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{Tuesday, November 18, 2003}

ventilating data-chains with an act

Letter from Marshall McLuhan to Harold Adams Innis
"One major discovery of the symbolists which had the greatest importance for subsequent investigation was their notion of the learning process as a labyrinth of the senses and faculties whose retracing provided the key to all arts and sciences (basis of myth of Daedalus, basic for the dreams and schemes of Francis Bacon, and, when transferred by Vico to philology and history of culture, it also forms the basis of modern historiography, archaeology, psychology and artistic procedures alike.) Retracing becomes in modern historical scholarship the technique of reconstruction. The technique which Edgar Poe first put to work in his detective stories. In the arts this discovery has had all those astonishing results which have seemed to separate the ordinary public from what it regards as esoteric magic. From the point of view of the artist however the business of art is no longer the communication of thoughts or feelings which are to be conceptually ordered, but a direct participation in an experience. The whole tendency of modern communication whether in the press, in advertizing, or in the high arts is towards participation in a process, rather than apprehension of concepts. And this major revolution, intimately linked to technology, is one whose consequences have not begun to be studied although they have begun to be felt."
Letters of Marshall McLuhan (Oxford University Press, 1987, page 221)

2003 Blogger Con: The Rule of Links by Dave Winer

Q: Are we re-invented by our own extensions?
"The instrument constructed intelligently ... reacts on the nature of the being that constructs it; for in calling on him to exercise a new function, it confers on him, so to speak, a richer organization, being an artificial organ by which the natural organism is extended. For every need that it satisfies, it creates a new need; and so, instead of closing, like instinct, the round of action within which the animal tends to move automatically, it lays open to activity an unlimited field into which it is driven further and further, and made more and more free."
Creative Evolution - Henri Bergson (1911)

"Mankind always sets itself only such problems as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation."
Karl Marx - A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

DM Review: The Link is the Thing, Part 1 by Richard Hackathorn
"In many physical and social systems, the important characteristic is that it is composed of a loosely coupled network of interacting autonomous elements. It is not a homogeneous mass. The whole system behaves quite differently than that of the individual elements."

R. Buckminster Fuller's Synergetics

Mental Mouthfuls & Ventilated Prose
"Out of multi-overlaid experience patternings there sometimes emerges an awareness of what we may call a coincidence pattern - a localized thickening of points. These emergent patterns of frequency congruence... [Folds infusion]
Each [post] card appears to be chaotically patterned with holes."
R. Buckminster Fuller

PressThink: What's Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism?
Jay Rosen writes:
Ten Things Radical about the Weblog Form in Journalism:
9.) In journalism classically understood, information flows from the press to the public. In the weblog world as it is coming to be understood, information flows from the public to the press.
10.) Journalism traditionally assumes that democracy is what we have, information is what we seek. Whereas in the weblog world, information is what we have - it's all around us - and democracy is what we seek.

"We don't know who discovered water but we're pretty sure it wasn't the fisk."
Annual McLuhan Lecture + NFB: McLuhan's Wake
"A pervasive medium is always beyond perception."

When words have failed us
"The challenge is, as [George] Steiner sees it, to discover how to shape the legacy of language so that it is capable of yielding fresh meaning. In Grammars of Creation, he argues that what is required is nothing less than a new "grammar" of creativity, a new set of rules, to articulate the riches of language in freshly constructive ways that match the ethos and beliefs of our complex, anxious, information-overloaded world."

Copyrights: A radical rethink - The Economist, January 23rd 2003
"Copyright was originally the grant of a temporary government-supported monopoly on copying a work, not a property right. Its sole purpose was to encourage the circulation of ideas by giving creators and publishers a short-term incentive to disseminate their work. Over the past 50 years, as a result of heavy lobbying by content industries, copyright has grown to such ludicrous proportions that it now often inhibits rather than promotes the circulation of ideas, leaving thousands of old movies, records and books languishing behind a legal barrier. Starting from scratch today, no rational, disinterested lawmaker would agree to copyrights that extend to 70 years after an author's death ..."

Three Essays + The Death of the Author
"We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single 'theological' meaning (the 'message' of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture. Similar to Bouvard and P├ęcuchet, those eternal copyists, at once sublime and comic and whose profound ridiculousness indicates precisely the truth of writing, the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them. Did he wish to express himself, he ought at least to know that the inner 'thing' he thinks to 'translate' is itself only a ready-formed dictionary, its words only explainable through other words, and so on indefinitely; something experienced in exemplary fashion by the young Thomas de Quincey, he who was so good at Greek that in order to translate absolutely modern ideas and images into that dead language, he had, so Baudelaire tells us (in Paradis Artificiels), 'created for himself an unfailing dictionary, vastly more extensive and complex than those resulting from the ordinary patience of purely literary themes'. Succeeding the Author, the scriptor no longer bears within him passions, humours, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense dictionary from which he draws a writing that can know no halt: life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred."
Roland Barthes - Image-Music-Text
(Flamingo, 1984, pages 146-147)

Wired 2.03: The Economy of Ideas by John Perry Barlow (1994)
Digital technology is detaching information from the physical plane ...

On several planes at once
"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property."
Thomas Jefferson

Mark Pesce - Europa, Europa (The Sensuous and the Visible)
"Our eyes are the most amazing things, little bits of the nervous system loosed from behind the thick case of skull bone and turned outward to face the world. There is little question that, in overall flexibility, the human visual system stands unparalleled among the planet's species. Blake wrote, "As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers." Man precedes the eye, or did, until Marshall McLuhan turned this tidy little formula back onto itself. As the eye sees, McLuhan believed, so the man is. The reflexive nature of this philosophical theorem leads immediately to the conception of human as an informational system, sending messages both forward and back, positive and negative feedback working in concert with biological imperative to produce a coherent, autopoetic unity."

In A Noisy World, How Can The Senses Project And Receive Information At The Same Time?
April 1, 2003 (Bethesda, MD) ? How do we hear when some of us chatter all day? When we sing in the shower, why doesn't the active voice smother the rest of our body's sensory systems? The answer to these questions may be found in the simple male cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus), which sing for hours at over 100 decibels sound pressure levels (dB SPL) in order to attract females.

Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)
"If a technology is introduced either from within or from without a culture, and if it gives new stress or ascendancy to one or another of our senses, the ratio among all of our senses is altered."
Marshall McLuhan - The Gutenberg Galaxy (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962, page 24)
Leon Surette asserts: "This remark contains the essence of McLuhan's originality: the notion that cognitive processes themselves reflect the processing properties of our sensory organs, particularly of the two symbolic organs, the ear and the eye. [...]
McLuhan's strong claims for the consequences of print and the alphabet are a mirror image of Jacques Derrida's argument a decade later for the priority of writing over speech. Where McLuhan saw alphabetization as destroying the tribal world of dialogue and face-to-face contact, Derrida sees the Christian privileging of the spoken over the written word as generating a "logocentrism," to which he attributes the same centralizing, hegemonic properties that McLuhan attributes to print culture."

Marshall McLuhan: New Media As Political Forms
"Whether it be Holmes or Marlowe the sleuth is an alienated man, but he is one who uses the communication network of the metropolis as a kind of musical instrument. The appeal of detective stories is not least in the power of the sleuth to control the city as an instrument of expression. He turns the city into poetry.
What Joyce has shown us is how to do for the whole of existence what the sleuth does with the keyboard of the city. Today we are compelled by the quantity of available social and political facts to learn a new visual language for swiftly mastering the inner dynamics by the outer carapace of facts.
Perhaps nothing more bespeaks the hypnotic and irrational pressure of the book-page than the scant attention it has received as a form. In the 16th century it required an effort to read print comparable to the effort today exerted to master symphonic scores or mathematical pictograms. Moreover a passage of Greene, Lyly, or Nashe is not prose in the 18th or 19th century sense. The focus of attention has to be readjusted for changes of tone and attitude in every sentence. Print had not yet imposed its massive mechanical weight to level off the oral and colloquial features of prose. Even punctuation was not for the reading eye but the speaking voice - a fact lost on the 19th century editors of Shakespeare. The triumphs of 20th century editors of Shakespeare have mainly consisted in abandoning the habits of rigid perspective induced by three centuries of print-hypnosis."

Disconnected Urbanism - Metropolis Magazine - November 2003
Paul Goldberger writes: "The cell phone has changed our sense of place more than faxes and computers and e-mail because of its ability to intrude into every moment in every possible place. When you walk along the street and talk on a cell phone, you are not on the street sharing the communal experience of urban life. You are in some other place -- someplace at the other end of your phone conversation. You are there, but you are not there. It reminds me of the title of Lillian Ross's memoir of her life with William Shawn, Here But Not Here. Now that is increasingly true of almost every person on almost every street in almost every city. You are either on the phone or carrying one, and the moment it rings you will be transported out of real space into a virtual realm."

Unspooled by Hank Stuever - The Washington Post, 29 October 2002
In the Digital Age, The Quaint Cassette Is Sent Reeling Into History's Dustbin
"Someday music will be only air. There will be no objects to hold or fetishize and people will simply collect lists. No disc, nothing spooled or grooved, nothing to scratch or break, no heads to clean, no dust to wipe, no compulsive alphabetizing. Nothing to put away in shoe boxes in spare closets and be embarrassed about.
The end of hiss.
The end of the sound system as furniture.
The end, on some strange and intellectually picky level, of the crucial dialectic between Side A and Side B, and the idea that songs talk to one another and take you someplace."
Hank Stuever continues: "The cassette was invented to make sure that you would not have to listen to your mother, in any environment, but especially in the car, from the ages of 13 to 15.
Please take off those headphones.
I'm not going to tell you again.
I was talking to you and you weren't even hearing me.
Can you hear me?
Nor would anyone have to listen to people on the bus, on the street, or in hallways, or anywhere.
So-called Generation X, the people born between 1964 and 1981, who don't get credited for much in history, can at least take solace in the fact that they saw the entire lifespan of the cassette. It was born, lived and died in their era. They made it happen, one cassette at a time."

Conceptions of conception - Hugh Lawson-Tancred
"A spectre is haunting the study of the mind: the spectre of neuroscience.
We may be in the late afternoon of a culture, no longer at ease with the self-definition of our species by the dignity of speech, but a mutation is subterraneanly taking place. In Paris, London, Berlin, Washington and a myriad other centres the work of archiving and garnering the past is proceeding apace and a kind of ultra-Alexandrian preoccupation with the shoring up of every scrap is leading inevitably, through the medium of the Internet, to a quantum change in the core triadic relationship of author, work and readership. Technology precedes metaphysics."

Dead men walking: How detective fiction changes with the times
"The human brain is wired to make sense and stories out of life's confusion. Those drawing-room conundrums of between the two World Wars were one kind of artistic response.
[...] Once all the parlourmaids were dead, a more egalitarian generation of British readers was drawn to the American detective vision -- of a good man alone, shedding light in the darkness. Raymond Chandler, whose laconic, lonely hero unmasked mobsters and treacherous hussies with sadness in his heart, made the detective at home with uncertainty: "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid."
But now these tough white guys are dead too. Suddenly, the detective agency has discovered diversity."

Scarpetta & Sherlock by Dalya Alberge
"He is an old-fashioned bachelor with a liking for pipes. She is a role model for feminists with a line in high heels and Italian cuisine. Now Sherlock Holmes, Britain's most famous detective, has lost out to Kay Scarpetta in a survey of the nation's favourite sleuths.
Scarpetta was a genrebusting figure when created by Patricia Cornwell a decade ago. The heroine, who digs up scientific evidence to help police to catch killers, heads the list of popular characters, with 23 per cent of the vote."

A Tokyo Novelist Mixes Felonies With Feminism
In The New York Times - 17 November 2003 - Howard W. French explores the work of Natsuo Kirino:
... Manchuria was a place of fantastic dreams for many Japanese socialists, liberal planners and technocrats, who were allowed to live out their utopian ideals there on the Asian mainland during the most reactionary years of Japanese militarism.
After years of footnote status, that Japanese colonial period is now in vogue among Japanese historians, and Ms. Kirino thinks she knows why: the "anything is possible" atmosphere that pervaded the colony mirrors the giddiness that her generation experienced during the financial bubble of the 1980's, when denizens of Tokyo drank the most expensive wines and sprinkled gold flakes on their deserts to celebrate their wealth.
"I am part of that generation, which felt that money would allow us to do anything," Ms. Kirino said. "Now we are flooded with desire and don't know how to deal with it. Manchuria was a land of illusions, too, and I want to see what happened to those people, and to their dreams."

Pete Dexter's L.A. Noir
John Smolens - The Invisible World

Of Time and Mathematics
"Time, that mysterious something, that flow, that relation, that mediator, that arena for event, envelops us and confounds us all. What is time? The answer of St. Augustine has become famous: "If no one asks me the question, I know; but if one should require me to tell, I cannot." Two millenia later, two revolutions in physics later, we can still sympathize with this answer. Our shelves are filled with formulas and speculations, and we still cannot say what time is; we cannot agree whether there is one time or many times, cannot even agree whether time is an essential ingredient of the universe or whether it is the grand illusion of the human intellect.
There are thus two conflicting opinions about time, and they have been around since antiquity. According to Archimedes (and to Parmenides earlier still, for whom ultimate reality is timeless), one must eliminate time, hide it, spirit it away, transform it, reduce it to something else, to geometry, perhaps. Time is an embarrassment. According to Aristotle (and to Heraclitus earlier still, for whom the world is a world of happenings), one must face time squarely, for the world is temporal in its very nature and its comings-into-being are real.
Modern science has largely followed the path of Archimedes rather than that of Aristotle."
Philip J. Davis & Reuben Hersh - Descartes Dream: The World According to Mathematics
(Penguin, 1988, pages 189-190)

Original bliss
In the beginning...

"A crime is like a crack in reality, and it is the author's role to explore those cracks."
Natsuo Kirino

posted by Andrew 11/18/2003 04:46:00 PM