Erotic Computing

EC 2.5 (10-14-94)


by Douglas Davis, Ph.D.

I'll let ya be in my dream
If I can be in yours.
 
Dylan
 

My early years at the small-system keyboard, as confessed in several of my w2 columns, were spent in the service of the UCSD[1] p-System, whose full-screen editor and array of freeware Pascal programs made the Apple II a viable (if slooow and quirky) word processor and information-manager. My fascination with this peculiar and now vanished version of a personal system has had one lasting social benefit: a friendship with one of the gurus of the p-System, Jon Bondy. Jon is a master programmer, a Zen keyboardist, and bilingual in English and Compiler. As someone who spends most of his waking hours getting software to behave, he might seem an ideal example of the self-in-the-system phenomena I've been trying to evoke. We've spent some hours debating these topics, and I've sent him most of my columns (the poor devil lives alone in the woods without a browser). Here's most of his recent email appreciation of my efforts.

A Webster Weview

I thought of another way to describe your columns. You often seem to see what I would estimate to be a "trace" correlation or effect and then magnify and amplify it for the reader's perusal.

... The trouble is that, having dissected and magnified some phenomenon, you often seem to forget that it has been so manipulated, and proceed to discuss it as if it were huge and whole in its own right. Then I begin to lose connection with your point and the discussion.

For example, your persistent use of terms like "erotic" to mean things which most folks would not immediately associate with "erotic," begins to wear thin: I wonder if you have re-defined the word for all time, or if you're trying to connote new/different things. I wonder if you're aware of the fact that the new definition of "erotic" is tenuous and perhaps even flawed. It all begins to seem more like a flight of fantasy than a serious attempt to discover some truth.

I understand your point that many of us are putting enormous time into computing, and that this "cathexis"[2] implies that these activities are in some sense "important" to us. Whether this is "erotic" or not is a word game. I think more of empowerment ("I can do more now") and game playing ("Gee, this is neat, let me see what else it can do") than I do of "sex."

I'm reminded that people spent hours "working" at Adventure, but would not think of spending the same time "working" at learning a text editor. Perhaps you/we need to think more about the difference between the two ...

Touché. I use "erotic" to mean "whatever turns you on"; whatever you find excuses to do, do when you should be doing your day job;[3] or feel sheepish about being discovered doing. Whatever carries a lot of unexamined cathexis...

Finding the erotic in any activity means, IMHO, inferring where the actor's personhood shows a crease, a dog-eared page, a kink. And the stigmata of these erotic behaviors when self-observed is that they betray small fault lines in the personality where one may catch oneself acting and experience a momentary sense of otherness, a slight splitting in the ego. We'll take the matter up there next class.


Next week: Sidi ROM.


Douglas Davis, Ph.D. <ddavis@haverford.edu>


About the author ...

Copyright (C) Douglas Davis 1994. All rights reserved.