Thursday, May 12, 2005

Two dogs

We're looking after another dog at the moment, a little black and white fox terrier. She's pretty cute. During the day while I'm studying, I have both dogs in the room with me. Most of the time they sleep in their beds by my desk but sometimes they get restless and rumble with each other and make a racket.

They've kept me company during this rather stucky blocked time I've been having with my PHD. It's been quite frustrating and has lasted for about two weeks. I'm trying to formulate my research questions and research statement and it just isn't happening. Well actually, I've written about 3 or 4 versions and am just churning over the same stuff.

Aside from the stuckness I'm currently experiencing, I have made some progress on other fronts. I'm a lot clearer about the areas of reading I'd like to cover. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of relevant material. Meanwhile I've met with my two other supervisors and both generated some really good discussions and feedback.

I went to Fisher Library yesterday and borrowed a few more books. One of them was written by another of my supervisors a number of years ago. It's still very relevant and is about computer culture and the irrational self. I particularly like the extrapolation of Don Ihde's typology of the human-technology relationship with the addition of the psychoanalytic categories. I came across Ihde's typology recently and have been thinking about them in terms of how they may fit into my own project. It occurred to me recently while browsing Rosalind Picard's "Affective Computing" that her conceptualisation of what a relationship can be in relation to computers and computational objects could benefit from a more nuanced approach to what types of relationships can be formed. She views them primarily in terms of an alterity relation.


Mac said...

And what do you make of Picard's proposed conjoining of an interpretation of both physical and cognitive components, in terms of creating a more flexible and versatile interface?

I think that question made sense...Now I'm not so sure. This stuff is mostly way over my head. I'm still slugging my way through the book, though.

Ms M said...

Hi Mac,

Oh - how exciting. It's such a thrill to get a response. And I didn't expect that you would track down my blog. How is your writing going by the way?

I really want to resist Picard's attempts to emotionalise the computer - mainly because I am concerned about her approach not because of the idea (which I think is a lot of fun!). Surely there are other ways to approach this subject that don't involve turning emotions into a science, compartmentalising and rationalising the affective domain into simple classes to enable their "reproduction" under set conditions. I hear echoes of Microsoft's "Bob" and that god darned paperclip wizard. How dare a paperclip suggest that my grammer isn't up to par! :-). Your post on the kiss reinforces to me at least that the affective domain is a lot more fluid and tied to culture than Picard and co would like believe. Is it the feeling that the kiss evokes or the idea of the kiss (culturally constructed) actualised in the anticipation of it, that sums up the feeling of the kiss. It does seem kind of ironic though. Science colonising the irrational. The last frontier and all that. Then again, I love the idea of recognising that computing involves an emotional connection and playing with it. And I suspect that affective feedback in the act of computing could be really creative and fun but it's applications will be far from what the likes of Picard and her team will envision. What do you think? I am really interested.

Mac said...

you said: I suspect that affective feedback in the act of computing could be really creative and fun but it's applications will be far from what the likes of Picard and her team will envision.
I think--if I understand all this correctly--it could be both really creative and fun, and also could take computing in directions we haven't even considered--at least very seriously.

Where it gets really interesting to me is when you combine the idea of emotionalizing the computer with some of the research being done in terms of nanotechnology and medical applications--I've a good friend working at Microsoft who is very hot (in an unofficial, personal capacity) on the idea of building teeny-tiny nano-machines to turn loose in one's body to heal disease and malfunctions.

Because I'm a speculative person--I, of course, make the "what if..." jump, and am captivated by the possiblilities of bringing the two concepts together: building emotional/intuitive nanocomputers on a microscopic scale.

I do recognize that it's a total leap into science fiction. It's just sort of how my mind works. (wistful smile)

I do share your misgivings about turning emotions into a science--but perhaps there is a middle ground?

Ms M said...

I've been a little absent lately while working on my confirmation of candidature for my PHD requirements. I certainly agree that there are applications that will be beneficial. I have visions of secretely injecting nanocompassion into our current prime minister with the outcome that he releases all the children asylum seekers from detention centres.