Technology Through Time and Space

Hayles explores some complex aspects about “texts” in her chapter titled “Intermediation from Page to Screen.” She begins the chapter explaining that “all print books are digital files” in the sense that before a book is published it is an electronic text. I had not really thought about this before. I think many of us have this desire to hold on to “the good old times” when knowledge was acquired only through the “original” medium, books. Yet, book are composed and altered through electronic means. This reminded me of a scene in Sex and the City where Carrie talks about liking the smell and texture of old books, and how few people actually continue to check out books from the library (for leisure, since most students do it because we have to).

Hayles then explores the concept of intermediation which is made up of two aspects, dynamic heterarchies and fluid analogies. I felt really lost trying to follow her explanation of dynamical heterarchies until she used the analogy of the fetus in uterus, it makes sense as I can understand the interrelation between the two evolving bodies (p.46).

Hayles then expands her exploration further by analyzing the way that anthropologists have studied the effects of technology through time and space. In each stage, technological innovations seemed to substitute and revolutionize our culture. Hayles explains how computers have the “power to perform cognitively sophisticated acts with more flexibility, interactivity, and cognitive power” (p.48). She then continues the exploration of the complexity of computers and their effects. As an anthropologist, I question some of the theories she raises about Dennett’s “selfish genes” notion, as it echos some biological deterministic claims. However, Dennett does mention the importance of culture and other factors in this discussion.

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