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{Sunday, September 07, 2003}

embedded togetherness

"You and the world are embedded together."
Gerald Edelman
quoted by Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch in
'The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience'
(MIT Press, 1993, page 200)

Encyclopaedia Autopoietica: Autopoiesis & Enaction Compendium

"Our central nervous systems are not fitted to some absolute laws of nature, but to laws of nature operating within a framework created by our own sensuous activity. Our nervous system does not allow us to see the ultraviolet reflections from flowers, but a bee's central nervous system does. And bats "see" what night-hawks do not. We do not further our understanding of evolution by general appeal to "laws of nature" to which all life must bend. Rather we must ask how, within the general constraints of the laws of nature, organisms have constructed environments that are the conditions for their further evolution and reconstruction of nature into new environments."
Richard Lewontin - The organism as the subject and object of evolution
Scientia 118: 63-82 (1983)

The morphological study of pattern
"If Hegel projected a historical pattern of figures minus an existential ground, Harold Innis, in the spirit of the new age of information, sought for patterns in the very ground of history and existence. He saw media, old and new, not as mere vertices at which to direct his point of view, but as living vortices of power creating hidden environments that act abrasively and destructively on older forms of culture."
Marshall McLuhan - Foreword to 'Empire & Communications' by Harold Innis
(University of Toronto Press, 1972, page v)

BBC - Radio 4 - Electronic Brains

"When this is, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this is not, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases."
Buddhist steps to an ecology of mind

"What you are you do not see, what you see is your shadow."
Rabindranath Tagore - 'Stray Birds'

Harold Adams Innis: The Bias of Communications & Monopolies of Power by Marshall Soules
"A medium of communication has an important influence on the dissemination of knowledge over space and over time and it becomes necessary to study its characteristics in order to appraise its influence in its cultural setting. According to its characteristics it may be better suited to the dissemination of knowledge over time than over space, particularly if the medium is heavy and durable and not suited to transportation, or to the dissemination of knowledge over space than over time, particularly if the medium is light and easily transported. The relative emphasis on time or space will imply a bias of significance to the culture in which it is imbedded.
Immediately we venture on this inquiry we are compelled to recognize the bias of the period in which we work. An interest in the bias of other civilizations may in itself suggest a bias of our own. Our knowledge of other civilizations depends in large part on the character of the media used by each civilization in so far as it is capable of being preserved or of being made accessible by discovery as in the case of the results of archaeological expeditions."
Harold Adams Innis - The Bias of Communication
(University of Toronto Press, 1971, page 33)

Sex Tips for Animals -- A Lighthearted Look at Mating
When the male honeybee ejaculates, he explodes and his genitals tear from his body with an audible snap.

Sponge builds a better glass fiber
Scientists say they have identified an ocean sponge living in the darkness of the deep sea that grows thin glass fibers capable of transmitting light at least as well as industrial fiber optic cables used for telecommunication. The natural glass fibers also are much more flexible than manufactured fiber optic cable that can crack if bent too far.
"You can actually tie a knot in these natural biological fibers and they will not break - it's really quite amazing," said Joanna Aizenberg, who led the research at Bell Laboratories.

Embedded.com - Is it time to move beyond zeroes and ones?
If the semiconductor industry starts dabbling in multi-valued logic systems, will engineers be willing to abandon binary in favor of ternary logic?
Bernard Cole writes:
"Theoretically, SiGe [silicon-germanium] could be used to build devices that move beyond simple 0/1, on-off based binary logic. Such structures can reliably generate multiple signal levels that are easily discriminated. They could be used to build 3-base, 4-base, and higher logic functions, effectively increasing a device's information density without further shrinking the transistor structure."

Steven Strogatz - How the Blackout Came to Life - [via Tesugen]
"When our own immune systems are performing at their best, they orchestrate their defenses through countless chemical conversations among T-cells and antibodies, enabling these defenders to calibrate their response to pathogens. In the same way, the thousands of power plants and substations in the grid need to be able to communicate with one another when any part of the system is breached, so they can collectively decide which circuit breakers should be tripped and which can safely remain intact.
The technology necessary to achieve this has existed for about a decade. It relies on computers, sensors and protective devices tied together by optical fiber so that all parts of the grid would be able to talk to one another at the speed of light - fast enough to get ahead of an onrushing blackout and confine it."

The Sensor Revolution - by Heather Green
"Duck Island is a laboratory for a new stage of computing known as sensor networks.
... While the last 50 years have been dominated by a march to ever more complex computers, the next few decades will see the rise of simple sensors -- by the billions."

Sensors of the World, Unite!
Ember CTO Robert Poor on turning wirelessly interconnected networks of sensors into a ubiquitous reality.
"There are microcontroller chips everywhere. During 2001, DARPA figures that there were 150 million CPU class chips sold. But during the same period of time, 7.5 billion embedded microcontrollers were sold. There are about 50 in your car. You probably have 100 around your house right now, just in little things like your toaster and your VCR controllers. Those are all candidates for being networked, because if the last two decades have taught us anything, it's that connectivity, not computation, makes something valuable. I could give you the fastest computer in the world with no Internet connection. How useful is that?"

Computer scientists unveil architecture for embedded single-chip supercomputer
August 27, 2003
Dr. Doug Burger and Dr. Stephen Keckler at The University of Texas at Austin have announced the design of an adaptive, high-performance microprocessor that could revolutionize computing. In collaboration with IBM, they are constructing a prototype system based on this architecture.
This new architecture, called TRIPS (the Tera-Op Reliable Intelligently Adaptive Processing System), is designed to provide supercomputer performance on a single chip ...
The TRIPS design uses a novel approach called "polymorphism" that permits unprecedented flexibility for running different types of software. The hardware includes a flexible grid of arithmetic circuits that exploits the natural flow of data within a program. The grid can be morphed so that the single piece of hardware can obtain high performance on a wide range of applications. This polymorphism allows TRIPS to support desktop, signal processing, graphics, server, scientific and embedded applications efficiently. This flexibility will allow a single TRIPS chip to be used in many different processor markets, replacing the current approach of having a unique and specialized processor for each market ...
The prototype will contain up to four processor cores, each capable of executing 16 operations per clock cycle, and a uniquely partitioned cache structure designed to offer higher performance than traditional approaches. The chip will contain more than 250 million transistors and will operate at 500 megahertz. The scientists' goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of a full-scale industrial development that could offer a 10-gigahertz chip capable of executing more than a trillion instructions per second.

Smart Dust
Autonomous sensing and communication in a cubic millimeter

Eye Spy - Rob Edwards writes for The Ecologist
"By 2010, [Pister] predicts that micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS, will make possible ten-cent radios, one-dollar three-colour laser projectors and sensors that will scream when anyone tries to remove valuables from your house.
Sand-sized devices will tell you if your baby stops breathing, fine-tune your central heating and guide you through busy traffic to a parking space. In 2020 tiny sensors implanted around your body will warn you when you are about to come down with a heart attack, cancer, or the flu. 'MEMS sensors will be everywhere, and sensing virtually everything. Scavenging power from sunlight, vibration, thermal gradients and background radio frequencies, sensor motes will be immortal, self-contained, single-chip computers with sensing, communications, and power supply built in,' Pister forecasts."

Wearing Wires - Malcolm Beith reports on i-textiles
"The worlds of fashion and technology now seem to be converging on one man. Sundaresan Jayaraman, an engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Textile and Fiber Engineering, is not a particularly flashy dresser, but he may have hit on just the thing to make high-tech clothing hip. Five years ago Jayaraman invented a way of making a kind of electronic fabric -- a supple mixture of natural fibers and gossamer-thin wires and optical fibers. He's been tinkering with it ever since, and now it�s almost ready for prime time ...
Jayaraman's fabric is, he says, a kind of wearable motherboard."

Bend the Rules of Structure - Metropolis Magazine - June 2003
A Brooklyn metalworking shop with an unlikely name may hold the key to 21st-century shapemaking.
"Any skin under some sort of force wants to take on a natural pattern. These patterns have some morphological laws. We are working with that idea and applying it to metal."
Haresh Lalvani

This Designer Sees the Cool Light - by Jane Black
Architect Sheila Kennedy is at the forefront of weaving new flexible and efficient lighting technologies into structures.
"Unlike traditional light, which is created by heating an incandescent filament until it throws off light-producing photons, cool light is made by using natural light or electricity to "excite" molecular crystals embedded in luminescent pigments or special light-emitting diodes.
One advantage of cool light is that it's much more efficient than the traditional man-made variety: Like a firefly, it gives off nearly 100% of its energy as visible light. By comparison, a light bulb gives off 10% light and 90% heat. And because cool light is, well, cool, it can be embedded into architectural materials such as fabric, glass, wood, acrylic, and plastic -- creating new interfaces between the physical world and digital technology.
"Cool light represents a new paradigm in illumination," says Kennedy. "It's the end of bulb culture."

Nature's Magic
Jellyfish that give off an eerie glow, fireflies that flicker in the dark, electric fish that can stun, or leeches that suck the life-blood from their victims. They all delighted and horrified our scientific forefathers. Now these same extraordinary natural phenomena have been harnessed by modern scientists to push medical science to new limits.

Trickster at the Crossroads by Erik Davis
In our monotheisms, God's information is distant, except for the occasional prophet, and the rest of us are lost in babble and books. But Legba is always traversing that region of babble, and embodies the hope and the peril of a more open channel: hope, because he allows us to speak with the gods and for them to speak with us; and peril, because he tends to play tricks with the information he has, to keep us perpetually aware that he oversees the network of exchange. His nickname is Aflakete, which means "I have tricked you."

The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception
from Dialectic of Enlightenment by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer - 1944
" ...[Radio] is democratic: it turns all participants into listeners and authoritatively subjects them to broadcast programs which are all exactly the same. No machinery of rejoinder has been devised, and private broadcasters are denied any freedom. They are confined to the apocryphal field of the "amateur" ... "

The New Amateur Journalists Weigh In - Emerging Alternatives: Blogworld
"Every significant new publishing phenomenon has been midwifed by a great leap forward in printing technology. The movable-type printing press begat the Gutenberg Bible, which begat the Renaissance. Moving from rags to pulp paved the way for Hearst and Pulitzer. The birth of alternative newspapers coincided almost perfectly with the development of the offset press. Laser printers and desktop publishing ushered in the newsletter and the 'zine ..."
Matt Welch

Life Without a Wick
"Gas-light meant a public connection between private spaces which allowed for the first time an entire city to be blacked-out. An explosion at New York's lower east side Gas Works in 1848 (resulting in the simultaneous failure of all the city's gas-lights) plunged the modern metropolis (for the first time) back into the chaos of the night: "The city that night was thrown into confusion. People stumbled through darkened streets falling into holes and colliding into objects."(12) The nature of gas-lighting meant that now the population of a city was bound together, for good and ill, by a shared technology."
Duncan Faherty

In Frayed Networks, Common Threads - by Seth Schiesel
(from The New York Times, 21 August, 2003)
Taken together, the blackout and the worm underscore a far-reaching challenge in managing modern technological societies: the difficulty of reaping the benefits of networks - railroad networks, airline networks, telephone networks, power networks and computer networks, among others - while minimizing their vulnerabilities.
"All of these events demonstrate that network effects, which are generally good in most situations, can go the other way,'' said Bruce Schneier, chief technical officer at Counterpane Internet Security in Cupertino, Calif., and author of "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World'' (Copernicus Books, 2003). "Networks are meant to connect disparate systems, but as they become larger, now you can have power outages that affect half the country, Internet outages, and broader sorts of problems.''
As Darryl Jenkins, director of the Aviation Institute, a unit of George Washington University, puts it: "The plus of a network is that everything is connected. The minus of a network is that everything is connected.''

(Weblogs and) The Mass Amateurisation of (Nearly) Everything...
"The whole of the mainstream media has started to look towards an undercurrent of individual amateur creation ..."
Tom Coates

This is your life - snapped, stored and sent in a moment - [via No Sense of Place]
Two trends converge, a revolution looms. Camera phones will change the way we record our lives, writes Sue Lowe.
"Until now, popular interest in photography has been in the long-term preservation of memories in treasured family albums. But with camera phones, the focus is more on sharing than storing."

Japan Media Review - Camera phones changing the definition of picture-worthy
Unlike the traditional camera, the camera phone is an intimate and ubiquitous presence that invites a new kind of personal awareness, a persistent alertness to the visually newsworthy that makes amateur photojournalists out of its users.

Waxy.org: Daily Log: Double Dee and Steinski's "The Lesson"
In 1983, Tommy Boy Records held a remix contest ...

Robert Christgau writes: "[Steinski]'s just a perpetually disillusioned optimist who still assumes that the sounds and images rippling through the American consciousness are, forget copyright, every American's birthright -- that we're all free to interpret and manipulate them as we choose."

Media and Cultural Change
"One can say of Innis what Bertrand Russell said of Einstein on the first page of his A B C of Relativity (1925): "Many of the new ideas can be expressed in non-mathematical language, but they are none the less difficult on that account. What is demanded is a change in our imaginative picture of the world." The "later Innis" who dominates The Bias of Communication had set out on a quest for the causes of change. The "early Innis" of The Fur Trade in Canada had conformed a good deal to the conventional patterns of merely reporting and narrating change. Only at the conclusion of the fur trade study did he venture to interlace or link complex events in a way that reveals the causal processes of change. His insight that the American Revolution was in large part due to a clash between the interests of the settlers on one hand and the interests of the fur traders on the other is the sort of vision that becomes typical of the later Innis. He changed his procedure from working with a "point of view" to that of the generating of insights by the method of "interface," as it is named in chemistry. "Interface" refers to the interaction of substances in a kind of mutual irritation. In art and poetry this is precisely the technique of "symbolism" (Greek "symballein" - to throw together) with its paratactic procedure of juxtaposing without connectives. It is the natural form of conversation or dialogue rather than of written discourse. In writing, the tendency is to isolate an aspect of some matter and to direct steady attention upon that aspect. In dialogue there is an equally natural interplay of multiple aspects of any matter. This interplay of aspects can generate insights or discovery. By contrast, a point of view is merely a way of looking at something. But an insight is the sudden awareness of a complex process of interaction. An insight is a contact with the life of forms. Students of computer programming have had to learn how to approach all knowledge structurally."
Marshall McLuhan - Introduction to 'The Bias of Communication' by Harold A. Innis
(University of Toronto Press, 1971, pages vii - viii)

Cyberspace as a paratactic aggregate
"So the virtual worlds constitute a strand of thought that stretches back through history ..."
Matt Webb

Test: The Web as Symbolic Form
" ... if we're looking to understand the web as Symbolic Form, we need to appreciate that it has never *really* occupied a hermetic 'virtual' space, but that even in its earliest forms, it has contained echoes and reflections of pre-existing modes of representation. Even more importantly, these modes of representation are continually being mutated, built upon and erased by its users - sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously."

On the virtual: cognitive science meets cultural theory
" ... Matt is really on to something when he suggests (and please tell me if I am reading too much into this) that cyberspace is a peculiar conflict of representation and performance ..."
[PurseLipSquareJaw] Anne Galloway

"Space and time, like language itself, are works of art, and like language they help condition and direct practical action. Long before Kant announced that time and space were categories of the mind, long before the mathematicians discovered that there were conceivable and rational forms of space other than the form described by Euclid, mankind at large had acted on this premise. Like the Englishman in France who thought that bread was the right name for le pain each culture believes that every other kind of space and time is an approximation to or a perversion of the real space and time in which it lives.
During the Middle Ages spatial relations tended to be organized as symbols and values."
Lewis Mumford - 'Technics and Civilization'
(George Routledge & Sons, 1946, page 18)

Alexander von Humboldt
"Languages are not really means of presenting an already known truth but, rather, of discovering a truth unknown until that moment."
Alexander von Humboldt

Where exactly is the painting I behold?

Humboldt's Echo
Language is ... creative process[ual] ... activity ...
"If we regard language not as pure ergon, but as energeia, we can drift from the pathologoanatomic point of view to the live reality. Humberto Maturana, in the 20th century, coined a very good word for this: languaging. He compared language activity, or languaging, to dance, calling it a dance or coordination of behaviors ...
... a language philosopher of the so-called neo-Humboldtian trend, Fritz von Mauthner, at the turn of the two previous centuries also used to repeat in his writings that language is movement ...
Fritz von Mauthner compared language with the bed of the river. The movement of the flow is languaging and the bed itself is the residue of this flow. Recurrent schemes of activity act like attractors (a mathematical term), they shape the everyday languaging in continuous echoing and re-echoing. They emerge like meanders, the recurrent paths of flowing rainwater on the glass ...
It is not for the sake of pure theory that we have to consider the essence of language activity. If language is reified, if it is regarded as a thing, or a collection of things, then another myth takes the floor: the myth of rules and exceptions, together with the myth of additive learning ...
'... The process of speech cannot be compared with simple transfer of material. The hearer, as well as the speaker, has to re-create it ...'
Nothing is actually transmitted or received, no material is transferred in communication, it is produced by the receiver according to the echoing pattern. Individual and social actions unite in a transient equilibrium of communication, they create the human sphere which inevitably becomes objective environment for every new individual to enter ...
Autopoietic systems create and re-create themselves in recurrent patterns of activity (Humberto Maturana, 1995). Two hundred years ago, long before any ideas of cybernetics or general system theory were formulated, [Wilhelm von] Humboldt considered languages to be "self-regulating and developing sound systems". The idea of echoing, or re-creation can also explain the phenomenon of understanding ...
If language as a whole is an emergent phenomenon, which does not exist in the material sense of the word, then how is understanding, or similar action or attitude, possible?
... Each human being ... uses his own system of "linguistic movements". Communicating ideas and understanding occurs as far as these systems intersect. Humboldt's metaphoric explanation uses the idea of two cones. Understanding is the more appropriate, the deeper the tips of these cones plunge one into the other. Complete understanding is thus an illusionary ideal.
Individual linguistic acts form the domain of joint linguistic actions. It is this domain that we traditionally call language ...
Using modern terminology, which has become popular after Barthes' and Kristeva's interpretation of Bakhtin's work, the consensual domain of language activity can be regarded as an intertextual activity. What we use in speech has already been used by previous speakers ... Even innovation is intertextual, since every new reading of a text is a new interpretation of its meanings ...
Language has no territory of its own ."
Viatcheslav B. Kachkine

Humberto Maturana - Metadesign

posted by Andrew 9/07/2003 02:38:00 PM