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A BIT of The Art of Failure

Every day, hundreds of millions of people around the world play video games—on smart phones, on computers, on consoles—and most of them will experience failure at some point in the game; they will lose, die, or fail to advance to the next level. Not completing Super Real Tennis is not a tragedy. But it feels like a failure. This BIT explores how it feels when we fail.

A BIT of Is Oedipus Online?

Can Freud be “updated” in the twenty-first century, or is he a venerated but outmoded genius? In this BIT, Jerry Aline Flieger stages an encounter between psychoanalysis and the new century, considering the psyche in cyberspace.

A BIT of The Consciousness Paradox

Consciousness is perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the world and yet it is so very familiar to each of us. In this BIT, tackling a central paradox of consciousness (namely, how it is possible to hold a number of seemingly inconsistent views about it), Rocco Gennaro proposes a version of the HOT (higher order thought) thesis that is consistent with animal consciousness. Gennaro’s integration of empirical and philosophical concerns will make his argument of interest to both philosophers and nonphilosophers.

A BIT of Eco-Business

Today, big-brand companies seem to be making commitments to sustainability that go beyond the usual “greenwashing” efforts undertaken largely for public relations purposes. McDonald’s promises to use only beef, coffee, fish, chicken, and cooking oil obtained from sustainable sources. Coca-Cola promises to achieve water neutrality. Walmart has pledged to become carbon neutral. This BIT examines some of these corporate sustainability efforts and their ultimate goal.

A BIT of Racing the Beam

The Atari Video Computer System dominated the home video game market so completely that “Atari” became the generic term for a video game console. This BIT examines the interplay between computation and culture in the Atari emulator Stella and the Atari VCS game Combat.

A BIT of The Memory Process

The humanities can add valuable insights to the study of memory. This BIT draws on recent neuroscientific research to explore one of the great masterpieces of fifteenth-century Flemish painting, Rogier van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross. It connects memory to the direct and indirect bodily responses to a work of art.

A BIT of Recoding Gender

Few people know that women were a significant presence in the early decades of computing in both the United States and Britain; programming in postwar years was considered woman’s work (perhaps in contrast to the more manly task of building the computers themselves). This BIT offers a chapter in this untold history of women and computing, describing women’s career stratagems in academic computing—recounting both the obstacles female scholars have faced and their resourceful strategies for gaining credentials and finding alternative ladders to visibility and career advancement.

A BIT of Toward a Minor Architecture

Jill Stoner’s architect’s eye tracks differently from most, drawn not to the lauded and iconic but to what she calls “the landscape of our constructed mistakes”—metropolitan hinterlands rife with failed and foreclosed developments, undersubscribed office parks, chain hotels, and abandoned malls. In this BIT, Stoner introduces the idea of “minor architectures” that emerge from the bottoms of power structures and within the language of those structures.

A BIT of The Illusion of Conscious Will

Do we consciously cause our actions, or do they happen to us? Philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists, theologians, and lawyers have long debated the existence of free will versus determinism. This BIT, excerpted from an influential book by the late Daniel Wegner, offers an innovative view of one aspect of free will. Wegner argues that when people project action to imaginary agents, they create virtual agents, apparent sources of their own volition.

A BIT of The Parallax View

Parallax can be defined as the apparent displacement of an object, caused by a change in observational position. Slavoj Žižek is interested in the “parallax gap” separating two points between which no synthesis or mediation is possible, linked by an “impossible short circuit” of levels that can never meet. In this BIT, Žižek draws on Lacan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kant, Hegel, and Marx to explore the philosophical implications of parallax.

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