Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Publication

Some good news, which I'll announce by paraphrasing Public Enemy's Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos

I got a letter from the university the other day
I opened it up and read it
It said: "We wanna publish."
They wanted me for digital culture or whatever
Picture me giving a damn, I said "Hell yeah".

Unlike Chuck D's response to the US Government and its Army, I was elated that Cultural Sensitivity in Technology was selected to be published in Best of Technology Writing 2006 by the University of Michigan Press in its new imprint Digital Culture Books. It took a few months, as these publishing cycles go, but I now have the first ISBN associated with my name.

Best of Technology Writing 2006

There's further reason to cheer since acquisition editor, Alison Mackeen, noted that mine was the only blog post that was selected for the volume; the other contributors are mostly journalist or academic types. The web is the great leveler and I am greatful that my musings can appear along with the heavy hitters of traditional media and technology. It is rather like the way that The Humanity Critic can lie in the same folder as Malcolm Gladwell in my Bloglines subscriptions and each are equally appreciated.

Over the past year there has been interest expressed in various books of toli. It turns out that if you write as much as I sometimes do, there'll be an audience for you once you find your voice (at least on those days when the stream of consciousness tendancies are curbed). In this respect I am pleased that it is the cultural sensitivity piece that is the first to hit Gutenberg's press because it was written in a personal yet controlled voice, and I was able to navigate the tension between an entertainment and a focused monograph. The folks I like to read cross the spectrum from dry technical exposition to the satirical. One needs to cater to both education and whimsy hence my writing tends to run the gamut from small things to big ideas.

The time that was spent in editing back and forth and wrangling my conversational web style into something fit for the printed page was instructive. I am a ruthless editor of others but don't normally submit to that impulse in my own writing. Still I don't envy editors and I have renewed appreciation for the blood, sweat and tears it takes to actually make a reasonable book. In any case, I revised and expanded the article, throwing in a few bits about the human factor, the web and irreverence. Do check out the book; as befits its title, it contains lots of great writing about technology and its implications. Eminently readable and stimulating, I'll be mining it going forward and will be pointing out some of the food for thought in it.

I was asked to come up with a tagline for the article, my take:

Everything is local.

Now I have to get serious about The Pitch. Oh and I should get back to writing in this joint.

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Anonymous said...

Hurrah! Here's to the first of many.

Anonymous said...

Good news - I'm happy for you. That was no ordinary blog post, after all, even by your standards.

Anonymous said...


John Powers said...

Your writing moves me. I'm so pleased your post is included in "The Best Technology Writing!" Congratulations.

Your essay "Cultural Sensitivity in Technology" proves the worth of toli in speaking across cultures. I'm decidedly not smart about computers and obviously you are. So I know you are pointing to something when you talk about algorithms and interaction, alas I'm a bit fuzzy about the concepts. Ah, but skin tones in photographs as you tell in your toli, that's something I can relate to. In talking about technology in the context of what people do--what you do--your meaning becomes accessible.

The Internet is creating new patterns of human relationships. I started out with an inchoate interest in Africa. The Internet allows me to interact with people in Africa. Cultural sensitivity isn't something that I started out with, rather something that's developing within the patterns of relationships. I typed into a search box "African penpal" about five years ago and have been corresponding mostly via the Internet with my Ugandan friend Nathan ever since. Cultural sensitivity emerges from telling our stories.

What's so cool about your toli is how many layers of meaning they include. Many readers of your essay in print may be rather naive about what it is that software developers do, as I am. So your toli helps to develop cultural sensitivity across that divide. But the many technology mavens who will read your essay will also benefit from the geek/plain user divide and understand that the "Turkish option" is just a special case of the ordinary challenges of the work.

You wrote:

"I find endlessly fascinating this notion that cultural sensitivity in technology sometimes necessitates algorithmic adaptation. Maybe though, iterative adaptation in response to local environments - evolution in short, is the name of the game. Perhaps that's simply the way things should be."

It seems that algorithmic adaptation and iterative adaptation are presented as different as apples and oranges and that only iterative adaptation to local environments is synonymous with evolution. Gad! I'm probably even more ignorant about evolution than I am computers. Nonetheless, I know that the relationship of adaptation to biological evolution is hard to think straight about. So, I'm very much looking forward to more toli about the evolution of computer technology from you, a writer of extraordinary cultural sensitivities.

Unknown said...

Congratulations. The more we infiltrate print in the way we've hijacked the web, the better. Your writing is always very insightful, loaded with innovative lateral leaps and highly readable - your 'translation' into print is thoroughly deserved.