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    nmw 16:20:02 on 2016/07/03 Permalink
    Tags: analysis, analytic, analytical, analytics, authenic, authenicated, authenicity, , , , , counterfeit, , , , engaging, , , , , , imposter, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , topos, , , ,   

    Sign My Guestbook + The Rationality of the Written Word 

    I enjoy following Chloe Thurlow’s writings and musings very much. Whenever I start reading, then I am quite sure that my time will be well spent. I am sad that her chloethurlow.com website is sometimes blocked when I am at work or at some other public computer, because writing on my phone is a truly laborious task which I would rather not engage in at all.

    Recently Chloe asked whether I might be willing to write something – meaning: for the chloethurlow.com audience. Obviously, yes! But it turns out willing and able are two very different things. What I immediately came up with was nothing less than „Painfully empty“ – at least that’s how I like to describe it.

    I have had other people ask me whether I might consider writing for „their“ websites. I usually decline, though, for several reasons. One reason is usually meant ironically – I use this when the person asking is a fan of Google: „they can just search“ (LOL)… and then of course the fans are forced to admit that would be logical, and perhaps they also realize how bogus the whole notion of Google is (though in some cases, I think that part whooshes right by above their heads).

    Another reason is that I would feel like an impostor. If people visit chloethurlow.com, wouldn’t they be disappointed to hear me preaching from that pulpit? As soon as I opened my mouth I would half expect my face to be pelted with tomatoes and rotten eggs. Cake wouldn’t be bad, as long as it tasted good.

    This brings me to the way I see and use „the web“. This is rather complicated, so if you don’t care then now would be a good time to stop reading. 😉

    In the early days of the web, there was this notion of „please come over to my place – and when you visit, then please sign my guestbook, post a comment“ … which was all more or less the precursor of: „please like my crap“. About a decade ago, Google made a quite significant change to the way they viewed content on the web. They introduced the concept of meaningless, insignificant blather. Of course they would probably say something like „we gave you a tool to deal with comment spam“. At the time, I was shocked that people would be willing to point out that the information on their own websites was insipid, useless, insignificant and probably a waste of your time (and certainly not worth the time for Google’s robots to scan it at the rate of fractions of a penny per pentillion). I knew then and there that this would be the end of comments. At the time, I was flabbergasted.

    Today, I look back and think: What a good thing! I don’t want to host your content. If you have something meaningful to share, then host it yourself. If you don’t have a dime, see if you can post it on some website that is willing to accept your thoughts for nothing (but don’t be so naive to think they won’t sell your private, personal parts to make money on it).

    When I want to share ideas, I see no reason to submit them to „other“ websites.

    What is an „other“ website?

    An other website is a site that I have very little or no control over. People need to get over thinking in black and white terms. You do not own your own website. People don’t own land. They use it. You don’t own me. If I feel like typing in chloethurlow.com rather than facebook.com that is entirely my decision. It is nothing other than my own rational behavior which motivates me to type in „weather“ when I want to learn about the weather. If I wanted romance, I would type in romance. I rarely type in Google.

    When I write, I expect people to be similarly rational. When Ella and Louis sang „Let’s call the calling off off“, they were declaring how relationships and meaning intertwine on a level that has little or nothing to do with individual pronunciation but everything to do with shared engagement with shared ideas. While I might seek to engage with romance, I might avoid engaging with brand names… and a big part of such a decision has to do with participating with people who perhaps think like I do, or perhaps think different – but in any case who care enough to become engaged.

    One important takeaway from this view of the web is an orientation towards language over a brand name orientation. Another – which is actually sort of a corollary – is that saying something like „you can contact me at so-and-so“ becomes meaningless. You can contact me at many locations, because I am engaged with many topics. I am not just here or there, I am almost everywhere.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

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

    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 15:22:08 on 2015/01/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , local search, , , physical, , , , , , topoi, topos, , , , ,   

    Topics as Locations: Physical Location vs. Virtual Location 

    There are many people who get very excited about local search… — and so do I; but only a very few think about location in a way that could be described as even just remotely similar to the way I think about it.

    For most people, location is a place you go. For work, they go to some kind of business location or some so-called “office space”. The might work shifts at a factory, they might grab something to eat at a coffee shop or corner deli, sleep at home and so on. Most people who get excited about “local search” want to guide suckers into buying something as they move from place to place. I don’t have anything against that idea — it’s just that I don’t find it particularly exciting.

    What I find exciting is being on the same page. Although a big part of that has to do the words and languages we use to communicate with one another, it also important to underscore that words are puzzle pieces — and therefore only small bits of a much greater mosaic. One word alone actually has little or no meaning whatsoever. It is the way a word is used (and the context in which the word is used) that gives it meaning.

    Each context has its own vocabulary — it’s own jargon. Many people consider jargon to be a “negative” term, but I think that is mainly because they are uncomfortable with thinking about language as a context-dependent phenomenon. For example, few people would consider the phrase “I do” to be a very specific jargon term in the context of marriage ceremonies.

    Instead, the vast majority of people prefer a simpleton view that one word has one meaning — regardless of context. These are the kind of people you will reach if you advertise your products and services on a one-size fits all search engine like google.com — and if you do, then this will be the community you choose to interact and “do business” with.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 17:23:31 on 2014/11/02 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , map, mapping, maps, , metaphors, , , , , , , , , , , , territory, topological, topology, topos   

    Topological Maps: Don’t Even Go There — unless, perhaps, you wish to mention the exceptional case in which the map *IS* the territory 

    One of my friends since many years (who has taught me a lot about the way people might think or perceive stories, digest experiences, come to understand their life, etc.), namely Jean Russell, has posted some interesting remarks about the metaphors she uses (at times, I guess) to understand “the Internet”:

    So much of our experience of computers and the internet in the last 50 years has been disruptive. People didn’t know they wanted it, didn’t know what it was or what it did. And when one introduces such things, we use metaphors to bridge from the familiar to the new. Your domain is like your home. Your Home Page. Email is like mail but sent over the computer.

    And along with these metaphors come a set of protocols and expectations. If I buy a domain as a home, then I don’t expect other people to have control there. I am responsible for keeping it tidy and inviting other people there. I can get a prefab home or make one myself.

    And these are all really helpful ways of using metaphors to help a new disruptive innovation gain traction in the world.

    However, if we want to BE disruptive in our innovation, we want to look for a different kind of metaphor. Websites are not just like homes, they have some features that homes do not and lack some features that homes have. If we use models of the familiar in creating our innovations, we aren’t likely to be very disruptive at all.

    For many years now, I have attempted to drum home the distinction between domains (addresses, web sites, virtual land, etc.) and websites (the HTML and similar “content” built up on top of the virtual property [note that I view all of the content -- whether it is considered "artificial language" or "natural language" -- as content; some people consider parts of this content -- e.g. HTML coding, especially "metatags" and such -- to be something other than content... I'm not exactly sure what, but they apparently consider it to be special in some way]).

    Yet whether land or property or building or whatever virtual real estate analogy, all of the above do not draw attention to one of the most noteworthy differences between domains and “real world real estate”: When it comes to information, the map may in fact actually be the territory!

    Think about it: When you think of an elephant, do you think of the elephant as an astronaut? Or perhaps climbing the Empire State Building? I would say that before having read those two suggestions, you probably hadn’t thought of elephants that way. You might have thought of elephants standing, eating, sleeping, … — but probably not writing computer programs. Your experiences of elephants have probably included things your brain associates with such concepts as “stand”, “eat”, “sleep”, etc. and when you think of an elephant, you may very well be inclined to also think of such topics. Perhaps thinking of “eating” might even motivate you to get up and get something to eat (see also “Words as Puzzle Pieces“).

    Words describe elements of relationships. We cannot think about sleeping without thinking of whatever thing that is sleeping. Some things sleep while standing; other things sleep while lying down on mattresses, with pillows, in beds. The things which your mind conjures up with any particular word may very well have more to do with the way your mind works than it has to with anything in the “real world”. Much like you may associate a certain fragrance with an early childhood experience which might somehow be linked to that scent, you may also associate concepts with each other based on how your cognitive map has stored linked or related concepts.

    Perhaps one of the great challenges for creating information retrieval systems that are able to “disrupt” the status quo is how to make it easy for people to distinguish between information sources that are about “cooking food” (versus e.g. “cooking the books”) and information sources that are about “buying food” (versus e.g. “buying a video game”). “Food” by itself is only a beginning: It is but one piece of a puzzle that needs to match up with other concepts. Bringing these concepts together to build a story from these elements will probably involve building complex networks that are not necessarily related by “real world” proximity. Thinking about information as if it had something to do with the way paper books have traditionally been stored on shelves is a sure-fire way to miss the boat.

     
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