Writing at the Speed of Thinking — Miyako Inoue at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

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For our final event of this year’s Digital Aesthetics Workshop (which, we can now confirm, will return next year!), Stanford’s own Miyako Inoue will be presenting her current research on the Japanese typewriter. Her session promises to consider the effects of media on thought, to push technology studies towards the history of empire, and to argue with Friedrich Kittler. Needless to say, we are thrilled to have her!

The event takes place on Tuesday, May 29, from 5-7 in the Board Room of the Stanford Humanities Center.

There is no pre-circulated reading. However, attendees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Kittler’s “Typewriter” chapter in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter.

RSVP to deacho@stanford.edu

Snacks and wine will be served

Dr. Miyako Inoue

Writing at the Speed of Thinking: The Japanese Kana Typewriter and the Rehabilitation of the Male Hand

Tuesday, May 29, 5:00-7:00

The invention of the Japanese syllabic (kana) typewriter in the beginning of the 20th century was a modular articulation between the Japanese syllabary and the engineered metal body of the English typewriter. With keys and type bars for Japanese syllabaries neatly conjoined with it, the kana typewriter promised Japan’s industrial efficiency and productivity of repetitive inscription labor. While the kana-typewriter was originally used in business and government offices to streamline the production of invoices, order forms, utility bills, and so on, the postwar portable models attracted allies for personal use among male intellectuals, industrialists, scientists, and colonial officers, for whom the kana typewriter meant “the liberation from Chinese characters,” or Japan’s break from “Asia” (and its return as a colonizer), and a renewed connection with Western industrial modernity. Friedrich Kittler argues that the western typewriter led to the de-sexualization of writing, liberating (hand)writing from its organic and exclusive ties with the male hand and allowing women to enter the white-collar workplace as typists. In this presentation, I would like to discuss how the kana-typewriter led, in fact, to the re-sexualization of writing as a masculine enterprise, and to the reunion of the man’s hand with language, as its portability allowed elite Japanese (type)writers in international scientific communities, in colonial administrations and associated overseas business communities to synchronize writing and thinking and to re-enact the western subject-position of auto-affect in writing.

Miyako Inoue is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University, where she also has a courtesy appointment with the Department of Linguistics. She teaches linguistic anthropology and the anthropology of Japan. Her first book, Vicarious Language: the Political Economy of Gender and Speech in Japan (U. of California Press), examines a phenomenon commonly called “women’s language” in Japanese modern society, and offers a genealogy showing its critical linkage with Japan’s national and capitalist modernity. Professor Inoue is currently working on a book-length project on a social history of “verbatim” in Japanese. She traces the historical development of the Japanese shorthand technique used in the Diet for its proceedings since the late 19th century, and of the stenographic typewriter introduced to the Japanese court for the trial record after WWII. She is interested in learning what it means to be faithful to others by copying their speech, and how the politico-semiotic rationality of such stenographic modes of fidelity can be understood as a technology of a particular form of governance, namely, liberal governance.

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I’m being targeted with phishing attacks — from my employer!

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Today, I received this suspicious message on my university email account about a purchase, made on my “Smartpone,” and related to a game I don’t play. I promptly reported it as spam to Stanford IT. Within seconds, I was “rewarded” with the following message:

Thank you for reporting this suspicious message.  This was a simulated phishing email sent as part of Stanford’s Phishing Awareness Program.  Congratulations on successfully identifying and reporting it to us!  No further action is necessary.

Yay! I guess…

Yeah, well, I think it’s kind of weird to get phishing messages from your employer, and I am getting this gamified spam on a regular basis — several “simulated” phishing messages a week.

But what is the status of a “simulated” phishing attack anyway? In this connection, I am reminded of Baudrillard on the impossibility of “simulating” a bank robbery:

Organize a fake holdup. Verify that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no human life will be in danger (or one lapses into the criminal.) Demand a ransom, and make it so that the operation creates as much commotion as possible — in short, remain close to the “truth,” in order to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulacrum. You won’t be able to do it: the network of artificial signs will become inextricably mixed up with real elements (a policeman really will fire on sight; a client of the bank will faint and die of a heart attack; one will actually pay you the phony ransom).

This sounds exactly like what my employer — a major research university situated in the midst of Silicon Valley, the simulacral heart of the control society — is doing. And in their attempt to remain close to the “truth” to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulacrum, the network of artificial signs is bound to get mixed up with real elements, perhaps by design: these simulated attacks pretend towards an attempt to inoculate us against the danger, but they are also tools of control: of surveillance and, if need be, shaming (I am told by colleagues who have clicked on the links that a finger-wagging message appears and tells the user to be more careful…).

Having recently parried one of these attacks to the satisfaction of my employer, I received the usual message of congratulations. Being knee-deep in a major writing project, I may have been feeling a little humorless that day. I wrote back:

Thanks, but I am not sure that this really adds to my productivity.

I got a message back, within minutes, from someone claiming to be a human (but it seems I should have required they fill out a Captcha or click on all the stoplights in a picture or something). Anyway, this “human” wrote back a message so chilling that it sent shivers down my spine the likes of which I have rarely experienced outside of Poe or Kafka:

Hi Prof. Denson, we give up a little bit of our productivity for an increased amount of security. Thank you for the feedback and for reporting the email.

 

Michael Richards: Winged

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The other day I promised (or threatened) to reactivate this blog for things other than announcing talks, publications, etc. It remains to be seen how much time I will actually devote to this, but my thought was anyway that I should reclaim the time I waste on social media (especially Facebook). Accordingly, why not post just the pictures I would otherwise be sharing there here instead? Of course, these are not just any pictures…

These are from the moving show Michael Richards: Winged, which is currently up at the Stanford Art Gallery (but ending this week, so hurry if you plan to see it!).

Michael Richards, whose work powerfully probes race in American culture, tragically died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, where he was working in his studio on the 92nd floor of Tower One.

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The show was recently an Artforum Critics’ Pick.

Check it out if you can!

 

Can Computers Create Meaning? — N. Katherine Hayles at Digital Aesthetics Workshop

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Coming up in a few weeks: N. Katherine Hayles will be joining the Digital Aesthetics Workshop to present some of her latest research. This session will take place in the Humanities Center Board Room, on Tues. Feb 12, from 5-7 PM. Her event is entitled Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective.

We anticipate a full event, so you must RSVP to this google form link. We will circulate Hayles’s paper, which she will briefly introduce and then invite conversation around it. Here is her abstract:

Can Computers Create Meaning? A Cyber-Bio-Semiotic Perspective

N. Katherine Hayles

One of the promising areas to understand how computers cognize is biosemiotics, a field that draws on C. S. Peirce’s semiotics to argue that all living organisms generate and understand meanings appropriate to their contexts, even plants and unicellular organisms.  Although these approaches by such theorists as Jesper Hoffmeyer, Wendy Wheeler, and Terrence Deacon have considerable explanatory power, they share a common blind spot in arguing that such signifying capabilities apply only to living organisms, not computers.  However, many of their objections to networked and programmed machines creating, disseminating and understanding meanings become moot if the relevant unit is considered to be human plus computer rather than either alone.  The human species, this paper will argue, is in the midst of entering into a deep symbiosis with computational media. Still incomplete, this symbiosis is akin to endosymbiosis, where previously independently living organisms unite into a single entity, as happened for example with the absorption of mitochondria by eukaryotic cells.  The paper will conclude by exploring the implications of this symbiosis-in-progress.

Scholars Select

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There is a short article in today’s Stanford News about the Scholars Select exhibition that’s on right now until until April 14 at Green Library. The centerpiece of the article is this set of pictures by University Photographer Linda A. Cicero, who shot a selection of scholars and their objects. Each image links to the short statement that the faculty member prepared about their object. Take a look!

Super Star Trek — Scholars Select Exhibit at Stanford’s Green Library

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For the Scholars Select Exhibit at Stanford’s Green Library — in commemoration of the library’s 100th anniversary — I was asked to choose an object from Special Collections and write something about its significance for my work. I chose a letter to Bob Leedom contained in the September 1974 issue of the People’s Computer Company newsletter, published around the corner in Menlo Park:

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The letter discusses Super Star Trek, a game I have written about in “Digital Seriality: On the Serial Aesthetics and Practice of Digital Games” (co-authored with Andreas Sudmann). Here, in much more condensed form, is what I wrote about it for the exhibition:

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And here’s the letter itself:

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You can find the full issue of the People’s Computer Company online, through the Stanford Libraries website: here.

Check out the full exhibition, which will be on display January 24 – April 19, 2019. More info here.