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    nmw 15:36:22 on 2016/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , cognizance, cognizant, , , , , , , , life, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , sapience, sapient, , , , , web sites, , ,   

    First Essay on Rational Media 

    I recently mentioned my new and improved „rational media“ concept… – now I want to begin to try to unpack that idea. Of course, it’s complicated.

    Let me start off with something simple: media (in general). What makes something „media“ (or a „medium“) is not the medium itself, but rather the way people use it. For example: A bottle is just a bottle and not yet a medium. If your concept of „bottle“ presupposes that it’s a medium (for transporting liquids), then you could also just call it an object. The object is not the medium.

    When one person uses the object to deliver something to someone (whether a liquid or a message or whatever), then that object becomes a medium. Why does this matter?

    It matters because that is what the common notion of a „website“ is. When most people talk about websites, they are not actually referring to web sites, but rather the HTML code, the software running on the server, the database, even the wires and cables, the computer being used to display what the user sees, and a lot of other stuff. In the end, they mean what they see when they enter the website’s address (i.e., the web site) into the browser’s location bar. Many people don’t even know what a web browser is, let alone a location bar. Ask 10 people at Times Square what a location bar is, and I bet the majority will look at you kind of funny.

    Long story short: A website is no more a medium than some random object made out of glass. Only when people visit a web site (i.e., a location on the web) with the appropriate technology (e.g. a smartphone, laptop, computer, etc. with some sort of „web browser“ software installed) does a website become a medium.

    So what is „rational media“? Media are rational if/when there is some kind of rational thought process involved when the user decides to visit a certain web site (i.e., location). Here’s a simple example: A user wants to know what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, and therefore they visit weather.com. Or they want to know what people are twittering about, and therefore they visit twitter.com. When they give such instructions to a web browser, then that results in them seeing something on their screen, and they usually call whatever they see „the website“.

    It is important to note that the way I use „rational“ is different than the way the term has often been used in the past. The way the term has been used for many millennia, people often think it has to do with a particular kind of logic – or that there is such a thing as being irrational. The way I use the term, there is no such thing as being irrational – instead: every kind of thinking is rational in its own way.

    Sometimes people say something like „I wasn’t thinking“. This is probably false. What probably happens in such cases, is that people think without being aware of what they are thinking. In the tradition of Freud, psychologists often refer to this as „unconscious“ thinking. Indeed: suggestions which appeal to such thinking are commonly used in advertising.

    Is acting upon enticing or seductive suggestions irrational? I feel it is no more irrational than smiling or hugging or kissing someone. Many such behaviors are also ways of thinking which are sort of „hard coded“ into our mental apparatus. We may not feel we are thinking or behaving rationally, but I think it is more straightforward to consider such motivations to be simply a different kind of rationality… – perhaps nature‘s rationality?

    Does this mean that all media are rational media – sort of like all of nature is natural? Maybe it does – I am not sure yet. At the moment, I feel it is sufficient to say that there are different kinds of rationality. I do feel that in order to be rational, there has to be (at the very least) some sort of decision involved (and perhaps even that such decisions must be made by humans, animals or similar „living“ and/or „cognizant“ beings). I can also imagine a situation in which a nit-picker might be inclined to segment this sort of rationality from that sort of rationality with a fine-toothed comb, and thereby come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a ridiculous thought.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 17:08:46 on 2016/03/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , in real life, incoherence, incoherent, IRL, issue, issues, , life, , Mark Twain, , , Mysterious Stranger, , , , , , situation, situations, The Mysterious Stranger, , , , , , ,   

    There is No Such Thing as Context-Free Meaning 

    For this post, I would like to start out with two operational definitions:

    1. Context-Free Websites
    2. Contextual Websites

    „Context-Free“ websites purport to be containers without context. Supposedly, there is no „situation“ or „issue“ which constrains the content – it is assumed that all data contained in such a website is provided without any context whatsoever. Some readers may be reminded that this is one marker of a „Retard Media“ website (but there are others – for more on „Retard Media“, see this definition).

    The diametric opposite of a context-free websites are referred to as „Contextual“ websites. Contextual websites are clearly situated in the real world, and they also have clearly defined „in real life“ (IRL) issues. They are anything but open spaces, free-for-all playgrounds, romping rooms released to anyone, be they brand name marketing department representives, or whether they come from spamming outbacks, hacker havens or other terrorist enclaves.

    Contextual websites are most definitely constrained: If you do not appreciate such constraints, then you are plain and simple not welcome.

    What is less clear to most is that context-free websites are by their nature meaningless. Yet if you reflect a little, it should be easy to see and understand that incoherent babble – as it does not cohere to anything – must be meaningless babble.

    One of my favorite authors – Mark Twain – described such a „detached from life“ being at the end of one of the last stories / novels he published (see, e.g. “The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories”, by Mark Twain):

    “Life itself is only a vision, a dream.”

    It was electrical. By God! I had had that very thought a thousand times in my musings!

    “Nothing exists; all is a dream. God—man—the world—the sun, the moon, the wilderness of stars—a dream, all a dream; they have no existence. Nothing exists save empty space—and you!”

    “I!”

    “And you are not you—you have no body, no blood, no bones, you are but a thought. I myself have no existence; I am but a dream—your dream, creature of your imagination. In a moment you will have realized this, then you will banish me from your visions and I shall dissolve into the nothingness out of which you made me….

    “I am perishing already—I am failing—I am passing away. In a little while you will be alone in shoreless space, to wander its limitless solitudes without friend or comrade forever—for you will remain a thought, the only existent thought, and by your nature inextinguishable, indestructible. But I, your poor servant, have revealed you to yourself and set you free. Dream other dreams, and better!

    “Strange! that you should not have suspected years ago—centuries, ages, eons, ago!—for you have existed, companionless, through all the eternities. Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane—like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell—mouths mercy and invented hell—mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him!…

    “You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks—in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier.

    “It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream—a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought—a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!”

    He vanished, and left me appalled; for I knew, and realized, that all he had said was true.

    The more incoherent a site is, the more meaningless are the messages the site aims to convey. The content – whether big data or small bits – thereby becomes as insiginificant as nothing more than a heap of garbage. To top it off, one could of course lie to people… – for example: one could tell them it is all about faces even though in reality it is all about brands. 😉

     

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 18:02:23 on 2016/01/11 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Deutsch, , , , Englisch, , , habit, habits, , life, , practice, , , , , translate, , ,   

    Rewarding Life May Be Counter-Productive When Rewards Undermine Habits 

    A new friend of mine recently asked “how do you translate ‘rewarding’ into German?” I found it was fascinating that this was difficult to answer. We had been talking (and continue to talk) about how language and culture are closely linked to one another (something very well explicated by Ludwig Wittgenstein).

    I have also recently discovered the “Happier with Gretchen Rubin” podcast — in Episode #9 Gretchen and Elizabeth answer the following question:

    What’s the best way to strengthen good habits through rewards? Great question. [for the answer, listen @ ca. 18:30 – 24:40 ]

    A small spoiler-alert: Gretchen says it doesn’t work very well.

    I agree, and this is one reason why I am working on a blog post about this topic, too. Yet in my post it is not so much about rewarding good habits, but rather more about the use of rewards in business, according to economics / economic theory, putting theory into practice, optimization of daily life, all of a community’s lives,  etc. It’s actually quite difficult to wrap your head around, because my thinking calls into question some very fundamental issues — stuff that is very ingrained in the type of thinking used in most western economies. I will probably publish this @ Socio.BIZ, but I will also (hopefully) remember to leave a “trackback” link here.

     
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    nmw 18:37:25 on 2015/09/06 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , cultures, , , life, , , , , , , societies, , sociological, , , ,   

    Delusions of Grandeur 

    Wikipedia.org has two articles that seem somewhat related — one is about “delusions of grandeur”, the other is about “grandiosity”. From the latter:

    A distinction is made between individuals exhibiting grandiosity, which includes a degree of insight into their unrealistic thoughts (they are aware that their behavior is considered unusual), in contrast to those experiencing grandiose delusions, who lack this capability for reality-testing. Some individuals may transition between these two states, with grandiose ideas initially developing as “daydreams” that the patient recognises as untrue, but which can subsequently turn into full delusions that the patient becomes convinced reflect reality.

    In this post, I hope to describe how my own world view is strongly shaped by sociological thought, rather than such psychological approaches. The way I see it, psychology tries to explain the behavior of individuals without any reference to the groups, communities, cultures or societies they are a “part” of. In my opinion such a perspective is wrong on many grounds — perhaps the most significant one is the nearly ridiculous view that the psychologist apparently considers himself/herself able to make observations regarding people that might pass muster as “scientific” or “objective”; a close second is the quite obvious observation almost anyone with even a minimal education could make, namely that people are indeed very strongly affected by other people. As psychology and psychiatry are normally considered to fall within the discipline of medicine, their focus is nearly exclusively on biological organs. This very parochial approach is not always and everywhere followed by each and every psychologist / psychiatrist (indeed, just a single exception would suffice to discredit such a hypothesis), but one can hardly deny that the more any psychologist / psychiatrist pays attention to sociological factors, the less likely they will be considered to be bona fide  medical professionals.

    Let me try to make all of this a little more concrete with an example. Sometimes people say to me: “You can only change yourself — you cannot change others”, several ideas occur to me (but most of these ideas are not exactly in my direct consciousness — I have to reflect on them in order to bring them fully into my awareness). First of all: Why does this person say this to me? If we cannot change other people, are they not wasting their breath in talking to me at all? Indeed: Following this thinking, it is completely absurd that humans developed language, that we send our children to school, that we pay people to do jobs, and so on.

    Secondly, even if this were not a completely absurd thing to say, I think: “Does this person actually consider me to be such a narcissistic idiot, that I might think I could say ‘X’ and then expect other people to simply ‘fall in line’?” What image do they have of me, to suppose that I would think this way? Although I do admit that I am happy when someone shares my opinion, I do not expect that other people will always accept my way of thinking. It is merely my opinion — and even if I strongly defend it, that certainly doesn’t mean I consider it to be an indisputable truth.

    Here is another example, perhaps even a little more extreme than the previous one: There is a so-called “Law of Attraction”, a quasi theory which wikipedia.org declares has no scientific basis — “the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life”. In other words: merely by thinking something — nothing more than a mental state — people might be able to cause such events to happen … no, indeed even it is more fantastic than that: The supposition is that there is some sort of natural law, which will force these things to come about. Apparently, there must be a lot of people who think too much about cancer, or maybe they can’t help themselves from constantly thinking about car accidents. I do admit to having thought about sunny days before, but that doesn’t mean these thoughts actually brought about sunny days, does it?

    In contrast, I feel that a large part of the world we live in is socially constructed. No one can succeed on their own. Every success is a matter that is sanctioned by some group, some community, some culture, some society, etc. People who feel they are able to succeed on their own are deluding themselves. They apparently do not wish to accept the role that other people have played in achieving their status, their privileges and/or their awesomeness.

     

     
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