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<nettime> no *really* digest [mckelvey, newmedia]


Re: We are what we tweet: The Problem with a Big Data World

     Fenwick Mckelvey <mckelveyf {AT} gmail.com>
     Newmedia {AT} aol.com

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From: Fenwick Mckelvey <mckelveyf {AT} gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2013 12:04:56 -0700
Subject: Re: <nettime> We are what we tweet: The Problem with a Big Data World

Hi Mark,
Thanks for clarification. As we revise this piece, I think I'll draw
on the later criticism of Weiner more. I've added God & Golem to my
reading list.

I also think this term 'free expression' is meant to chaff with some
of the rhetoric around social media. I would distinguish between
techniques of control, that are prevelant on social media, with the
data-mining/simulation. There has been lots of good work on this idea
of control online, but I hoped this article added another dimension --
namely how these media become inputs into kinds of organization
visions for states, stock markets and security firms. Good link to the
Simpson work. I have also been looking into work on the New Political
Science which brought computers into the field of Political Science as
tools of simulation.

Couple questions for you if you don't mind:
1) Any suggestions on whether McLuhan or Weiner were in contact? Or
work of McLuhan on cybernetics directly?
2) Any sense of the relation of Karl Deutsch to all this? I assume
that's who McLuhan meant when referring to the Deutsch-Wiener"
approach .
3) The quote we use from McLuhan seems to echo a kind of cybernetic
promise. The idea that communication systems could achieve homeostasis
and keep the world cool. Do you think he's being fictitious there?

And, no, York/ Ryerson is in Toronto and so it's always draw an
influence from McLuhan and Innis as well. I just find McLuhan had a
tendency to consult and speak to management. He worked at McLuhan,
Goldhaber, Williams, Inc. a research firm founded by Marshall McLuhan
where he offered political consulting for example. All this to say
that I find his role as a critic somewhat ambiguous.

Thanks in advance and apologies for the delay as I was away last week.

Best,
Fenwick

On Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 12:59 PM,  <Newmedia {AT} aol.com> wrote:

> Fenwick:
>
> The point I believe Fred Turner will be talking about in "Democratic
> Surround" will be the origins of the notion of "control by choice" --
> particularly as this was seen to be part of the "democratic personality" (as
> opposed to the "authoritarian personality") which became a major focus in
> the psychological warfare community before/during/after WW II.
>
> As I highlighted in an earlier post, Gregory Bateson was particularly
> important in formulating all this -- as reflected in his 1942 "Comments on
> 'The Comparative Study of Culture and the Purposive Cultivation of
> Democratic Values'" (where the original study was by his then-wife, Margaret
> Mead), which was then reprinted with the title "Social Planning and the
> Concept of Deutero-Learning" in his 1972 "Steps to an Ecology of Mind."
>
> This is where Bateson talks about "rigging the maze" to give the illusion of
> "free will."  It is important to remember that *control* was widely
> understood by the early 50s as something that could only be done by people
> to themselves -- which then became the basis for the entire Cold War theme
> of "freedom" and "democracy" against the "totalitarianism" of the Soviet
> enemy.  Later this becomes the basis of "terror," which is mass-media
> technique meant to drive behavior through broadcasting fear, as specialized
> in by CNN etc.
>
> Accordingly, social media "free expression" isn't that at all, since what
> gets expressed is limited by the "design" of the *maze* and "data-mining"
> can only produce statistics on which direction people go when they come to a
> "corner" and make one of the predetermined "choices."  For better-and-worse,
> you really don't learn much about people when you treat them like rats!
>
> All of this, btw, derives from the Calvinist/Puritan fascination with
> "predestination" and the desire to be "as Gods" (i.e. the ones who set up
> the "maze") -- as reflected in the slogan of Stewart Brand's Whole Earth
> Catalog.
>
> Just for the record -- *neither* Wiener nor McLuhan were "architects" of
> anything that could be called the "cybernetics project," importantly because
> neither of them had "Puritan" (i.e. make a more "pure" human) pretensions --
> unlike Bateson, Mead and many others.
>
> Architects -- No.  Critics -- Yes.
>
> Wiener is explicit in the Introduction to his 1948 "Cybernetics" that he
> refused to work with Bateson/Mead and McLuhan (despite what Richard Barbrook
> has to say about him <g>) had little to do with any of this, other than
> criticizing what he called the "Deutsch-Wiener" approach for being "quite
> unable of itself to see beyond or around technology" (as published in his
> March 1951 letter to Harold Innis.)
>
> If the people at York/Ryerson (or elsewhere) have linked McLuhan to
> "cybernetics," then they have made a basic mistake in scholarship.  Norbert
> Wiener was my "godfather" -- which means my father was one of a few in the
> room when they coined the term (and he brought a rose to my mother the day
> after I was born) but my father was strongly advised to avoid cybernetics
> and Wiener himself completely dropped out when he was threatened with a HUAC
> investigation (circa 1953).
>
> While I think it's appropriate to try to trace a thread from *cybernetics*
> into 1950s/60s social engineering, the central figures in all this are
> neither Wiener or McLuhan and instead generally cluster around the field of
> Social Psychology and Communications Science -- as discussed in Chris
> Simpson's 1996 "The Science of Coercion: Communication Research and
> Psychological Warfare, 1945-1960."
>
> Mark Stahlman
> Brooklyn NY


-- 
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I try to respond to emails at 9:30 and 1:30pm daily (PST).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fenwick McKelvey
Postdoctoral Fellow
Visiting Scholar, University of Washington
http://fenwickmckelvey.com

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From: Newmedia {AT} aol.com
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2013 17:05:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: <nettime> We are what we tweet: The Problem with a Big Data World when Ev...

Fenwick:
 
Thanks!  Yes, a revision would be a good idea! <g>
 
To answer your ("McWiener) questions -- 
 
1) No, as far as I can tell, there was no direct contact between McLuhan  
and Wiener,  One primary reason for this, I suspect, is that there  wasn't 
really any overlap between the timing of their careers.  Another  primary 
reason is the McLuhan wasn't really interested in cybernetics!   McLuhan was an 
"analogist" and not a "positivist" scientist.  The sorts of  things done by 
most cyberneticians were the sorts of things that McLuhan was  fighting 
against.
 
Around 1953, Wiener was forced into retirement because his "agitation"  of 
Walter Reuther et al had brought a threat of a HUAC investigation to his  
door.  No, the "mental breakdown" described in the fake "Dark Hero"  biography 
never happened.  McLuhan, on the other hand, didn't really have a  
(notable) career until 1953, which was when he got his Ford Foundation grant for  
the interdisciplinary seminar (on the basis that he was Harold Innis'  
"successor") that produced Explorations etc.  
 
So Wiener had been "pushed out" of cybernetics before McLuhan might have  
even gotten interested.  The more relevant question would be if he ever  
worked with Gregory Bateson or Kenneth Boulding or Bertalanffy or the General  
Systems crowd who were taking cybernetics and applying to psychology, 
sociology  and so on.  Again, as best I can tell, the answer was no.
 
McLuhan really lived a pretty "isolated" life in Toronto until the mid-60s, 
 as reflected in his published letters.  The person who "introduced" 
McLuhan  to Wiener et al was likely Donald Theall (or so he told me), who was a 
PhD  student of McLuhan in English, after getting his BA at Yale in 1950, 
where he  was exposed to the early interest in cybernetics.
 
2) Ditto for Karl Deutsch and McLuhan.  The only published mention of  him 
is in the March 1951 letter to Innis in which he "attacks" Deutsch.
 
3) The quote you use is out-of-context.  McLuhan was just talking  about 
the "thought experiment" in which various media would be turned on or off  to 
notice their effects.  He never imagined or seriously proposed that  
anything like would ever happen but, instead, hoped that his readers would at  
least try to think through the implications.  My guess is that they  didn't.  
While he sold a lot of books, no one seems to have really paid  much attention 
to what McLuhan said.
 
In 1969, McLuhan got paid to write a foreword for a "dummies-style" book  
called "Cybernetics Simplified."  Instead of having anything to say about  
cybernetics, he wrote things like "The speed-up of information movement 
creates  an environment of 'information overload' that demands pattern recognition 
for  human survival" and "The new information environment created by the 
new electric  technologies is quite imperceptible and can only be discovered 
by special  inventories of changing trends and changing human responses to 
the new  environment.
 
McLuhan's entire public career (circa 1965-70), was devoted to trying to  
promote "pattern recognition" in the wider population by encouraging them to  
overcome the effects of technology by understanding it effects.  His only  
notable contact with any "elite" organization was when he was invited to the 
 Bilderberg conference in 1969, presumably to help explain that had 
happened in  Paris etc in 1968.  Famously, he "mis-behaved" so badly that, not only 
 wasn't he invited back, but this marked the being of the end of his public 
 career.
 
Mark Stahlman
Brooklyn NY

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