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{Friday, October 17, 2003}

encounter textual recombination machines

Mediamatic: Geert Lovink: The Archeology of Computer Assemblage
The 'Ars Combinatoria' of Berlin philosopher-engineer Werner Künzel.
Künzel: "An engineer-philosopher is someone who derives his concept of reality from the media he works with. This is a huge break with the concept of reality as it has been taught up to the present, which is still based on Plato's Dialogues. We still use a table, a chair or a tree for an example. It may sound curious, but our concept of reality hasn't changed in 2000 years. If we think from a technological media paradigm we're not supposed to take the possible loss of bodily powers of perception for granted. It's more about making a concession to the changed environment. The engineer-philosopher does not per se have to take these developments any further either, but he should at least think about them. We should at the very least realize what happens when knowledge is transferred and stored through media."

Understanding the Human Brain - CogLab Experiment: Brain Asymmetry

"Unlike animal species we are out of balance with and in the world. Speech is the consequence and maintainer of this disequilibrium. Interpretation (translation) keeps the pressures of inventive excess from overwhelming and randomizing the medium. It limits the play of private intention, of plurality in meaning, at least at a rough and ready level of functional consensus. In an ambiguity which is at one level ontological and at another ironic, idiomatic level, political or social, we speak left and act right. Translation mediates: it constrains the constant drive to dispersion. But this too, of course, is conjecture."
George Steiner - After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation
(Oxford University Press, New York, 1975, pages 281-282)

Haptics and Habitats of Reading
"Disconcerted e-book promoters complain that people "just don't like to read from a screen". Actually, people love to read from a screen as the popularity of the Web indicates. I suggest that resistance to the e-book is not related to screen resolution, but to impaired haptic features."
Gary Frost

Santiago dreaming [via Sensible Erection]
When Pinochet's military overthrew the Chilean government 30 years ago, they discovered a revolutionary communication system, a 'socialist internet' connecting the whole country. Its creator? An eccentric scientist from Surrey. Andy Beckett on the forgotten story of Stafford Beer [via also not found in nature]
"During the early 70s, in the wealthy commuter backwater of West Byfleet in Surrey, a small but rather remarkable experiment took place. In the potting shed of a house called Firkins, a teenager named Simon Beer, using bits of radios and pieces of pink and green cardboard, built a series of electrical meters for measuring public opinion. His concept - users of his meters would turn a dial to indicate how happy or unhappy they were with any political proposal - was strange and ambitious enough. And it worked. Yet what was even more jolting was his intended market: not Britain, but Chile.
Unlike West Byfleet, Chile was in revolutionary ferment. In the capital Santiago, the beleaguered but radical marxist government of Salvador Allende, hungry for innovations of all kinds, was employing Simon Beer's father, Stafford, to conduct a much larger technological experiment of which the meters were only a part. This was known as Project Cybersyn, and nothing like it had been tried before, or has been tried since.
Stafford Beer attempted, in his words, to "implant" an electronic "nervous system" in Chilean society ..."

Giordano Bruno writes:
"In 1979 I heard Stafford Beer lecture at the Open University, on "Project Cybersyn" a system of teletext machines he had installed in Allende's Chile, to make the economy cybernetic.
Only departures from planned targets would be communicated, a vision of a nation under instant feedback control. Like any Central Planning guru, he failed to grasp the key ideas of complexity and de-centralised networks. A monolith center can only create. Once created, bureaus and departments persist forever, pretending to produce. Only Capital with corporate takeover and bankruptcy, has solved the problem of removing dead wood. Just maybe, Beer's teletypes might have been able to identify dud departments. Thanks to Kissingers cowboys we will never know."

The Allende Myth + Cybernetics for the People
Autopoietic Theory and Social Systems: Theory and Practice
Slashdot: Cybersyn And Early Uniminds

The Televisionary - by Malcolm Gladwell
"The idea of television arose from two fundamental discoveries. The first was photoconductivity. In 1872, Joseph May and Willoughby Smith discovered that the electrical resistance of certain metals varied according to their exposure to light. And, since everyone knew how to transmit electricity from one place to another, it made sense that images could be transmitted as well. The second discovery was what is called visual persistence. In 1880, the French engineer Maurice LeBlanc pointed out that, because the human eye retains an image for about a tenth of a second, if you wanted to transmit a picture you didn't have to send it all at once. You could scan it, one line at a time, and, as long as you put all those lines back together at the other end within that fraction of a second, the human eye would be fooled into thinking that it was seeing a complete picture.
The hard part was figuring out how to do the scanning. In 1883, the German engineer Paul Nipkow devised an elaborate and ultimately unworkable system using a spinning metal disk. The disk was punctured with a spiral of small holes, and, as it spun, one line of light after another was projected through the holes onto a photocell. In 1908, a British electrical engineer named A. A. Campbell Swinton suggested that it would make more sense to scan images electronically, using a cathode ray. Philo Farnsworth was the first to work out how to do that. His image dissector was a vacuum tube with a lens at one end, a photoelectric plate right in front of the lens to convert the image from light to electricity, and then an "anode finger" to scan the electrical image line by line. After setting up his laboratory, Farnsworth tinkered with his makeshift television camera day and night for months. Finally, on September 7, 1927, he was ready."

Philo Farnsworth
"... was actually born in a log cabin, rode to high school on horseback and, without benefit of a university degree (indeed, at age 14), conceived the idea of electronic television -- the moment of inspiration coming, according to legend, while he was tilling a potato field back and forth with a horse-drawn harrow and realized that an electron beam could scan images the same way, line by line, just as you read a book. To cap it off, he spent much of his adult life in a struggle with one of America's largest and most powerful corporations. Our kind of guy."
Neil Postman on Philo Taylor Farnsworth

Social Critic Neil Postman dies aged 72 by Elaine Woo
... Postman's most powerful idea was that "the media are not merely transmitters of information but environments in which cultures grow," said Terrence Moran, a former student of Postman's and a colleague at NYU. "He was always interested in how the structure of communications systems shaped people."

Marshall McLuhan - "With TV, the viewer is the screen."

Touched Potatoes: An Everyday Tale of Farming Folk
"Television, distributed globally, might be said to have developed itself into an agri-cultural technology - whose incessantly harvested crop is us, is human attention." Ray Coder - Man a Plant

"Death needs time for what it kills to grow in." William S. Burroughs

Aeons Past & Present by Gyrus
The Neolithic passage grave at Newgrange in Ireland is famously connected to the winter solstice. It is constructed so that as the solstice sun rises, a thin shaft of light penetrates the tomb through a narrow slit, illuminating the back wall of the burial chamber for about seventeen minutes. Such an elaborately constructed monument shows how important the cycles of the sun were to the agricultural Neolithic.
Time is connected to sex, and to death. The reborn sun's shaft of light is seen by some to represent a big cock penetrating the darkness of the tomb/womb, bestowing life on the concealed dead. The connection between time and death has been most succinctly expressed by William Burroughs: "Death needs time for what it kills to grow in." (Dead City Radio) It is also expressed mythically in the Indian black goddess Kali, "the symbol of the active cosmic power of eternal time . . . she signifies annihilation: through death or destruction creation, the seed of life, emerges." (Mookerjee & Khanna, The Tantric Way) So we might tantrically elaborate on Burroughs by saying: "Time needs death for what it grows to die in."
When discussing the sun 'reanimating the dead' in Newgrange, we may well be moving into metaphorical realms ...

PDA RIP - Handheld computers - Economist.com
Why carry both a phone and a PDA around, when you can carry a single hybrid device?

Wired 10.04: Televisionary
"There was a time when Philo T. Farnsworth was considered the perfect picture of inventive brilliance. On September 3, 1928, a photograph of him appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle alongside bold type hailing the "young genius" who was "quietly working away in his San Francisco laboratory" on his "revolutionary light machine." Just 22 years old, he had recently grown a mustache to mask his youth. His unsmiling expression barely hinted at his inner exhilaration. The article described the pair of mason jar-sized devices he was holding as the first all-electronic "sending and receiving tubes of his new television set," a system that transmits "20 pictures per second," each frame containing "8,000 elements, or pinpoints of light, to insure detail."
The night the story was published, Farnsworth was driving down Market Street in an open-air roadster ..."
Evan I. Schwartz

The Last Lone Inventor
The Boy Who Invented Television
The Pioneers of Electronic and Mechanical Television

The Boy Who Invented The Future
"While the great minds of science, financed by the biggest companies in the world, wrestled with 19th century answers to a 20th century problem, Philo T. Farnsworth, age 14, dreamed of trapping light in an empty jar and transmitting it, one line at a time, on a magnetically deflected beam of electrons."
Paul Schatzkin

Cellphone Chats, Courtesy of the Television Airwaves
"A company in Ridgeland, Miss., is developing technology that would send and receive cellphone calls on a little-used part of a broadcast television signal. If used to augment current cellphone sites, it could mean fewer dead spots in reception at a comparatively low cost. It might also help usher countries without widespread cell networks into the wireless age.
[...] To get even this far, the technology has had to overcome several major obstacles. The biggest is the "big signal, little signal" problem. Although a television station puts out a big signal, one that is easy for the phone to receive, it is so big that it could overload the phone, causing a call to fail. At the same time, a cellphone's signal is so weak that a TV-station-based receiver might not be sensitive enough to separate it from other signals."
Roy Furchgott

Cellular Phone Company Gains by Thinking Small - Wayne Arnold & Carlos H. Conde
"Despite being a developing country, the Philippines' obsession with mobile phones has long made it surprisingly advanced when it comes to the adoption of cellular technology. In big cities like the capital, Manila, it is hard to find anyone who does not have a mobile phone.
It is also hard to find anyone who actually talks on his or her phone. In a nation where the average annual income is less than $1,000, most Filipinos rely instead on cheaper text messaging. "Texting," as it is known, has cult status in the Philippines, and everyone from the poorest student to the loftiest government official uses it. Executives tap out messages during business meetings. When hot news or juicy rumors erupt, they spread like wildfire over the country's text networks, which have become a kind of hand-held national chat room."

The Birth of Television
Who Invented Television?
Who Really Invented Television?
Who is the inventor of television?
A Pilgrimage to 202 Green Street, San Francisco
[We interrupt this post to join Logie Baird]
Eye of the World: John Logie Baird and Television (Part 1)
Visioneer: John Logie Baird and Mechanical Televison by Trevor Blake
BBC - History - John Logie Baird (1888 - 1946)

R.I.P. Cathode ray tube monitor
"Confusion surrounds the birth of the tube monitor, with some putting its age at 106 (though a German birth certificate has been found dated 1855).
It appears unlikely the centenarian ever knew the true identity of its father - with X-ray pioneer William Roentgen, electron experimenter JJ Thompson and Nobel prize-winning physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun all in the frame.
In its youth, CRT devoted its considerable energies to the pursuit of empirical scientific knowledge, primarily acting as an oscilloscope to give electric signals a visible representation.
However, tiring of the fusty confines of academia in the roaring 1920s, CRT began what was to prove a lifelong affair with showbiz in the form of television."

Neil Postman (1931-2003): Some Recollections by Jay Rosen
The greatest sentence he wrote will, I am sure, give comfort at some time in the future. It's the first sentence in "The Disappearance of Childhood." "Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."

Neil Postman, 72, Mass Media Critic, Dies
Wolfgang Saxon writes for the New York Times: In "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business" (Viking, 1985; Penguin, 1986), [Neil Postman] indicted the television industry on the charge of making entertainment out of the world's most serious problems.

Children of the Information Age: A Reversal of Roles - by Edna Aphek
An African proverb says that when an old person dies an entire library is set on fire. In the intergeneration program we preserve whole libraries, treasured in the minds of the elderly, by the means of the new technologies and mostly through the assistance and effort made by the "Computer and Internet Children."

Creativity at Work Newsletter - April 2003
Children of the Information Age: A Reversal of Roles - Part 2 by Edna Aphek
"The Internet, according to Tapscott, is the Antithesis of the TV kingdom. Tapscott explains that whereas TV is controlled by adults, children control much of their world on the Net. "They", The N-Genres as Tapscott calls them, "do not just observe, they participate."
Tapscott characterizes the N-Genres, the Children of the Computer and the Net, as tolerant, inquisitive and eager to learn."

The myth of Generation N
"Certainly, more kids today are growing up wired - but millions of them are not. Meanwhile, we're rebuilding our society in ways that make things increasingly difficult for people who aren't online. For example ..."
Simson Garfinkel

BW Online - 20 November, 2002 - Learning from the Thumb Tribes
Author Howard Rheingold sees the next big tech trend in Tokyo and Helsinki, where teens busily tap text messages on their cell phones ...
Q: What started you on this particular trend you call smart mobs?
A: Early in 2000, I was walking around Tokyo and couldn't help noticing that people were looking at their telephones rather than listening to them. And they were thumbing messages into them rather than talking into them.
A couple of months later, halfway around the world in Helsinki, I was sitting at an outdoor caf?. Three teenagers came by, encountered two older adults, maybe their parents, and one of the kids looked at his phone and smiled, and showed his phone to the other two kids, and they smiled. But they didn't show it to the two adults. Suddenly, a circuit closed. I thought, O.K., something is happening in Japan, it's happening here, it has infiltrated both societies. It's now happening in the U.S. What's going on here?
It wasn't until [later that] it was explained to me that those telephones had persistent Internet connections. Then I thought, "Oh, the Internet -- now it's in people's pockets." It's everywhere. People who wouldn't even own a computer or sit in front of a computer at work have these things.
Q: Why is the combination of phones and the Net so different?
A: The PC was not a mainframe with a television screen. It was a new medium with its own properties that was available to people who wouldn't have been interested in just a fancy computer. And the Internet was not just something where a PC could connect to other PCs by telephone. It was a new medium with its own properties.
So I realized that the mobile Internet wasn't going to be getting stock quotes on your telephone or surfing the Web on a tiny screen. It was going to make things possible that weren't possible before ...

Escher and Lego - Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Andrea Frick

Louis Armand - From Symptom to Machine: James Joyce and the Perversions of the Textual Apparatus
Hypermedia Joyce Studies, 3.1 (2002) [excerpt includes added links]
[...] As Marshall McLuhan and others have pointed out, the invention of moveable type made Gutenberg's press one of the first Western machines of mass production. The limited set of variables required for the press (twenty six Latin characters, plus blank spaces, punctuation marks and diacriticals) provides a basic conception of a typographical grid or matrix, within which a virtually infinite number of permutations and combinations are possible - depending upon assumed conventions of grammar, syntax and orthography used to determine any particular typographical sequence. As Alan Turing has noted, however:
"If we were to allow an infinity of symbols, then there would be symbols differing to an arbitrarily small extent. The effect of this restriction of the number of symbols is not very serious. It is always possible to use sequences of symbols in the place of single symbols. [...] Similarly in any European language words are treated as single symbols."
The Turing "grid" provides a secondary means of organising language as a whole in terms of material combination and recombination, by assigning single values to entire terms, or to any linguistic, rhetorical or schematic unit whatsoever. In this way the cyclical notions of Giambattista Vico or Friedrich Nietzsche, or the structural repetitions of Homer's Odyssey and the Bible, can equally be thought of in acrostic terms.
One of the questions raised by Joyce's writing, however, is how to account for the possibility of this acrostic grid exceeding its own rules. In other words, how to account for the assigning of multiple values to individual terms, or to the multiplication of terms within the same grid-space? Moreover, the apparently mechanical nature of the acrostic grid poses questions similar to those raised by Noam Chomsky about the relatedness of such things as grammar and syntax to semantic coherence. This question is partly answered by the contingency of contextuality, or the way in which the acrostic grid motivates a multi-dimensional connectivity between each of its elements. Each connection provides a trajectory of possible interpretation, such that we can say each term is in place within its particular context(s).
A simple example of this is the referential function of an index or concordance, in which a basic system of co-ordinates employing two sets of variables (word or phrase and numerical page reference) provides a type of basic hypertextual site map or primitive cybernetic apparatus. In most cases, the first term remains constant for a variable number of second terms. "Plotted" against two-axes on a Cartesian plane, any set of co-ordinates sharing the first term will describe a straight line. The indexical value of the first term thus appears strictly linear.
The difficulty arises with a classic Wittgensteinian problem of determining the relative value of the first term, which without appearing to differ, also does not remain constant across all of the contexts in which it appears (which is not its indexical value). Plotting the set of co-ordinates as a point-to-point vector across the body of the text, however, will produce a very different diagram - a transversal passing through a topological, "acrostic" space, whose values are not linear in any straightforward sense of that term. Other means of plotting these co-ordinates can also be determined to produce different hypertextual configurations, evolving the acrostic possibilities of the textual co-ordinates in increasingly elaborate ways. As Joyce himself suggests:
"The proteiform graph itself is a polyhedron of scripture. There was a time when naif alphabetters would have written it down the tracing of a purely deliquescent recidivist, possibly ambidextorous, snubnosed probably and presenting a strangely profound rainbow in his (or her) occiput." [FW 107.08-12]
But while such acrostic possibilities are conceivably infinite, they do pose questions of formal significance which ask whether or not an apparently random constellation of texts whose resemblance is always fractional can exert mutual simultaneous influence at a level which is not merely trivial or at best a fabulation ("a strangely profound rainbow").
[...] Lacan goes on to argue that the structure of Finnegans Wake should, in fact, not be described as circular but rather as knotted, comparing the signifying relation of "the" and "riverrun" to the topological metaphor of Borromean knots.
[...] The plane of intersection, the monas, according to [Giordano] Bruno: "contains its opposite" (Immo bonum atque malum prima est ab origine fusum). Leibniz, in the conception of monadology, similarly argued that "in the labyrinth of the continuous the smallest element is not the point but the fold ...."
Pierre Soury: "What was our point of departure? There was the transition from knot to braid in the special case of the Borromean knot."

The Grid of Time by Steven H. Cullinane, 3 October, 2003
Part II: The Folding of Time
IIA... From a conversation on myth and time...
"We must conceive or imagine how Hermes flies and gets about when he carries messages from the gods - or how angels travel. And for this one must describe the spaces situated between things that are already marked out - spaces of interference, as I called them in the title of my second book on Hermes. This god or these angels pass through folded time, making millions of connections. Between has always struck me as a preposition of prime importance.
Follow the flight pattern of a fly. Doesn't time sometimes flow according to the breaks and bends that this flight seems to follow or invent? Likewise, my book Rome describes in its own way the baker's transformation... a certain folding of half a plane of dough over the other half, repeated indefinitely according to a simple rule, produces a design precisely comparable to the flight of the fly or the wasp, the one Verlaine in his famous sonnet describes as drunk from this crazy flight."
Michel Serres and Bruno Latour - Conversations on Science, Culture, and Time
Translated by Roxanne Lapidus (University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1995, pages 64-65)

Indiespace.com - PXL THIS Film Festival (PXL 2000 shorts & features)
PXL THIS 13 will premiere on SAT, Nov 15, 2003 at 7 and 9pm (two different shows) at Midnight Special Bookstore ...

PXL THIS TWELVE, the twelfth annual festival featuring videos made with the PXL-2000 toy camera, premiered on Saturday, November 9, 2002 at 7:00 and 9:00 pm (two different shows) at Midnight Special Bookstore ...
Gerry Fialka's WHAT HAVEN'T YOU NOTICED LATELY? hoicks the "open past" while double delving into Giordano Bruno's theory that everything in nature is realized through interaction with its opposite and Marshall McLuhan's percept that "objects are unobservable, only relationships among objects are observable" simultaneously probing the option of "see-say" in moving pictures. "Do you hear what I'm seeing?"

posted by Andrew 10/17/2003 05:12:00 PM