Notes for UCF “Core Exam for John Bork”

Would be nice to start with electronic version but Janz has not yet supplied so would have to OCR or revert to manual copying. Questions 1 and 3 were answered over a proctored, timed (3 hours, I believe) session.

To make it work need to add page number, one for all as it was delivered as two, stapled, single side single spaced familiar American letter size printed pages.

(1) 1. A good portion of the core reading list offers an historical account of either texts and/or technology. Yet such accounts differ quite dramatically on whether they take a postmodernist stance in arguing for a “break” with modernity or, conversely, take a stance that argues for continuity with the past. Outline this debate by selecting two or three proponents from each historical “camp,” emphasizing both the merits and the shortcomings of either position. What is at stake in arguing, for example, that digitalization entails an historical rupture with earlier forms of texts and/or technology? What is the argument for historicizing digital texts along a continuum or even evolution?

I skipped this question because I have not read the text; moreover, I had to pay the price for blindly answering the first question without first looking at the other four, for I obeyed the silly instruction to immediately upon receipt of the exam questions fold the page so as to display only the first, I figured I should answer the first one then enjoy choosing the easiest with the admittedly reduced time to respond.

A shared assumption by digital humanities and philosophy is the value of visiting other disciplines, for example Tanaka-Ishii, although caution is advised to maintain a critical stance toward these mashups that tend to ignore the nuances established in their respective discourse systems.

(1) 2. In Semiotics of Programming, Kumiko Tanaka-Ishii argues that the semiotic analysis of computer programs as systems of signs presents an opportunity to better understand and explore the limitations of representation for computational systems. She explores processes that are difficult, if not impossible, to reproduce in computer programs (e.g., reflexivity in human semiosis). Using your own knowledge of computer programming and theory, provide an extended example for how theories from other disciplines can frame and shape our understanding of computers and their limits, roles, or functions in society. Support your answer with relevant ideas from the core readings.


(1) 3. Ian Bogost argues for “unit operations” as a new philosophical approach in humanities reasearch. Explain what he means by this, and put other writers on the core list in relation to his approach (that is, which writers provide support/examples of his approach, and which would suggest limitations or objections to his approach). Using examples from your own work on the relationship between programming and thought, show how Bogost's model succeeds or fails in accounting for your work.

These questions on the second page seemed too rich for answering with the core texts, and will hopefully be recycled in the second exam. In a sense, the second question likewise ought to be echoed in the third exam.

Digital humanities apply philosophical treatment to technology, going beyond debates over technological determinism versus social construction as philosophical domains.

Noted that a rhetorical question about the unintended consequences of seeming autonomous technologies setting up the explicit question of how to better philosophize about technology dialectically.

Why must it be a dialectical discussion, everything reduce to answering questions cast in terms of dialectics when there are other ways to specify the zone where philosophy and technology cross. I am focusing on its crossing media such that it passes through free, open source code repositories being thus encased, encapsulated, zipped through timeless forward space as energy. Energy is the technology side, subjectivity the discursive. We are talking about confused, reductive models having certain flaws emanating from the sound philosophical positions from which they derive. The response to the last two questions in preparation for the second exam multipurposively operate as preparation for the upcoming DH conference submission. Submission as a fundamental metaphysical concept to both human and machine systems belongs to global source code repositories as well as the ramblings of our local area networks journals centered around pinball machines and other significant quasi-objects and quasi-subjects pheonomena.

Neither position adequate so rather than dwell on them propose a more useful model, which may sidestep dialectics. The unintended consequences and capacity for creating new desires and cultures thought of technologies throughout history, at their diachronic horizon. Answer by way of Manovich distinguishing existing cultural and software conventions influencing everyday present built environments allowing for the expected and strange but combinatorially finite modulations to yield the historical state of the art as well as the instantaneous cyberspace of the present. Is it Hayles who exemplifies dialectic, with the tutor texts demonstrating the combinatorially finite range of syntheses produced by the intermediating old and new binary metaphysical systems presence/absence and pattern/randomness.

(1) 4. The relation of technology to society is undoubtedly a complex one, but even sophisticated renderings of that relation often settle on a reductive model: either technological determinism or social constructionism. Neither position, however, adequately accounts for the ways in which technologies and their contexts of social, political and economic conditions are bound up in the formation of one another. Begin by specifying the shortcomings and blindspots of each position. Consider to what extent the “instrument-centered” depiction of how new technologies fuel society's direction ignores the cultural and political arrangements that made such technologies possible. Likewise, if technology is merely the material manifestation of certain drives and desires already latent in society, why is it that technology often seems to take on a life of its own, with unintended consequences and the capacity for creating new desires and cultures. How then can we understand this relation as a more properly dialectical one? Feel free to discuss this question with reference to debates both ancient and (post)modern: from Plato's concern over writing to the Internet “revolution.” Technological determinism produces philosophical positions of Kittler and Derrida, respectively, from programming and consumer oriented comportment toward machine intelligence, in the sense that Kittler's is deeply informed by his knowledge of cyberspace technologies and Derrida's resignation to ignorance of their workings.


(2) 5. Does poststructuralism and network theory, as expressed in many of the readings on your subset of the core list, allow any space for subjectivity, and if so, what kind of subjectivity? Does privileging the world of code and image change the nature of subjectivity itself? Is subjectivity even conceivable in network theory? Discuss at least three texts in the core list on this question.