Reminiscing the NetFuture – and notes on qualitative science

Looking at old posts I found a link to NetFuture… a zine from 2001

Look at this:

You can see, then, why it is not really such a great paradox to say, as I have often told audiences, “technology is our hope if we can accept it as our enemy, but as our friend, it will destroy us”. Of course technology threatens us, and of course it calls for a certain resistance on our part, since it expresses our dominant tendencies, our prevailing lameness or one-sidedness. The only way we can become entire, whole, and healthy is to struggle against whatever reinforces our existing imbalance. Our primary task is to discover the potentials within ourselves that are not merely mechanical, not merely automatic, not reducible to computation. And the machine is a gift to us precisely because the peril in its siding with our one-sidedness forces us to strengthen the opposite side — at least it does if we recognize the peril and accept its challenge.

Stephen L. Talbott

This stuff was gold — and the reason this blog is called Psyberspace — and his page today:

Here — more gold:

Can there be a qualitative science?
My work on the meaning of organisms is part of a broader project: From Mechanism to a Science of Qualities. The project aims to begin characterizing the terms of a new, qualitative science. Of course, for those scientists who identify with Galileo’s commitment to a strictly quantitative science, which excludes qualities from consideration by definition, the phrase “qualitative science” will sound like a simple contradiction. And yet, in reality, there can be no science that is not qualitative; mere quantity does not give us any material content. Without qualities we have no world to try to understand. And if we must deal with qualities, then it’s far better to be aware of what we’re doing than to smuggle those qualities into our work in an undisciplined fashion while pretending we have nothing to do with them.

Stuff to follow up for my never to be finished PHD .

More on the theme…

Research and Story

The story of the boy and the snake is just that — a story. I have not presented it as research. Interestingly, however, Neil Postman would blur the distinction between storytelling and research. In fact, Postman — who has been writing about educational and media issues for three decades — suggests that even the typical quantitative research in the social sciences is a form of storytelling. This research never gives us immutable laws of the sort physicists prefer to deal with. Instead,both a social researcher and a novelist give unique interpretations to a set of human events and support their interpretations with examples in various forms. Their interpretations cannot be proved or disproved but will draw their appeal from the power of their language, the depth of their explanations, the relevance of their examples, and the credibility of their themes.

Postman illustrates his contention in various ways, one of which is as follows:A novelist — for example, D. H. Lawrence — tells a story about the sexual life of a woman — Lady Chatterley — and from it we may learn things about the secrets of some people, and wonder if Lady Chatterley’s secrets are not more common than we had thought. Lawrence did not claim to be a scientist, but he looked carefully and deeply at the people he knew and concluded that there is more hypocrisy in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in some of our philosophies. Alfred Kinsey was also interested in the sexual lives of women, and so he and his assistants interviewed thousands of them in an effort to find out what they believed their sexual conduct was like. Each woman told her story, although it was a story carefully structured by Kinsey’s questions. Some of them told everything they were permitted to tell, some only a little, and some probably lied. But when all their tales were put together, a collective story emerged about a certain time and place. It was a story more abstract than D. H. Lawrence’s, largely told in the language of statistics and, of course, without much psychological insight. But it was a story nonetheless….Its theme was not much different from Lawrence’s — namely, that the sexual life of some women is a lot stranger and more active than some other stories, particularly Freud’s, had led us to believe. (Postman, 1992) (1)

Postman allows that the researcher’s and the novelist’s stories may differ. The fiction writer creates metaphors “by an elaborate and concrete detailing of the actions and feelings of particular human beings. Sociology is background; individual psychology is the focus.” Researchers, on the other hand, tend to reverse this, viewing a wider field so that “the individual life is seen in silhouette, by inference and suggestion.” But the interpretive role of researchers remains central, even if, as is usual, they “consent to maintain the illusion that it is their data, their procedures, their science, and not themselves, that speak.”

Stephen L. Talbott

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