Sunday, November 09, 2003


"Isn’t it ironic that weblogs, which at their inception, were designed to extract signal from noise, have become so numerous that we are now drowning in them..." Rebecca Blood on the info explosion

Noisy as charged, still here's a nice bit of Sunday signal:

Kurt Vonnegut Knowing What's Nice
Author’s note: I’m working on a novel, If God Were Alive Today, about a fictitious man, Gil Berman, 36 years my junior, who cracks jokes or whatever in front of college audiences from time to time, something I myself have done. Here are excerpts from some of what I myself said onstage at the University of Wisconsin in Madison on the evening of September 22, 2003, as we touch off the last chunks and drops and whiffs of fossil fuels.
September 24, 2003
(via wood s lot)

Comments: signal

Is the world so much worse ? Did KV ever think it was good/better? or is it the effect of being 81?

BTW i use semi-colons (tho much prefer dashes) & haven't read Ambrose Bierce or DeTocqueville. Must be a twerp!
Posted by wen at November 9, 2003 07:43 PM

weblogs designed to 'extract signal from noise'.

Not really.

Signals need interpretation by human beings if we are to understand what they are signifying.

So it's about cultural meaning.

And it is not just us humans. Dogs attribute meaning to signals. They are continually interpreting

Let's dump the behavourism implied in the above quote in the radioactive dump.
Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at November 9, 2003 09:53 PM

Wen: I think it's always seemed pretty grim to KV, but it's grimmer and the stand-up gets more desperate?
Somehow I've read those 2 but am very much a twerp (who could never parrallel park). And on a lighter note - I do endorse the Uncle Alex philosophy: tonight's sunset here was a most beautiful soft pink. I said something like: "If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is"

Gary - the strict utilitarian 'signal' or 'filter' role of the weblog was in the context of the rather sobering study about the explosion in noisy data.
It was a bit confronting to see one of the gurus/champions of the blog issue a (commonsense) warning about the increasing need to discriminate or even cut back. (Switch off? - that's just too scary to contemplate!)
In the future a handful of info filterblogs may be quite efficient, but even in such customised efficiency we may lose the joy of surprise, chance, serendipity.
I can't see myself just wanting pure 'signal' without some junk or whimsy along the noisy way , but one has to cap the the data flow somehow I guess.
An interesting area - and I agree with Rebecca Blood that it is one that will become more and more important.
Posted by boynton at November 9, 2003 10:44 PM

being a pollyanna type I have to confess that I think uncle Alex is absolutely spot-on!
Posted by wen at November 10, 2003 02:33 PM

focusing on the meanings of an x--eg., an image---is a way to filter noisy data flows. You select the bit that is signifianct from a particular perspective and let the rest float by.

The very language being used--'information' 'filtering' 'data' etc -- pressupposes that it is the computers or technology doing the filtering and we are but the extentions of the keyboard.

It implies that are enframed by the technology as a way of being, or a virtual world. So we become what the virtual technology makes us----data trash downloaded into storage systems that are connected to data flows.
Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at November 11, 2003 11:13 PM

I know when I studied this area quite briefly a couple of years ago that certain academics show an academic enthusiasm for this trend - or at least its apparent inevitability. That is: the eventual embedding of the bot into the bod of the cyborg. I find it disturbing but just this side of futurist-absurdist to be too worried by. I guess you would argue that such dystopian visions divert from the less extreme effects, eg the way I have apparently 'mindlessely' adopted the techno speak.
Perhaps one could argue that by co-opting the language of IT, or even MS, corrupting it into blogging short-hand currency we humanize it?
And on your second point - don't such words imply that a human mind is absoloutely neccessary to choose/focus/read/select (codex era words) which bit of text and image from the shifting screen of electronic trash and treasure to 'note'?
Perhaps the impulse towards order or some system however subjective is only human?
Also: I am not (quite yet) the sum of my downloaded bytes. The floating parade of dismebodied, decontextuatlised 'data' or meaning is just surplus material to the super-filtered years of old mundane reality.
Posted by boynton at November 12, 2003 12:15 AM

I agree about the futurist absurd utopia conception of cyberspace.

However it is the more everyday usage that I have in mind.

We no longer have relationships anymore. We network instead. We form networks not relationships. I heard it on the radio this morning linked to a styory about using palm pilots(as tags) that help us to recognize others with similar interests. That makes networking (and dating) quick and efficient.

You would your own examples.

The old human language has been replaced by the new computer language on a very mundane level.

In accepting this, and speaking this way, we are working within, and are shaped by, the cyber-technology world or techological mode of being.

Language discloses a world. It is a new world we now live in.
Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at November 13, 2003 01:17 PM

Gary - It's a fascinating area.
Luckily I'm too poor to be an effective customer in the cyber-tech world and palm pilots and all the trappings of the semantic web/ambient enviromnment will have to wait. I guess the time when they are cheap and affordable/disposable is not too far off though.

I still hope that one can be mindful in using such language - not to 'humanize' it in a coercive way, but to subvert it. It may be able to mutate from the market to the mundane old style mode of being?
Well I certainly hope I never blindly accept the language and thus 'mind-set'(mother-board) of the new world.
Posted by boynton at November 13, 2003 01:45 PM

We need to subvert it by disclosing alternative ways of being to the technological one.

Designer sun glasses for dogs riding in Jaguar sports cars is not it.

Maybe marginalized practices such as walking with dogs along the Yarra River, sniffing the flowwers and delighting in play.
Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at November 14, 2003 09:11 PM

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