The Trouble with Culture: How Computers Are Calming the Culture Wars

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Overview

In this highly original book, anthropologist F. Allan Hanson reveals an entirely unanticipated but vital link between two of the most widely discussed features of contemporary American society: the computer revolution and the culture wars. Hanson argues that the culture wars stem from a divergence in the evolutionary paths of society and culture. Societies have evolved significantly over the last few millennia from small bands of farmers or hunter-gatherers into huge, internally diverse nation-states, while cultures-the closed systems of meanings and symbols that kept small, face-to-face societies together-have failed to keep pace. If cultures became more open, Hanson contends, then the maladaptive rupture between society and culture would be healed and the clashes that currently beset us would be greatly diminished. Interweaving lucid analysis with concrete case studies of common law, education, and other areas of contemporary life, Hanson demonstrates how the widespread use of computers is, in fact, encouraging more originality and open-mindedness, with the potential to case polarization and calm the culture wars.

About the Author:
F. Allan Hanson is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791470176
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 2/8/2007
  • Pages: 202
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Culture Gone Bad     1
Culture     1
Social and Cultural Evolution     3
Open and Closed Culture     7
Automation: A Preview     12
An Overview     13
Cultural Contradiction and Compartmentalization     17
Culture Wars     18
Poverty: From Making a Difference to Indifference     22
The Divisive Effects of Automation     25
Fixing the Trouble with Culture: Relativism, Postmodernism, and Automation     33
Cultural Relativism     34
Postmodernism     38
Automation     42
The Human Rage to Classify     47
Classifying     49
Classification by Correspondence     51
Taxonomic Classification     55
The Contrasting Logics of Correspondence and Taxonomy     68
Classification and the Common Law     73
Legal Information     73
"Common-placing"     74
Supply-Side Control versus an "Appalling Glut"     75
Key Numbers     76
Implications     78
Conclusion     80
Automated Classification and Indexing     83
Classifying and Indexing     84
How Automated Indexing Works     87
Can Artificial Intelligence Classify?     90
Can Artificial Intelligence Create Classificatory Schemes?     96
The Automated Mode in Principle     101
Internet Communication, Hypertext, and Automated Searching     104
Focused Searching     109
Open-Ended Searching     110
The Automated Mode in Practice     119
Automation and the Law     120
Scholarly Research and Education     129
Business and Manufacturing     138
The New Superorganic     141
Decentering the Individual     143
The New Super-organic     147
Opening Culture, Expanding Individuals     153
Notes     165
Bibliography     173
Index     189
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