Clenched Fist

Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib / Dream Machines reading is among my favorites in the New Media Seminar.  As Claire notes, even for the connoisseur nugget-searcher, this selection, and especially the “Dream Machines” section,  abounds in provocative, compelling morsels.  I’m going to just note one for now:

“I believe computer screens can make people happier, smarter, and better able to cope with the copious problems of tomorrow.  But only if we do right, right now.” (NMR, p. 317)

So, have we done it right?  Did we do it right now?

Computer_Lib_cover_by_Ted_Nelson_1974As a child of the sixties, I find the clenched, raised fist of Computer Lib both challenging and familiar.  A powerful gesture of resistance and unity, the raised, clenched fist has an ancient lineage in human culture and is especially associated with the protest movements of the post-World War II era.  Indeed we are thinking about the challenge of Computer Lib on the 45th anniversary of one of the most famous uses of the raised clenched fist: the silent protest by Tommie Smith and John Carlos on October 16 at the 1968 Olympics. Smith and Carlos shocked many, and paid a heavy price for “politicizing” the Olympic games.  Yet their silent bravery bore witness to a deep-seated disillusionment with a society whose actions fell far short of its ideals.

I’m wondering about the overtones of resistance, unity, power, and struggle in the computer lib fist and how we might respond to that fist today.  Are we “happier, smarter, and better able to cope with the copious problems of tomorrow?”

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