vs. Decentralized Minds
(267) When Searle looks for “thinking” he begins with a search for the “I.”
(267) The AI scientist belongs to a culture deeply committed to a view that thought does not need a unitary agent who thinks.
(267) The AI culture accepts the criterion of the Turing test: a perfect simulation of intelligence is intelligence. People who accept Searle's argument are asserting that from them there is an unbridgeable gulf between the simulated and the real.
INTO A NEW AGE
Thinking of Yourself as a Machine
Anthropomorphization and Irreducibility
Go beyond Lacanian use of Poe to this curious argument why he did not believe it was an automaton because it made mistakes.
(273) In the early nineteenth century, the exhibition of what was
claimed to be a chess-playing automaton created a sensation.
(274) But AI ideas are moving out and capturing the popular imagination because the AI community has generated a set of ideas that undermine the Lovelace model of what it means to be programmed.
Tron and a Society of Mind
Now we have been with massively multiple online process systems that are galaxies of meaning in each operating system among themselves communicating in both human and mostly machine channels for which Shannon generalizations apply.
(276-277) When Minsky talks about “outlawing the whole idea of bits” [after seeing Tron] he means changing the first image most people get of computers. . . . I ask Minsky what he wants to put in place of the bits. He answers . . . “A society, of course, just like in Tron.” “Society” is his mnemonic for multiple, simultaneously interacting programs within a complex computer system.
Idea of Emergence
(281) But what remained a strong metaphor within the AI world was the idea of a society of limited agents whose intelligence is emergent from their interaction, the idea that a computer system as a whole will be significantly, qualitatively different than the sum of its parts.
(284) This kind of theory offers a bridge between the way people think about themselves and a way of thinking about machines. The “emergent-intelligence” idea feels psychologically plausible, and the theory's reliance on self-reference gives it an appealing intellectual tenor. Beyond this, the idea that people as well as programs have many agents within them can be related to our experience of inner conflict—the feeling of being two, three, many minds.
Curious statement about dream of multiprocessing in single processor, prenetworked age, and what theories of mind may be contemplated for the future.
(285) Today, parallel-processing computers with enough capacity are only a dream. Many people speak of the day when there will be “real mulitprocessor computers” in a way reminiscent of how others speak of “when the revolution comes” or “after the millennium.” People who imagine a multiprocessing computer feel free to develop their own “society theories” and feel freer to describe its mind in terms of how they see their own.
Thinking of Yourself as a Machine
(286) We see in Mark [a junior computer science student] how these ideas are appropriated by someone who is not part of the AI world, but who is close enough to be a first link on the chain of these ideas moving out.
(286) Mark begins with the idea that the brain is a computer.
(286) In Mark's model, all of the processors have the same status: they are “observers” at a long trough.
(287) There is no free will in Mark's system.
(289) Mark's way of talking is exceptional only because his ideas are elaborated and he has such utter confidence in them. But the idea of thinking of the self as a set of computer programs is widespread among students I interviewed at Harvard and MIT who were familiar with large computer systems. Like Mark, they find that the complexity of these systems offers a way to think about their minds.
(290) A model of mind as multiprocessor leaves you with a “decentralized” self: there is no “me,” no “I,” no unitary actor.
The Reconstituted Center
Models of Mind
(298) This culture spreads through the diffusion of computational ideas much as the psychoanalytic culture spread through the diffusion of Freudian ideas.
How are computational ideas infused into overall culture, into popular digital culture, does learning electronic technology via FLOSS matter, how does the capture of compelling theories work?
(298) What kind of processes make theories of mind capable of “moving
out” from the scientific and academic environments in which they
are born to a larger culture? What makes a science of mind
(299) Computer models are seductive because they too put is in contact with issues that are both threatening and fascinating. The question here is no which theory, the psychoanalytic or the computational, is true, but rather how these very different ways of thinking about ourselves capture our imagination.
(299) Thinking about the self as a machine includes the feeling of being “run” from the outside, out of control because in the control of something beyond the self. Exploring the parts of ourselves that we do not feel in control of is a way to begin to own them, a way to feel more whole.
(300) “Appropriable” theories of mind, ideas that move out into the culture at large, tend to be those in which we can become “actively” involved. They tend to be theories that we can “play with.”
Carrier objects go beyond evocative objects, and easily pass into general culture, for example Normans computational model of slips.
Carrier fetish objects are great amusement for network and localhost embodied in the flesh and discrete machine dividuals, thus this blindness of floss to purposes for which software designed and put to use of engendering initial metastasis energy level plateau preponderance of what Lanier calls siren servers and I point out as evidence we are getting dumber in our use of machines; that is, the cleverness of our programming diminishes from height reached decades earlier for reasons of having a need to program now done for pay. By logic Lanier asserts our floss work rewards us and provides lifetime steady stream of usage for exactly as long as it is used by anyone or any virtual world PHI over ten thousand year period reconnecting us to thoughts of the ancients who wrote when humans first began to write en mass producing and depending on surrounding spoken written sonic realm is what ancient Greece may have sounded like via real virtuality ensoniment PHI.
In the case of computational models of mind, there are what I call
encompass both the physical computer and ideas that grow out of
(300) We are able to identify with the programs and so become sympathetic to their confusion.
(301) The computational theory of slips is the kind of theory that passes easily into the general culture.
Literature embodying computer culture explicitly or implicitly, as Kittler demonstrates for GFT; example here is Hofstadter Music to Break Phonographs By.
(301) One sure sign of the movement of the computer culture into the
larger world is the appearance of a literature that carries these out
to a larger public.
(302) Godel's thoroughly mathematical proof that a formal system (this could be a machine) is vulnerable because strong had been accessible only to a mathematical elite. Hofstadter brings it to a larger circle.
(303) “Music to Break Phonographs By,” like the proof of Godel's theorem, plays on the idea of self-reference.
(304) The computer presence enlarged the breach because, in programming, self-reference is an everyday matter of the greatest practical use. . . . Hofstadter dramatized the struggle and put his readers in a position to feel participant in the triumph of a new intellectual aesthetic. The mighty had fallen. Russell and Whitehead had been sacrificed on the altar of computational logic.
(304) Hofstadter succeeds in getting his readers to sense themselves as part of a new culture, a computer culture, strong enough to shrug off the culture of Russell, Whitehead, and traditional philosophy and logic.
(305) [quoting Frank] “You see, Professor Turkle, what Achilles and the Tortoise and the Crab are saying is that if we are machine, we are human.”
The Human Spirit in a Computer Culture
(306) For what is new in the 1980s is that intense involvement with computers, largely confined to computer subcultures when I began my study in 1976, has become a popular phenomenon.
Seeds of most of her later work on the hysteria of our time, being alone; computer as a second self.
(307) Hysteria, its roots in sexual repression, was the neurosis of
Freud's time. Today we suffer not less but differently. Terrified of
being alone, yet afraid of intimacy, we experience widespread
feelings of emptiness, of disconnection, of the unreality of self. A
here the computer, a companion without emotional demands, offers a
(307) Instead of a quest for an idealized person, now there is the computer as a second self.
(309) Now the computer culture, like the psychoanalytic culture before it, threatens the very idea of “self.”
Multiprocessing machine model of mind makes decentered self concrete; rational animal becomes emotional machine.
(309) It takes the idea of a decentered self and makes it more
concrete by modeling mind as a multiprocessing machine.
(312) The new romantic reaction is not made by people who reject the computer in the way that the nineteenth-century Romantics rejected science. The reassertions of feeling and of the “ineffable” that I speak of here come from people who have and accept the technology, not by those who are fleeing from it.
(313) Where we once were rational animals, now we are feeling computers, emotional machines.
Central cultural preoccupation as sex was for the Victorians.
(313) Under pressure from the computer, the question of mind in relation to machine is becoming a central cultural preoccupation. It is becoming for us what sex was to the Victorians—thread and obsession, taboo and fascination.
Method: A Sociology of Sciences of Mind
(315) The style of inquiry of this work is ethnographic. . . . I lived within worlds new to me, tried to understand what they are about, and tried to write about my understandings so that the worlds I studied could come alive for others.
Ethnographic method, depaysement dislocation and change of perspective experienced by stranger in foreign place.
(315) Thus, this book is a product of something that anthropologists call depaysement, which refers to the dislocation and change of perspective that makes being a stranger in a foreign place both difficult and exciting.
Central place of Godel, Escher, Bach for study of appropriation of high science by culture at large.
My experiences at MIT impressed me with the fact that something
analogous to the development of a psychoanalytic culture was going on
in the worlds around computation. . . . Godel,
Escher, Bach has
a special place in the evolution of my work because reactions to the
book were among my first evidence that people who are not
particularly involved with computers are drawn to using computational
ideas for thinking about themselves.
(317) The essential question in such work is how ideas developed in the work of “high science” are “appropriated” by the culture at large.
(317) First and foremost, the research requires particularly close attention to the experience of individuals.
(318) In terms of this study, ideas about mind are mediated by culture, in a more technical sense, by participation in subcultures.
(319) The social study of computation is the study of a nascent culture that has an object as a central actor.
(319) This means that in this book, the focus is on people's relationships with an object and on how these relationships themselves become building blocks of culture.
Initial insights from social study: computer provides new window onto developmental processes, projective screen for personality styles as well as actually entering into cognitive and emotional development, a medium for growth and getting stuck.
First, that the computer provides a new window onto developmental
processes. . . . it is also a projective screen for different
personality styles. Second, the computer . . . actually enters
cognitive and emotional development. It offers a medium for growth
and, in certain cases, a place for “getting stuck.”
(321) One framework is my identification of metaphysics, mastery, and identity as three modes of relating to computation.
Children's Psychological Discourse: Methods and Data Summary
Question of “Really Alive”
(325) How widespread is the tendency to use a psychological discourse in the anthropomophization of computational objects? And how does it relate to children's age and sophistication about computational objects?
The Two Sides of Animism
Other Windows onto the Development of the Psychological
Research of children planning altered to incorporate perception of whether computers cheat and how they differ from people.
(330) As my study of children progressed, two issues that I had not anticipated in planning my research became increasingly salient: the child's perception of whether or not computers “cheat” and the question of how computers differ from people.
The Problem of Novelty
Notes problem of novelty wearing off to the point that culturally poignant observations about computers disappear into the background like disappearing interfaces.
(331) As the presence of the computer in all of its forms becomes more familiar, so might conventional answers to many questions about it. Our culture will develop ways of thinking about the computer that, in a sense, require no thought.
Turkle, Sherry. The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984. Print.