Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-12-15 - 9:47 p.m.
I went to Glamorgan University on Monday - driving from Guildford down the M4. To get back to Leamington I drove up to the road which is called ĎThe Heads of the Valleysí and then east via Monmouth and Ross on Wye. The sun was shining - I had forgotten how impressive the landscape in South Wales can be. The visit seems to have paid off. Listened to some VWms SQs on the way down.
Tuesday my boss made it clear that the job he had given me which I hoped to have completed in the New Year had to be done before Christmas - the pattern of my activity in the last few days reflects this. Itís a bit of a brain dump but I am getting there - with a few discoveries along the way - stuff on exports, skills, innovation etc.
I have had my head down in Heidegger for a while - and I think I have got the essence. In fact I mailed Laurence to say that the infamous strategic leadership course which we were both implicated heavily in just over a decade ago was intrinsically Heideggerian - part of the reason why some people found it so outrageous. The experience was rooted in specific being - an appreciation of the being of that specific group of people in that specific place. It also involved walking up a few hills - in fact I drove past one of those hills on Monday afternoon - it stood out from the rest of the landscape as I went along the A 40.
Laurence said that the course moved from Heidegger to Rawls - partly so that it didnít piss people off so much. He also said he had been listening to late Beethoven SQs. I said that in Adornoís view these last works were alienated from their material.
I am still looking for the way deeper into a theory of technology. I have ordered more books. In a nutshell you can say that the US experience of technology has been quite dominant for the last two hundred years - and it is clearly counter-Heidegerrian. Except it starts with Kant and the sublime natural landscape - then it places technology in the landscape (the Ead Bridge over the Mississippi) - and then via the Manhattan skyline it creates its own sublime landscape.
Nye - the author - sees the skyscraper as driven by the ego of individual business leaders. There was never an economic case for building upwards and the buildings were not intended to make money, they were intended to advertise individual business achievement. At this stage you canít disconnect the amoral hero of business and technology and the sublime - this is close to Nietzsche - someone who I try to avoid as much as possible. Indeed it is where Heidegger starts - also Ann Rand.
I see that Honda have announced a new version of their robot Asimo who featured in one of our events last year. Asimo is astonishing - does he represent the technological sublime (a post-human sublime)?
I am playing with the ANTs. I came across an ANT-like thought this afternoon following a lead from a long paper on innovation and skills that DTI bought from Manchester this year. Some economics professor from Stanford was trying to explain why in modern times IT seems to make some (poor) people poorer and other (graduates) richer. The ones who get richer are the ones who are able to invent new ways of using the technology within firms - IT is a technology which is only half complete and itís the specific organizational way that it is applied which really creates the value. The people who get poorer are the people with low skills who are displaced by the technology. This widening disparity of wealth has been going on across the developed world.
The ANT-point is that is to do with the network that the device is brought into or helps create - the device is an actor too. Someone co-operates with the device to create a new network and this is how the value arises - the network inventor take some of the value in higher wages. There is a sense in which raw technology is both purposeful and purposeless - which connects to you-know-who.
Some anti-Heidegerrians say that there is an Ďinsideí to the network - which involves an authentic appreciation of the technology - an appreciation of its real essence and existence. I am in two minds about this. The best I can do is to think of the Beano Bluesbreakers and what EC said about his Marshall combination and the microphone.
Lancaster seems to be the hot-bed of ANT theory and I was surprised to see that amongst the ANTs there is someone I met in 1974 when I took over his job in Edinburgh and havent seen since. I am wondering about sending them an e-m about Toyota. Lancaster is also the place where the best jazz-theorist in the UK has an academic position.
Apart from that I have been regretting that I didnít buy the score of Berg Op3 when I saw it in Oxford a week or so ago. The theorists say that it is an extension of the method of the Piano Sonata Op 1 (which is actually in a key - Bm) into free atonality. As such it is an exceptionally long piece - and indeed an early piece of free atonality. In the history of the SQ it brushes up against Stravinskyís three pieces which is a kind of year zero of the SQ.. I spent some of the day listening to Stravís Concertino (1920) after which he left the SQ alone for a good three decades.