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    nmw 17:57:54 on 2016/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , character, characters, , , , , , indexes, , , informationretrievel, intelligability, intelligable, , , , , , , , , , , , Wisdom of the Language   

    Fundamental Principles of Rational Media 

    In my previous post, I noted that my concept of rationality differs from the general, widely accepted views of this notion. I do not disagree with these views. Instead, I believe the way I view rationality is more generalized.

    To put it simply: Rationality can be interpreted as any idea – in other words: any idea can be considered rational – if it can be expressed in language. What language is / isn’t – that’s perhaps a more difficult question to answer, but as mathematics is one such language… and as logic, i.e. „mathematical logic“ can be interpreted as a subset of mathematics, logic can also be interpreted as a language.

    Most so-called „programming“ languages are also, well: languages. „Natural“ languages are also languages (indeed: the distinction between „natural“ language and „artificial“ language is really not very distinct, clear, obvious or anything like that). And as I mentioned in my previous post, even facial expressions, scents, DNA and many other things can also be interpreted as language.

    In the context of „rational media“, however, I suggest limiting the meaning of the expression to what is often referred to as „machine readable“ language. I would even suggest limiting the extent of „rational media“ more than that, because there are actually many types of machine-readable expressions which are usually considered to be unintelligible by humans without machines. For example: Hollerith cards, magnetic tape and discs, compact discs, usb sticks, bar codes and QR-codes to name just a few. There are also some expressions which are simply difficult to express in the traditional notion of natural language – for example: numerical values written in hexadecimal formats.

    All of this is by and large simple and straightforward in an online setting, because web addresses are almost all written using what most people consider to be natural language expressions (though note that so-called „international domain names“ / IDNs are written in a code which allows for algorithmic translation between the latin character set used in all domain names to transformed expressions in specialized character sets [and vice versa] ). In general, surfing the web is very much like using an encyclopedia, a lexicon or what used to be called a „card catalog“. The primary difference is that whereas the web is considered to be distributed, the traditional forms were usually viewed as created by a single author, organization or institution. Therefore, whereas for many decades and even centuries people had become very accustomed to indexes being something created by specialized „indexers“ or „indexing services“, today the „index“ to the web is considered to be integrated into the web itself (note, however, that the registries of „top level domains“ [TLDs] are actually sort of like the „indexes of last resort“ … that is, „last resort“ excluding ICANN).

    I will simply abruptly stop here for now – as I feel this is probably already quite a lot to digest. If you would like to add comments, ideas, questions or anything like that, please feel free to register @ nooblogs.com, which is intended to be more for discussion and/or sharing of ideas.

     
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    nmw 15:36:22 on 2016/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , cognizance, cognizant, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , sapience, sapient, , , , , web sites, , , Wisdom of the Language   

    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.

     
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    nmw 17:40:42 on 2015/09/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , fuzzy, fuzzy logic, , , , string, strings, , , Wisdom of the Language, ,   

    Fuzzy Language and Fuzzy Vocabulary 

    Since I wrote about words vs. names a couple weeks ago (see “Names vs. Words: Strings for Identity vs. Strings for Information“), I have had an uneasy feeling that something is not well… and I think maybe I have figured it out now.

    The problem is this: online, there is no clear demarcation of words vs. names. As I indicated in the post I linked to above, neither is this true in a strict sense offline. However, even though many dictionaries exist for each of the most common languages (and even though they differ in the vocabularies they document, how they document these vocabularies, etc.), there is nonetheless a somewhat reliable order … such that anyone can be expected to “look up” any word in any dictionary and get a more or less reasonable explanation. Part of becoming literate involves being able to use a dictionary — indeed: any dictionary (more or less). Of course there are dictionaries which are unusable (as they are not well researched), but they are exceptions, not the rule. Most people depend on the notion of some standard dictionary, and such standard dictionaries describe the standard language.

    As I wrote about 10 years ago in my first “Wisdom of the Language” article, languages will always be moving targets. We have to be able to deal with such “facts of life”.

    But upon reflecting on the juxtaposition of “strings for identity” (names) versus “strings for information” (words), I notice a much more severe issue: It leaves no room for dictionaries. In the back of my mind, I have reasoned that all of the registered strings in COM would make up the “commercial” dictionary, all of the strings in DE would make up the German dictionary, and so on. But each of these lists of registered strings also includes a significant number of brand names (in other words: “strings for identities”).

    How will we know whether a string has been registered for a specific identity or whether it is registered for informative purposes? My gut feeling “hunch” reaction is that there may very well be attributes of the website / content that more or less clearly categorize the string as this type or that type. It might go like this: The more evidence there is of a “grass roots” type of community involvement in how the content is managed, the more the string would tend to be a word used by that community. Less evidence of this, and more evidence of a “top down” authoritarian management of the content would point towards an individual or organization identifying himself / herself / itself with the string.

    I realize this seems rather wishy-washy. Maybe someday I will figure out something more clear, but until then I guess I will just have to cope with such fuzzy notions: fuzzy vocabulary and fuzzy language.

     

     
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    nmw 08:43:05 on 2015/08/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , describe, description, descriptive, , , , , , , , , , , , , , specification, specifications, specify, , , Wisdom of the Language, ,   

    Names vs. Words: Strings for Identity vs. Strings for Information 

    There is a long-standing tradition of distinguishing names from words — although it is not formally codified (even language itself is not “set in stone”, but rather is undergoing constant evolution — much like a living being), it can be roughly said that whereas words are in the (or a) dictionary, names are strings listed on specialized lists (e.g. baby names, trademark names, names identifying a company, product, service, etc.

    The purpose of names is to identify, and ideally a name should uniquely identify something (or someone). In an ideal world, a name would signify just one thing and exclude everything else. Try to explain that to John or to Joe or to Jane Doe and you will quickly realize we do not live in an ideal world. It seems that so-called “last” names were introduced several hundred years ago in order to more specifically exclude other Johns and other Joes … and perhaps some day soon we will again have to figure out how to make names like Jane Doe uniquely refer to this Jane and not that Jane.

    Such thinking is what leads many to think that the most perfect name is a name which is the most extremely exclusive. Rare is good, unique is best.

    Names have some similarity to words in selecting particular things, but they are also crucially different. Certainly no one would ever want to confuse eating with sleeping, and to mix up sex with rex would make many actors and tyrransauri in heaven rather “most irate”. Language does aim to specify, but it does not aim to specify uniquely. We eat many times over, we sleep many times over, we do and experience all sorts of things over and over again — more or less.

    Therefore, although rare words exist (as do common words), I do not know of a single word that could be described as unique. Likewise, I very much doubt that a universal word ever existed (though it seems as though this is alleged to be the beginning of everything, as we find in the very first book the Bible, Genesis, the statement that “in the beginning, was the word”).

    Today, we have a much more refined understanding of language. We understand that languages are not formed by decree or by other kinds over government regulation or state control. Instead they evolve according to the needs, wishes, whims and rational preferences of living people — in a sort of evolutionary process guided by principles much like “supply” and “demand” (and also the physical dexterity of the vocal apparatus, etc.). In some ways, language may perhaps be understood to evolve in symbiosis with humans, rather than being a technology devised by humans.

    There is little doubt in my mind that so-called natural language is the most basic of all information technologies, especially if you include such messages as are conveyed by intonation, gesticulation, facial expressions, body language, etc. into your notion of natural language. The importance of this fact is usually overlooked when people discuss “information technology” (IT) today.

    The main point I wish to make with this post is the following: It is very important to discern between names and words. The information technology (IT) functions referred to as “search”, and also “community”-oriented information retrieval must rely heavily on words (as only words/language can function as the basis of communication). In sharp contrast, identity is the opposite of  what is commonly referred to as “social” — it must be exclusively private, and ideally it would actually be unique.

     

     
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