9(2), April 1992, pages 55-69

Science-Literature Inquiry as Pedagogical Practice:
Technical Writing, Hypertext, and a Few Theories, Part II

Joe Amato

The Network Freeway, or,
Finding the Cost of Freedom

In "Part I," I began with a brief foray into technical writing, suggesting that what I regard as a relatively amorphous field of inquiry might be rejuvenated--indeed, clearly is being rejuvenated in many writing programs--by the influx of electronic media. This led me to consider the question of how best to evaluate the interplay of these new writing technologies with pedagogical and curricular concerns. Specifically, I turned my attention to hypertext, interrogating the contours of French philosopher Michel Serres's scientific-literary project to determine whether his seemingly hypertextual ruminations foreground the epistemological issues at stake in adopting new learning technologies, new ways of making and using knowledge.

Having directed my attention for some pages toward Serres's commentators, I feel it only fair to point out that I have myself failed to resolve the knotty (node-y?) matter of Serres's complicity in what would appear to be the simultaneous affirmation of and resistance to a Grand Design of Information-cum-Knowledge, one that both supplants older monolithic systems and yet remains curiously inconclusive on the more ideological ramifications of structural "gaps," absences, even inconsistencies (of what, finally, does a "hole" consist?). Moreover, though I find intriguing Serres's conception of a corpus, and dynamics, of knowledge that is--literally, for once--"shot through" both with meaning and holes (like my argument), it will avail us little merely to acquiesce to such a premise, turning to our hypermedia friends with a "damn the torpedoes." For if knowledge is intrinsically lacunae-riddled, cataclysmic, what sorts of "friction" might we expect to encounter given the customary "pretense" of an intricate and global whole, the assumption that, hypertextually speaking, anything is not only possible, but also functionally present?

The issue has been, right along, more than one of epistemologies or aesthetics, but of omissions, of politics; for those who do the knowledge working, and who fund it, will in all likelihood determine not only our degrees of browsing freedom--which raises the methodological question of a "universal" language, or aesthetic--but also whether what we browse will be constructed in accordance with presumed wholes, or in accordance with presumed holey wholes. Holey or un-holey, there are likely to be possibilities excluded, for the hypermedia model--relative to which Serres's work represents, as I have suggested, an albeit loosely-wrought precursor--distributes a modicum of apparent power to each terminal, each user. Hence, one's chosen pathway, however idiosyncratic, is a link to more, and more, and more information, the blessings of interconnectedness thus serving to obscure either real or apparent glitches in the database. In strictly negative terms: If Serres is wrong, we end up with hidden programming oversights and errors; if correct, we are likewise unable to identify or to locate some very real lapses in our understanding, for how can we distinguish oversight from discontinuity, error from intrinsic inconsistency? (This question complicates the matter of whether such lapses are, as Prigogine and Stengers suggest, unavoidable.) Moreover, the assumption of an un-holey body of knowledge brings with it a rather nasty standardization of motive: If the network whole--only a portion of which can be accessed at a terminal at a given instant--is viewed both as complete and homogeneous, the individual user's endeavor might well be construed as that of attaining a momentary glimpse of undifferentiated divinity. This is all highly speculative, to be sure, yet it serves to illustrate the degree to which our abstractions are brought to bear upon actual practices only at the risk of a reduction in theoretical complexity and a corresponding demarcation of individual human choice. Network membership may have its privileges, but such privileges are subject to local and global regulation.

What I prefer to think of as a quasi-scientific quandary, then, is thrown into greater relief when we consider the way current work in hypertext design is shaping up. Here is John M. Slatin (1990) on the question of how to design browsing pathways:

If you want the reader to open a specific node or sequence of nodes, you can either try to influence the reader's course of action, for example by highlighting a 'preferred pathway' through the material, or you can simply pre-empt the reader's choice by automating the sequence or hiding links you don't want the reader to pursue. (Though if you take that route you give up many of the advantages of hypertext, it seems to me.) (p. 880)

Hence, programmers can choose to ignore, for example, some useful and rather basic techniques, such as flagging topics in the data search that currently resist linkage; better simply to exclude them, or to create sophisticated detours to avoid these new construction sites. It all sounds like a bloody exercise in urban and regional planning, I know, but the consequences of such reroutings are potentially quite serious. How might one go about linking current feminist research into women's history--a history that is in dire need of sustained articulation--with current histories of, say, mathematics? Far easier to leave one or the other out of the "picture," and we all know which is the more likely to be bypassed.

But Slatin is not quite as naive about the ideological implications of "influence" or "hiding links" as his euphemisms might suggest. "I think of hypertext coherence as appearing at the metatextual level," Slatin writes. He goes on to observe that

This metatextual level is perhaps best represented by a visual map of some kind, whose nodes would open up to map subordinate patterns. This map ought to be readily accessible from any point in the hyperdocument, which suggests that it might be "iconized" and placed at a consistent screen location. This sounds simple enough, perhaps; but it becomes problematic again when we remember that we're dealing with a fluid system and multiple participants, and we start to ask whose understanding such maps represent. (p. 881)

The map metaphor may well provide a convenient representational strategy with which to model this unstable, "fluid system." Yet maps, whether of the flowchart or road atlas variety, generally induce a mimetic response to matters, the tacit correspondence between the map and the thing mapped. In this case, the thing mapped is the specific information network one is plugged-in to, and there are few such networks today that are not already capable of linkage to much larger systems, systems of global proportions. (Note that "linkage" itself has become a key metaphor in the contemporary political arena.) Given the relative uncertainty that surrounds a question as basic as Slatin's "how big should a node be?"--as he indicates, "Like the paragraph, the hypertext node is a way of structuring attention, and its boundaries, like those of the paragraph, are somewhat arbitrary" (p. 878)--what we might regard as a further territorialization of information terrain should encourage us to consider the advantages of a more holey, Serresian model of network and hypertext.

As I see it, the assumption of a truly "fluid system," a system whose discontinuities are not about to be explained away as mere errors, would likely result in a somewhat different approach to hypertext design. What Slatin refers to as the "problem of relationality"--"the nodes must seem complete in themselves, yet at the same time their relations to other nodes must be intelligible" (p. 878)--is, as he writes, a consequence of the fact that "the link simulates the connections in the mind of author and reader; and it is precisely because the electronic link is only a simulation that problems will arise" (p. 877). "Only a simulation," yes, but a simulation that, as I earlier indicated, is the coup de grace, or perhaps coup d'état, of a henceforth potentially overpowering AI establishment and of a further extension of hard-wired motives. But if Serres's program is closer to the mark--and Prigogine's work in chaos theory, in fact, provides a fascinating and congenial hypothesis [1] --such simulations will themselves suffer from a preconditioned (or, if you will, innate) inability to predict future reader pathways, not simply as a consequence of human capriciousness, but because things at Slatin's "metatextual level" simply and profoundly are that way. As Stuart Moulthrop (1991) has recently argued (using terminology developed by hyperfiction author Michael Joyce), a "rhetoric of constructive hypertext" might reject the metaphor of a hypertextual "subject territory," substituting instead that of a "scene of creation," the user/reader henceforth navigating a "deterritorialized space of electronic writing" that allows for true co-construction; such a rhetoric "would presumably be founded not on coherence and order but on instability and 'chaos'" (p. 154-155). [2]

For the moment, however, I would like to pursue the implications of a somewhat more territorialized space, if for no other reason than the fact that most hypertext design activity takes such space for granted (it would seem to be tough not to). Slatin's (1990) remarks regarding author-reader predictabilities warrant careful scrutiny:

But the freedom of movement and action available to the reader--a freedom including the possibility of co-authorship --means that the hypertext author has to make predictions as well: for the author, the difficulty at any given moment is to provide freedom of movement and interaction, while at the same time remaining able to predict where the reader/user will go next. The most effective solution here, I think, will be to treat each node [italics added] as if it were certain to be the reader's next destination. This is time-consuming in the short run, but in the long run probably saves time by creating a more readily usable system. (p. 877)

Time, yes, but time is too often these days equated with money, and it is unlikely, given the current predominance of relatively short-term fiscal policies, that even this conciliatory gesture toward providing for a more flexible network structure will be implemented wholesale. Yet my italics point to a further complication, a major presumption at work in current hypertext design: However much "freedom of movement and action" we may grant the reader, the mapped territory--a territory designated by nodes of whatever size--will remain essentially the same, for readers may not alter the nodes themselves (at least, surely not in more public databases). A holey (or "constructive") model of hypertext, on the other hand, would imply that the formation of nodes is much like the formation of inter\disciplinary knowledges: Out of an uncontrolled, chaotic ferment of information, out of "thousands of" relational "voices" (please excuse the mixed metaphor), we may expect to find lapses in what we know, black holes in our databases.

This is not as mysterious as it may seem at first glance: Everyone has experienced the changes in perspective and values associated with growth, and these changes would seem to be built into the evolution of complex organisms (and possibly--Alas!--machines so designed). [3] The emergence of information lapses, the ebb and flow of redundancies, noises, messages, the relative values that e-merge when geno-, pheno- and eco spheres merge--these suggest that we might organize (though perhaps not optimize) our hypertext systems by employing, if a map metaphor, then one with a topographical dimension. Topographies, in this case, would amount to, say, frequency of citation of a given node, one measure of the (conventional) user value attributed to such information, and perhaps a way of pinpointing the degree of saturation in a current field of inquiry. Such topographies, however "iconized," would ensure that the question of relational values would at least remain visible; and it would be somewhat less likely that those "new construction sites" I referred to would be left out of the information traffic scheme. (Paulson (1988) offers a fascinating enhancement of the information theory metaphor I am busy exploiting.)

Likewise, notation could be developed to flag the emergence of newer pathways, and these, in combination with low citation frequency (low "elevations"?), might perhaps be taken as a sign that innovative knowledges ("eruptions"?) may be on the horizon of a particular region. I recognize the difficulties associated with complete user freedom: How could we manage a system--without a rather extensive policing effort--whose participants might purposefully alter nodes, facts, and the like out of sheer malcontent? Nonetheless, I would argue that the user/reader must be permitted some access, however keyed, to such nodes, for it is through active human contribution not only to linkage, to relations, but also to textual content that the "meme pool" will remain various and productive. And an active interface between user and node has the further advantage of allowing the individual to participate in node construction, hence to note the tentative nature of nodes themselves, to observe the growth both of linearities and nonlinearities, continuities and ruptures.

Imagine a hypermedia network the size of Detroit, constructed in accordance with future nanotechnological-holographic information storage techniques: Every fact, image, thought, dream of recorded history--and, were we somehow, albeit frightening to think, plugged into the system in real time, every moment of waking (sleeping?) human existence--could doubtless be incorporated into this gigantic brain. How would one go about measuring the significance of a presidential assassination against, say, that of a poem by Richard Brautigan? Lost in bitmapped space, perhaps, either way, but the recognition that our knowledges are transient, no matter how stable, that we may anticipate and participate in the emergence of conceptual and lived loopholes, should help us to design such systems with some thought given to the impact of the criterion "user-friendly" on simulated-cum-real consciousness: We ought not necessarily to optimize our data processing, but allow instead for discrepancies between our processing models (links, nodes, protocols, procedures, and all) and the somewhat less tangible, though utterly material, experience of living. . . .

Before I drop off into that quasi-scientific, metaphysical-cum-ontological whirlpool of the prior section, I might do well at this point to turn to a few remarks by Richard Ohmann to help me ground out in more educational exigencies--my presumed platform, after all.

Left Turn

If hypertext/hypermedia technologies, Serresian or otherwise, provide previously isolated users with a means of connecting previously isolated bodies of knowledge--thus compounding the so-called "literacy crisis" by, for example, making it virtually impossible to detect plagiarism, by in fact challenging all received wisdom on what actually constitutes "literacy" itself (a "universalized," multinational "computer literacy" would seem to loom large on the cybernetic horizon)--it is likewise the case that such technologies promise to contribute to a further blurring of distinctions between disciplinary practices, one that has thus far resulted chiefly from the development of an amorphous, multidisciplinary field of inquiry currently construed broadly as "cultural studies" (of which science-literature research represents only a small, though vital, part). Whether of an essentialist or social constructionist cast, or both, [4] this new breed of scholar, I would argue, however controversial, however engaged in re-writing disciplinary boundaries, is nonetheless a participant in what Richard Ohmann refers to as the "network of relations that surrounds criticism" (p. 21). [5] Ohmann's use of the ubiquitous communications metaphor, near-dead these days, is itself one indication that his (Marxist) insights may be applicable to the curricular issues before us.

Ohmann argues for a materialistic, user-oriented view of critical production: He implies that, unlike cooking, criticism does not have "a clear use value" (p. 21). Moreover, if "in the market," cooking "is the usual sort of commodity," it would seem even more difficult to assign criticism a corresponding "exchange value" (p. 21). "For whom does a work of criticism have a use value?," he asks. His answer: "Certainly for other critics, who use it to inform their teaching and also to 'keep up' with their field and to help them produce criticism of their own" (p. 21). Ohmann's not-so-gentle irony here emerges from his concern not to gloss over the palpable institutional agenda that guides critical inquiry. He writes:

This is not to say that critics and students never enjoy criticism or that nobody ever reads it in a disinterested way, but only that as we seek the use value of criticism we find ourselves circling, for the most part, within a chain of uses created by critics themselves. (p. 21)

For Ohmann, "Criticism is a strange kind of production, within capitalism, and barely a commodity at all" (p. 22).

If critics are speaking primarily to themselves and to their students, generating material that, though of some use to a relatively few individuals, is of little real marketability, a curious anomaly emerges: Critics become, in Marxist terms, unalienated laborers. As Ohmann puts it, "our 'work' as critics, precisely because it does not produce a commodity that our employers appropriate . . . is not alienated labor" (p. 23). Despite the fact that "many critics must do this labor to survive," (p. ?) the final product belongs to the critics themselves. "Copyright symbolizes this fact," Ohmann asserts, "as does the recording of publications and delivered papers on our vitae"; hence, "critics come closer than most people ever do to freedom from the usual conditions of labor in capitalist society" (p. 23). This prompts Ohmann to pose twin versions of what I take to be his central question:

Why then is criticism not entirely satisfying to those who practice and consume it? Why doesn't criticism appear to us as an area of freedom--both a free exercise of our creative labor and a freely chosen collaboration with others in the exchange and development of ideas? (p. 23)

Both "free exercise of our creative labor" and "freely chosen collaboration with others" suggest the sorts of freedoms one might wish to have at work both in the design and use of hypermedia systems and, even more to the point, in the implementation of courses, curricula, departments, disciplines--the contemporary multiversity itself. Ohmann offers "two answers to this question, both of which point to the same kind of structural defect in our freedom" (p. 23). Perhaps such a "structural defect" may be taken to characterize a similar defect both in more literal and more figurative networks.

Ohmann provides his first "answer" by revising his earlier stance on "exploitation." He observes that "it is not quite true that we do criticism outside the system of exploitation," for "the university claims its rank among institutions mainly by citing the research that its faculty carries out, even otherwise useless research like criticism" (p. 23-24). As might be expected, Ohmann thus locates one aspect of the aforesaid "defect" in the "familiar truth that higher education plays a part in reproducing the class system" (p. 24)--a familiar Marxist truth, to be sure. So the critic, like it or not, "participates through criticism in the processes of competition and of class, as well as that of exploitation" (p. 24). The resulting felt "tension" between what is free and not-so-free is, for Ohmann, at the root of critics' dissatisfaction.

With regard to Ohmann's first answer, I can offer only that a curricular hypertext model, although surely not utterly free (what would that be, anyhow?) has at least the advantage of bringing together potentially opposing, disparate points of view under the aegis of what we might term "establishing use value." That is, though we certainly would not want to reduce all inquiry to a utilitarian premise, linkage between courses and disciplines tends to highlight the types of questions, and modes of inquiry, that characterize both practical and more impractical disciplinary knowledges and practices. I have noted that my tech writing students, as they begin to tinker with the wide array of software and hardware at their disposal--Microsoft's WORD, MAIL, and EXCEL; Apple's HYPERCARD and DISCOURSE; Aldus' PAGEMAKER; Silicon Beach Software's SUPERPAINT; Farallon Computing's TIMBUKTU; several diagnostic/reference programs; a host of freeware and shareware; a scanner; laser printers; e-mail; and access to external network databases--would seem to intuit that this newfound, yes, freedom affords a means of creating, individually, a relatively fresh "approach" to academic tasks. (Many students regularly bring coursework from other classes into the lab during lab hours, and there have been numerous requests to extend such hours.) That even a multiplicity of such "approaches" partakes of a postindustrial capitalist agenda--the customary Marxist response--is, I would argue, no reason not to view such efforts as relieving a bit of "tension." Besides, as with Pirsig's (1974) John and Sylvia, who "depend on technology and condemn it at the same time," turning our backs on these developments is likely to contribute to our "dislike of the whole situation" (p. 51--I realize that I'm beginning to sound rather like a disgruntled Frankfurt School dropout). Surely faculty members can benefit here, as well, particularly as regards a more open acknowledgment that academic "competition," with its corresponding pejorative "intellectual theft," is more properly viewed as the interplay of diverse groups engaged in producing, and consuming, diverse knowledges for diverse reasons. We in the humanities might even start talking to our colleagues in the sciences, and vice versa.

Ohmann's (1987) second answer is a variation on his first: He views the failure of criticism to "measure up to its ideal" (p. 24) as a function of the history of the critical enterprise, which has progressively redirected "the class relations of judgment" (p. 25), bringing them to bear, finally, on criticism itself. The emergence of "professionalization"--those institutional mechanisms providing for the judging of criticism "at every stage of a career"--and its corollary, "the lifelong race to distinguish oneself in the judgment of other professionals"--have, in Ohmann's words, "led to some rather arcane intellectual gymnastics, to an idea of criticism as an art in competition with literature" (p. 25). Because the "social relations internal to criticism duplicate" those of the "larger society," criticism has (presumably) evinced a "tendency to make knowledge inaccessible and private rather than collaborative" (p. 25).

Now, I have no wish to find myself, like E. D. Hirsch, culpable on the count of having advocated a liberal, accessible, theoretically-superficial, and ultimately mechanistic account of the pathway to educational wholeness (for a critical evaluation of Hirsch, see Ohmann 1990). But I must aver that hypermedia technologies tend to encourage the development both of a more public, and less competitive, response toward "collaboration"--it is easy to envision students working together cooperatively on various facets of a large project--as well as a learning environment somewhat less hospitable to intellectual funambulism. Once one overcomes the initial difficulties associated with grasping any new technology, it becomes clear that there are simply too many creative alternatives present to permit all but an exceptional few from attaining "guru" status--the popular and, in truth, quite inaccurate myth that such individuals are the mainstays of the mainframe world. That it would seem unlikely that more than a few will grasp the "big picture" is less a cause for alarm--the "big picture" is getting bigger all the time, thank you--than further reason to get our collective feet wet, to get involved. And one way to ensure that all will get involved may well be to rethink curricula with a view toward establishing the types of linkages between disciplinary nodes that characterizes work in hypermedia modeling.

I can hear the objections already: But this is yet an extrapolation of your hard-wiring bugbear, the university becoming itself a simulation of a simulated mind! How do you expect us to rethink educational imperatives while engaged in material practices that metaphorically mimic such thinking? My only response is that, bit by digital bit--and, following Ohmann's lead, to revise somewhat my earlier (rhetorical) stance--the transformation of educational curricula to educational network would appear to be well-underway, both metaphorically and materially. Henceforth, we need to openly acknowledge such wholesale changes in order to bring all of our resources to bear on making the ever-marketable end-product as livable as possible.


Perhaps the sorts of systemic problems, local and global, that I have detailed over the last two installments cannot, finally, be resolved by an attention to system, by the somewhat tenuous connections I have made between global theories of knowledge and the educational uses to which various knowledges are put, my hobbyhorse throughout. I certainly haven't resolved my own, somewhat personal dilemma regarding the teaching of tech writing; neither have I done a good job of explaining, however little I may be inclined to resist the intrusion of the computer into my classroom, why I would nonetheless argue that we can ill afford to implement rashly a deterministic notion of computer literacy. It may be that we need simply, and for once, to step outside of the systemic-cybernetic perspective--if this is still possible--and to address the pertinent questions in terms of context-specific human values, a genuinely micro-scale approach to social woes. Personally, I find it difficult to endorse any view that fails to account for the impact of social technologies on social consciousness; I would venture, as well, that we are only beginning to understand the full ramifications of the past half-century of technical and scientific innovation. [6] Yet a cavalier attitude regarding either the more technical or the more social dimensions of these problems will do little to mitigate the enormous rift that currently separates advanced research in the sciences from that in the humanities. I have reservations, as well, that the apparent attraction computer technologies hold for, interestingly enough, the tradition of textual scholarship--whose business it is, after all, to collate, annotate and preserve textual data--or, for that matter, the gradual predominance of word processors in text production are, taken together, sufficient indication that the situation is improving, for what is yet lacking is an active and widespread contribution by humanities practitioners, working philosophically at the hypermedia design level, as well as a willingness on the part of hypermedia experts to tackle the more fundamental philosophical questions in technical terms. I would have it, as always, many ways: We surely need to develop incentives that will encourage inter- and extra-academic cross-fertilization, for we surely need to become, and to help others to become, what our namesake would imply: students of the arts and sciences. [7]

Joe Amato teaches in the English Department of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


  1. See Prigogine and Stengers (1984). James Gleick (1987) offers a somewhat different account of chaos theory. For a lucid, stimulating analysis and comparison of Prigogine's and Gleick's contrasting theories, see Porush (1990). As Porush writes: "In short, Prigogine's powerful work provides a model for the rise of complex, self-organizing systems from apparently chaotic conditions" (p. 432).

  2. Moulthrop does in fact cite Prigogine and Stengers' work. In an article that appears in the same issue of Writing on the Edge, Johndan Johnson-Eilola argues instructively that "The confusion between 'information' and 'knowledge' makes it an easy task for hypermedia writers to overwhelm readers, to blind them to gaps and inaccuracies in information" (p. 99). In distinguishing between "information" and "knowledge," and the sorts of "empowering literacies" implied by an emphasis on one or the other, Johnson-Eilola's discussion of hypertext technologies indeed "parallels the distinction between functional and cultural literacy" (p. 101) and likewise tacitly invokes the salient question as to how knowledge and information co-evolve within a sociocultural matrix. I recommend this issue of WOE to anyone interested in examining in more detail current controversies surrounding hypertext; fully one-third of the issue is devoted to this topic, and it includes a diskette containing two hypertexts! I might note in passing that co-construction (or co-creation, or co-authorship, or collaboration) itself raises the ideological question of whether differences (and diversity) might not thereby be inadvertently sacrificed to some overarching systemic imperative. K. Eric Drexler (1987), founder of the nanotechnology movement and president of The Foresight Institute (an organization dedicated to the advancement of molecular technologies), observed some time ago that hypertext would "speed" the "evolution of knowledge" by facilitating the "generation, spread and testing of memes" (p. 223); recall Dawkins (1976). If, as Drexler argues, "Hypertext will let us represent knowledge in a more natural way" (p. 224), such "knowledge" will nonetheless have to be scrutinized closely to determine to what extent it has been subsumed by what is ostensibly "natural."

  3. As social creatures, we surely do not "grow" alone. Yet "cooperation," too, may be thought of as an evolutionary process. For a provocative account, complete with mathematical underpinning, see Axelrod (1984). The question of experiential evolutionary change is articulated in utterly fascinating terms in C. S. Peirce's (1955) brief essay, "The Architecture of Theories" (originally published in 1891). In speaking of the "metaphysics" implied by his "philosophical architectonic," Peirce writes: "It would suppose that in the beginning--infinitely remote--there was a chaos of unpersonalized feeling, which being without connection or regularity would properly be without existence" (p. 323).

  4. Given the rather odd blend of phenomenological and Marxist impulses that characterizes most constructionist work (including my own, pragmatically-inspired stuff), it is not too difficult to locate occasional essentialist lapses; nor are all essentialists, for that matter, resolutely beyond constructing provisional answers to complex questions. The connectionists (and the sociobiologists) advocate, at bottom, an essentialist response to biological matters. As I see it, the entire question revolves around the types of political commitments, however muted, one brings to one's work. For a good discussion of what this might mean for cultural studies in general, see Nelson (1991). For an excellent example of how scientific discourse communities may be productively interrogated from specifically ideological (feminist) perspectives, see the collection of essays edited by Jacobus, Keller, and Shuttleworth (1990).

  5. See Ohmann (1987). I am aware, of course, that Ohmann attends specifically to computer technologies on p. 220-225. I have in mind, however, to proceed a bit irregularly, to examine the degree to which Ohmann's presumably nontechnological insights may be construed in light of such "advances." It seems to me, in any case, a fair way of accommodating his "hope" that we "will manage to shape that technology to democratic forms" (p. 228). And I might add that I am in complete agreement with him that "computers are a commodity, for which a mass market is being created in quite conventional ways" (p. 224).

  6. For a minor, but telling, example of the degree to which genetic theory promises to present us with controversial explanations of human social and cultural behavior, see Nordheimer (1991), in which it is reported that Dr. Franz Halberg, "considered the father of chronobiology" and a member of the University of Minnesota's Chronobiological Laboratories, is "convinced that body rhythms of approximately seven days might be the force that impelled mankind toward the seven-day week" (p. 15). Regarding these circadian rhythms, Halberg is quoted as stating: "I believe we can now demonstrate, with the help of computer analysis, overwhelming evidence that there are seven-day rhythms produced by nature . . . They are in our genes, and it is very big news" (p. 15).

  7. I wish to express my thanks here to novelist Richard Powers (most recently, The Gold Bug Variations) whose review of an earlier draft of this manuscript helped me pinpoint strategic moments when my ambivalence regarding technological change somewhat vitiated my argument. Thanks, Rick. Naturally, I take full responsibility for remaining lapses, reifications, and flip asides.


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