The Readings of Hayles

This week I had the fortune to attend an informal seminar on My Mother was a Computer by N. Katherine Hayles hosted by the Institutionen för litteraturvetenskap och nordiska språk here at Umeå University. The first thing that made an impression on me was moving outside of the digital enclave (so to speak) into a more literature based approach to the subject. So often I speak and listen to ‘the converted’ when it comes to the relevance and importance of the digital text and technology. To hear other, very articulate opinions was stimulating and I think helped lessen the ‘awe’ factor I am certain I have in the case of a figure such as Katherine Hayles. This leads into the next unexpected return from the seminar.
How many ways are there to read a text? Even the reading of a text dealing with texts results in a broad set of diverse readings. This was the case in the Hayles Seminar, although there were several points of overlap. We dealt with only the first two chapters of My Mother was a Computer, “Intermediation: Textuality and the Regime of Computation” and “Speech, Writing, Code: Three Worldviews”. These sections provoked much discussion around philosophy, technology and language. The literal reading of metaphors of the “uploading of consciousness” and the “universal computer” themes of the text was another point of debate. World views as derived by inscription technologies (writing, code) was also a contentious area.
Overall it was very enjoyable session. I was surprised the two hours went by so quickly. Common points that seemed to come out the seminar were the complexity and relevance of the subject area, the effects that digital media are having on humanities discourses, and need for further work in the area. I hope to attend further seminars of this style in the future.