[iDC] On Interdisciplinarity. An Interview with Simon Penny

john sobol john at johnsobol.com
Fri Mar 3 01:29:40 EST 2006

On 2-Mar-06, at 8:36 PM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

> Simon Penny:  ... At least let me put this out there as a
> provocation:  ultimately we are employing a technology which is based 
> on
> the idea of man-machine interaction where the man is secondary to the
> machine for the purpose of productivity. I find it odd that this is not
> regarded as a fundamental problematic in the field.

First of all, possibly being the first to post after that excellent and 
inspiring interview, let me say thanks. It was filled with clear 

Now for the provocation...

you say 'we are employing "a" technology'
ok let's boil it down
what technology are we using?

I submit that if we are using one technology that subsumes all others 
in this complex collective quest
it is the technology of communication

I would further argue that when it comes to killer apps of communication
such as 'this one'
what always occurs is that communities and cultures and physical spaces 
(i.e. cinemas, as you pointed out earlier in your talk)
rearrange themselves to maximize use of the new communication tool
because better communication enables better everything else in the 
better systems, better resource management, better play, better 
security, etc.,

so that rather than it being odd that nobody has realized that 'man is 
secondary to the machine for productivity' these days
it is imho more accurate to say that evolution is enabled by 
communication and that as a species, as communities, and as individuals 
we are always orienting ourselves towards more efficient forms of 
communication to enhance productivity – and other stuff too
just as we did with TVs and radio and newspapers and books and 
hieroglyphs and songs
and we are getting better and better as a species at externalizing and 
mechanizing our collective communication systems
it's not that we are secondary to the technology
we are the technology

we are communication machines
and we have always sought new ways to communicate more efficiently
and every time we find a powerful new way to communicate
it results in destabilization
not unusually disastrous
as the new technology displaces the old
and people with it
just ask the native peoples of the world how they feel about literate 

i think the answer lies precisely in your discussion of 
its power to challenge preconceptions and the demands it makes upon 
those who practice it to become multi-communication-cultural
by this i mean becoming a genuine practitioner of multiple modes of 
communication, of many narrative tools and storytelling systems
(Oral, literate and digital, for example)
as necessarily engendering also cultural bonds beyond boundaries
an understanding of diversity,  a fertile humility
and a vital acknowledgment of alternate epistemologies

not to be cheesy or preachy but I have a name for that kind of practice
i call it interactivism


bluesology • printopolis • digitopia
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