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{Saturday, January 17, 2004}

Free as Air, Free as Water, Free as Knowledge

Linton C. Freeman: Visualizing Social Networks [via M2M]
"[...] Without computers, the use of factor analysis in the early 1950s was extremely cumbersome. It did, however, have a clear advantage over earlier procedures. It employed a standard procedure and therefore it did produce results that could be replicated; different investigators, using the same data, would produce the same image.
By the 1960s computers were generally available. That provided the opportunity for the use of more elaborate computations. Laumann and Guttman (1966) used a computationally demanding procedure, multidimensional scaling, as a device for locating points from a network analysis. And they were the first to produce an image that was designed to give the appearance of three dimensions."

Alchemical Manchester - The Dee Connection Explored
"Dee was fundamentally concerned with geography, as a mystic study. He supervised the making of the maps which helped Drake, Frobisher, Davis, the Gilberts and Raleigh on their overseas explorations. One of Dee's first visitors after he settled in Manchester in 1596 was Christopher Saxton, the mapmaker, who stayed with Dee from June to July."

social circles - marcos weskamp [via socialfiction]
Social Circles intends to partially reveal the social networks that emerge in mailing lists. The idea is to visualize in near real-time the social hierarchies and the main subjects they address.

Seedlings & Sprouts - IMing your family
"Sure I've sent a few e-apologies in my time, but there's nothing like looking in the eyes of one you love and saying you're sorry. Nothing like getting a hug, a kiss and a look of grace in return."

Susan Spano - What in the world is up with these radical maps?
But maps aren't as definitive as we think, which is important for a traveler to remember. There are many ways to show the world, each with its own virtues and deficiencies.
Allen Carroll, chief cartographer for the National Geographic Society, says that the best and truest representation of the world is a globe. But you can't put a globe in your pocket or, at a reasonable cost, make one big enough to be seen by the young geography student in the back row.
Cartographers have been pondering for centuries how to turn the three-dimensional globe into an image on a two-dimensional piece of paper, which is like trying to flatten an orange peel.
"Something has to give," says Jeannine Schonta, a Rand McNally cartographer. "You can't show the world as it truly is. There are always some distortions."

That Parent-Child Conversation Is Becoming Instant, and Online
In The New York Times of 3 January 2004 John Schwartz writes:
While even quicker than e-mail, instant messages also have the advantage of not actually being instant, Ms. Parsonnet said, because the medium at least gives the user time to compose his or her thoughts and comments before hitting the button.
"You know all the times you wish you'd counted to 10 before you said something?" she said with a laugh. With instant messages, she said, "You have a built-in counting-to-10."

Power Laws: Hype or Revelation [via matt jones]
"From sexual networks to filesharing, genetics to leaders of business organizations, researchers have started to recognize a pervasive characteristic of networks across a variety of disciplines. The term "power law" has come to describe the organizing principle that very few nodes will maintain a large percentage of the links in a network. The ubiquity of power laws has been interpreted as a revelation that touches almost all fields; as a result a large number of papers have been written on this topic in a short period of time. This class aims to review the literature central to the study of power laws and give attention to the question of whether this theory is here to stay." Sandy Pentland, Nathan Eagle and Cameron Marlow

Carvings set off debate about early alphabet by Salah Nasrawi
"The invention of the alphabet revolutionized humanity by extending the ability to read to the common person. Before that, only scribes and rulers had the time to memorize the multiple meanings of hundreds of images in pictographic writings."

Caver Finds A Brave New World, And Brave New Creatures In It
"Hose's team ... travel[ed] to southern Mexico to delve into the Cueva de Villa Luz, or "The Cave of the Lighted House." This unique cave has been used for centuries by the Mayan people, and their descendants the Chol, for religious ceremonies."

ScienceDaily: Alphabet Originated Centuries Earlier Than Previously Thought

"Like Petrie at Sinai, John Coleman Darnell wasn't looking for the alphabet; he was looking for Egyptian relics."
David Sacks - The Alphabet (Hutchinson, 2003, page 34)

Interactivist Info Exchange: The Promise of a Post-Copyright World
"Copyright is an outgrowth of the privatization of government censorship in sixteenth-century England. There was no uprising of authors suddenly demanding the right to prevent other people from copying their works; far from viewing copying as theft, authors generally regarded it as flattery. The bulk of creative work has always depended, then and now, on a diversity of funding sources: commissions, teaching jobs, grants or stipends, patronage, etc. The introduction of copyright did not change this situation. What it did was allow a particular business model -- mass pressings with centralized distribution -- to make a few lucky works available to a wider audience, at considerable profit to the distributors.
The arrival of the Internet, with its instantaneous, costless sharing, has made that business model obsolete -- not just obsolete, but an obstacle to the very benefits copyright was alleged to bring society in the first place. Prohibiting people from freely sharing information serves no one's interests but the publishers'. Although the industry would like us to believe that prohibiting sharing is somehow related to enabling artists to make a living, their claim does not stand up to even mild scrutiny. For the vast majority of artists, copyright brings no economic benefits." Karl Fogel

snarkout: the hallucinatory encyclopedia [via leuschke.org]
"If there's a real analog to the History of the Land Called Uqbar, it's the Codex Seraphinus, that remarkable traveller's sketchbook of an alien world. However, it was created by Italian designer Luigi Serafini in 1981; for a hallucinatory encyclopedia of more uncertain province, cast an eye on the Voynich manuscript. It is full of strange drawings: of bathing women, zodiac figures, astrological diagrams, and curiously half-recognizable plants. (The fact that human figures are naked makes something as simple as dating the document difficult, as no costumes are depicted.) The alphabet it is written in only vaguely resembles anything ever known in Europe. Is it nonsense carefully designed to look halfway legible, a sort of sixteenth-century book from the sky? Investigators "lack decisive tests for distinguishing between nonsense babble, crafty cipher, and language," but the manuscript seems not to be simply random characters. Statistical analysis, the domain of computational linguists and information theorists, shows it to more closely resemble language, albeit ..."

"West of Thebes, Egypt's ancient capital on the Nile, beyond the Valley of the Kings, the burial ground of pharaohs, ancient tracks lead up over an escarpment to the bare, brown gebel, the hills and valleys carved into the Western Desert by centuries of wind and rain. In 1990, a young Egyptologist from Yale, John Darnell, was working in Thebes as Senior Epigrapher for Egypt's Epigraphic Survey, based in Luxor. He had been there the previous season and had become intrigued by the tracks. A German expedition at the end of the nineteenth century and ..."
John Man - Alpha Beta: How Our Alphabet Shaped the Western World
(Headline Book Publishing, 2001, page 69)

Chasing our Tails by Mark Bernstein
"Cycles in hypertext create and explain structure. Through measured repetition, we bring order to what might otherwise become an endlessly varied (and thus endlessly monotonous) line of argument. Just as phrase and cadence clarify the structure of music, cycles clarify the structure of hypermedia."

Tele-Synaesthesia: presentation of a hypothesis by Doctor Hugo
At present, the concept of synaesthesia is connected with the time-honored notion of the 'Gesamtkunstwerk', the category of the theatrical, the attack on the sensorium commune (the central point of convergence of the nervous system). We know that one stimulation of the senses automatically leads to another by means of association. Therefore, synaesthesia is an important factor in every creative act and each form of interpretation. The same goes for mediums, but, in this case, it takes place on a meta-level: Cybermedia. They blur the boundaries between internal and external spaces (a quintessential point of this concise thesis, is the postulate that this blurring of boundaries can be considered as a question of subtle synaesthetic graduations) and, because of the blurring of differences (between what is here and what is there), our senses become tele-senses. Virtual worlds have already emerged in a great many divergent domains. As of yet, one could find applications in the field of the arts, scientific visualisation, virtual universities, cinematographic animation and simulation, teleconferencing, tele-jobs, virtual voyaging, virtual museums, virtual sports, virtual robots, teleshopping, tele-medicine, tele-studying and the like. Virtual reality does not only make the inconceivable quite conceivable, but equally makes it functional. The latter in order to demonstrate that these new media do in fact bring about a synaesthetic effect.
M. McLuhan and B.R. Powers offer an explanation for this phenomenon in their publication: Global Village: "If man is able to transpose the workings of his central nervous system into electronic circuits, he will be on the brink of externalizing his consciousness in the computer. One could conceive of consciousness as a projection [to the outside of an inner] synaesthesia, which in general coincides with the traditional description of common sense. Common sense is this specific human ability to translate [one kind of experience of one sense into] all other senses and to present the result of this process as one global mental image."

Multimedia - From Wagner to Virtual Reality

Unifying Ratio of the Senses is a Mark of ...
"All individuals, their desires and satisfactions, are co-present in the age of communication. But computer banks dissolve the human image. When most data banks come together into a reciprocating whole, our entire Western culture will turn turtle. Visualize an amphibian with its shell inside and its organs outside. Electronic man wears his brain outside his skull and his nervous system on top of his skin. Such a creature is ill-tempered ..."
Marshall McLuhan & Bruce R. Powers - The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 1989, page 94)

Caerdroia - Labyrinth Typology by Jeff Saward
"The earliest labyrinth symbols so far discovered are all of the same simple design - the classical type - which has persisted to this day. A history spanning some 4000 years. During this time the basic Classical labyrinth has developed into a number of closely related forms, often in particular geographical regions, by means of simple adjustments to the "seed pattern" that lies at the heart of its construction."

The Voynich Manuscript - Muse Log
"An ancient text written in a language no one understands and displaying unfamiliar constellations, the mysterious 'Voynich Manuscript' intrigues astronomers and code breakers alike. The 200-page tome is housed at the Yale library. The manuscript is written entirely in a mysterious, unknown alphabet that has defied all attempts at translation. It is written in a language of which no other example is known to exist. It is an alphabetic script, but of an alphabet variously reckoned to have from nineteen to twenty-eight letters, none of which bear any relationship to any English or European letter system."

Voynich Manuscript Resources
"And that is what you are going to tell the FBI?" Marcus Brody asked, as he and Indy passed through the double doors of the Museum of Antiquity. "That there was nothing to any of it? The Tomb of Hermes does not exist, Voynich is gibberish, and the philosopher's stone is simply a dream?"
Indiana Jones and the Philosopher's Stone (1995)

Thinking Robots: Bruce Sterling (1992) [via Masanjin & The All-Thing]
" [...] It seems to me there's something direly wrong with the Information Economy. It's not about data, it's about attention. In a few years you may be able to carry the Library of Congress in your hip pocket. So? You're never gonna read the Library of Congress. You'll die long before you access one tenth of one percent of it. What's important -- increasingly important -- is the process by which you figure out what to look at. This is the beginning of the real and true economics of information -- not who owns the books, who prints the books, who has the holdings. The crux today is access, not holdings. And not even access itself but the signposts that tell you what to access -- what to pay attention to. In the Information Economy everything is plentiful -- except attention.
That's why the spin doctor is the creature who increasingly rules the information universe. Spin doctors rule our attention. Never mind that man behind the curtain. No, no! Look at my hand! I can make a candidate disappear. Watch me pull a President out of a hat. Look! I can make these homeless people disappear in a haze of media noise. Nothing up my sleeve. Presto! The facts don't matter if he can successfully direct our attention. Spin doctors are like evil anti-librarians; they're the Dark Side of the Force.
Librarians used to be book-pullers. Book-pullers. I kind of like the humble, workaday sound of that. I like it kind of better than I like the sound of "information retrieval expert," though that's clearly where librarians are headed. Might be the right way to head. That's where the power seems to be. Though I wonder exactly what will be retrieved and what will be allowed to quietly mummify in the deepest darkest deserts of the dustiest hard-disks."

posted by Andrew 1/17/2004 01:46:00 PM