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May 1991


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 20 May 91 23:55:46 -0400
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Hi folks...
A short time back there was some discussion on this list about "what
Carolyn Marvin thought" about something or other.  So, I sent her (at least
some of) the relevant messages, and here's her response....
(Her address is:  [log in to unmask])
UMass/Amherst                   [log in to unmask]
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To:            Personal name: michael morgan
           Organization unit: saturn
           Organization name: ucc
              Private domain: umass
       Administrative domain: umassmail
                     Country: us
From:                RFC-822: [log in to unmask]
           Organization name: SATURN-GW
              Private domain: UMASS
       Administrative domain: UMASSMAIL
                     Country: US
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michael, thanks for relaying the invitation from "lance" to comment
on what's the relationship between interactive media and familiar
notions of text and truth, which, coming into the middle of the
discussion, is what i take it to be
about. if that's wrong, let me know.
     i'm not persuaded that "media" forms have inherent physical
attributes that structure "epistemic changes" in any simple sense.
elizabeth eisenstein argues that printing saved enough cultural
energy to launch the quattrocento renaissance, and she's persuasive,
but she also argues, epistemically speaking, that printing both
"fixed" minds and "opened" them. it opened the minds of printers
who received multiple texts at their shops and were aware of the
variety and competition of texts in the world, it fixed dogmatically the
thinking of those followers of potestestantism who took the translations
to which they had access to be revealed truth. the epistemic
descendants of both these tribes are with us today and flourish. from the
point of view of those to whom writing was a communications innovation in about
the 12th century in england (when the government began to conduct aspects
of its business in writing), that is, people who for centuries
had worked out useful and practical means of "fixing" oral information,
writing looked ephemeral and unfixable and untrustworthy. in fact, it
was, since it would take several centuries to learn to manage and preserve
information in ways that would outdo the familiar and useful ways of
preserving oral information reliably. what people couldn't do with
oral information, they hadn't learned to need, anyway. read
michael clanchy on this in FROM MEMORY TO WRITTEN RECORD (harvard, 1979).
by the same token, even when some important information becomes "cheaper" to
or access, additional information is always made scarce.
artificial scarcities are introduced where real ones don't exist--the
symbolic production of status, this. information about markets is a
classic--as soon as it becomes possible to distribute such information
more cheaply, more people can play, but just as quickly, new hierarchies
of scarce market secrets are created. the stock market runs on such
hierarchies. whatever is cheap is no longer as useful for achieving advantage,
so new non-cheap means of achieving advantage in information are created.
the content of secrets may shift, so that information that once conferred
advantage by its scarcity no longer does and is no longer scarce,
but stratified information seems to be a continuing feature of
social structures.
     best wishes, carolyn
(i'd love to see any responses. saw yr friend sut jhally made
it into the nyt saturday...)