Friday, November 9, 2012


Anyone reading this in Santa Fe will fully understand why that word merits an exclamation point.  I've seen more rain today, I should think, than I saw all summer.  I was truly delighted, too, that all the beautiful aspen trees haven't yet lost their leaves.  Here, I'm parked outside my hairdresser, about to discover that he and his partner's consignment business is burgeoning in a back room, and some client had just brought in some Eileen Fisher clothes ... this is being a profitable trip for reasons other than writing, which, to my amazement, I was able to do all morning, only pausing occasionally to put out the odd smoldering office fire.  

And I've been able to clear space to read - today and yesterday it's been Kate Hayles's excellent new book on the Digital Humanities and their interface with Traditional Humanities, How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis.  Although I launched into this because I (rather improbably) have to be the respondent at a talk on Big Data and its representation on Tuesday, it's actually also proved very useful in thinking through some of the joins in the piece I'm writing right now on The Social Life of the Senses in the C19th and early C20th - partly because of what it has to say about attention, but even more so because of the references it gives to work on how the brain processes sensory information - so fast that we're conscious of very little of it.  That's no surprise, and nor is the fact that some of this information goes into our unconscious: what interests me more is the fact that there's stuff that we process through our neural pathways, thus training our neural pathways - and this stuff inhabits some other realm, the nonconscious.  Which is how we change and adapt, without knowing that we're doing so.  I know this isn't news to other people - indeed, at some semi-conscious level (let's try that for a further realm) it's not news to me (and Megan, if you're reading this, I know this is exactly the kind of stuff you're working on, and you would be quite right in thinking I should have taken it properly on board) but this feels like the first time I've read something that patiently and lucidly takes me through the steps of understanding it.  Or, more to the point, maybe I've just had precious little time of late to read and think ...

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