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273Re: [feyerabend-project] OOPSLA Workshop Invitation

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  • Pascal Costanza
    Oct 1, 2002
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      eliot@... wrote:
      > Don't know if this is news but there is some dissatisfaction in the art world with the "status quo" or the "contemporary scene", see
      > www.stuckism.com/index.html
      > and in particular their manifesto for Remodernism
      > www.stuckism.com/remod.html

      I have only quickly and superficially skipped through their manifesto,
      but I already don't like most of what they say. (This is a gut feeling
      for the time being.) This is partially because I am an atheist and
      therefore some of their statements appear strange to me (to say the
      least ;). However, my main objection here is that their manifesto
      doesn't seem radical enough. Let me explain what I mean by this...

      The current situation in our field is that there is a mainstream of
      research and practice that most of us don't like (some "cleaning women"
      [1] are Java, C#, XML, web services, and so on). Many of us suggest to
      replace these "cleaning women" with "obviously" better technologies and
      hope for these technologies to become the mainstream (again) instead.

      In "The Social Construction of What?" by Ian Hacking (a book that I have
      already mentioned elsewhere and that I highly recommend) gives the
      following analysis how such criticism works.

      "People begin to argue that X is socially constructed precisely when
      they find that:

      (0) In the present state of affairs, X is taken for granted; X appears
      to be inevitable."

      "Social construction work is critical of the status quo. Social
      constructionists about X tend to hold that:

      (1) X need not have existed, or need not be at all as it is. X, or X as
      it is at present, is not determined by the nature of things; it is not

      Very often they go further, and urge that:

      (2) X is quite bad as it is.
      (3) We would be much better off if X were done away with, or at least
      radically transformed."

      Hacking further explicates that "social constructionists" don't
      necessarily need to proceed from one argument to the next. We may think
      that something (an X) is not inevitable but we don't need to conclude
      that X is bad.

      Most of us in the "Feyerabend community" are social constructionists in
      this regard. We see the whole world focusing on Java and XML but we tend
      to argue that this is not because of the technical merits but just
      because of social merits at best or, even worse, just by accident. (I
      guess nearly all papers that have been submitted to Feyerabend workshops
      can be categorized by how far the authors go in their criticism.)

      Now, how radical can we get? What do we want to get rid of? I see two
      possibilities: (1) We want to do away with the current mainstream (Java,
      XML, and so on) and replace it with better technologies (Scheme,
      Smalltalk, s-expressions). (2) We don't want to have _any_ kind of

      I would rather like to think in terms of the second approach. I think
      the problems that we currently have result from the fact that there is a
      mainstream, and it doesn't matter what kind of mainstream it is. I don't
      think it would be an essential improvement if everyone would start to
      program in, say, Scheme and abandon everything else. This would just
      mean to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      For example, in my opinion students should learn at least five or six
      programming languages from at least three different programming
      paradigms, including pure and hybrid languages, dynamically and
      statically typed languages, and so on. There are studies that show that
      this is what makes good programmers. There's no single approach that is
      the cure to all problems. (Sorry, I am starting to ramble...)

      Back to the "stuckism": I have the feeling that they're playing the same
      post-modern game as everyone else. They want to attract attention and
      want to establish themselves as another subculture in the current
      diversity of subcultures. Any attempt to become "the mainstream" is
      unrealistic. I don't think we can do away with post-modernism. The
      attack on post-modernism that it cannot provide the answers people need
      is not an attack because post-modernism is essentially the
      _acknowledgement_ of the fact that there cannot be a (coherent) answer.

      The "biological framings" project can be interpreted as a statement that
      there are still lots of things to be researched. It doesn't aim at
      getting rid of the state of art. That's what I like about it - it adds
      to the field, it doesn't fight it. The "rainbow conference" idea is in
      the same vein.


      (I am a little bit lost in my own reasoning, so I stop here. ;)


      [1] The term "cleaning woman" is borrowed from the movie "Dead Men Don't
      Wear Plaid". In this comedy, the main character (played by Steve Martin)
      always goes berzerk when he hears the words "cleaning woman" because he
      has the traumatic experience that in his childhood, his father left his
      mother because of a cleaning woman.

      Pascal Costanza University of Bonn
      mailto:costanza@... Institute of Computer Science III
      http://www.pascalcostanza.de Ro"merstr. 164, D-53117 Bonn (Germany)
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