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    nmw 13:20:03 on 2015/07/23 Permalink
    Tags: author, authors, book, books, , , catalogs, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , written   

    To Read or to Be Read 

    When I was a kid, I used to go to the library a lot… and read books. Before reading them, I would need to find them. For those of you unfamiliar with this process: This was the prototype for most search engines (back then, people studying this process went to “library schools”, graduate programs for “information science” — and the field specifically focused on what is today referred to “search”, back then it was called “information retrieval”).

    But reading is not really something “for specialists only”. Before graduating high school, regular folks also had to learn about publishing. For example: They needed to know that books have authors, that they were published by publishing companies, and so on.

    Online, titles, authors and publishing houses became domain names. There are also numbers which refer to computers — perhaps this is roughly equivalent to the way people would refer to specific shelves where specific books were stored (this system of naming shelves, which was used in the earliest libraries, would later give way to so-called “call-numbers”, a system whereby a book was given a specific sequential number where it could be found). The biggest difference between traditional libraries and the Internet is probably the fact that online, the cataloging and indexing systems are integrated into the same system as the writing that they catalog / index. Although professional abstracting and indexing services also published such volumes (which looked very much like “regular” books), and these books were usually also given call numbers, putting them on par with the more ordinary literature, the librarian was the person who made this decision… and the librarian was the person ultimately responsible for maintaining the catalog (and also for choosing what would be included in the library’s collection).

    I guess only quite novice users would assume that if something was not in the library (and/or the library’s catalogs) that it would not exist.

    Contrast that with today — where there is now an entire generation of kids who seem to believe that if something cannot be found in Google, that it doesn’t exist.

    Even though the rate of illiteracy today is quite astounding already, I now observe also that in recent years an entirely new trend is catching on. People are becoming ever less concerned with reading or writing or behaving as functionally literate persons. Instead: They are becoming more obsessed with being read… — meaning that someone (or some company) is able to trace their moves. Whereas it is becoming ever more rare for people the read or write anything resembling written texts (and/or “literature”), it is becoming ever more commonplace for people to clutch on to gadgets which track everything such quantified fetishists seem to place such a high value on. The typical quantified fetishist will feel much the same way about their gadget fetish as a democratic idealist might view the sanctity of the voting booth.

    In this milieu, there seems to also be a widespread belief that the companies collecting this data will share it publicly out of the warmness of their hearts.

  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 10:10:38 on 2015/07/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , alive, , , dead, , , , , fashion, , formless, formlessness, forms, , , , , , , , , , , , written   

    WANTED: Is Written Language DEAD OR ALIVE? 

    We are constantly altering the forms we have inherited from previous generations, and these changes are signs of life and vitality. Indeed: The things that don’t change, the forms that rigidify, come to look to us like death — and we destroy them.

    Robert Greene (“48 Laws of Power”)

    One of the sayings I find particularly enticing is the notion that “Written language is dead”. It appeals to our experiences of printed materials, tomes that appear as tombstones of bygone ideas. Yet today, this dogma itself is no longer valid.

    Today, written language exists in the present. Written language lives and breathes according to the whims of an invisible hand that sweeps our attention from hither to thither. “Bells and whistles” give way to “ringtones”, and “ringtones” also succumb to other newfangled applications of fashion.

    More and more writing is becoming less and less etched in stone, it increasingly billows among flyers scattered by the winds of change, becomes evermore formless, ephemeral and transient. Fixed data points give way to fluid data streams.

    There is no need for remorse or backwards oriented attachment to the dead tomes of yesteryear or the innumerable generations dating back to the ancient past. We are not amoeba. We are, here and now, living in the present… — and constantly changing in order to better adapt to the future.

  • Profile photo of feedwordpress

    feedwordpress 12:21:13 on 2013/08/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , written   

    In Language We Trust 

    There is one point about that the Wisdom of the Language that seems confusing: It is apparently not clear to some which language is being referred to. I have left this open and ambiguous by choice, because it is not really a straightforward matter. Let me explain.

    I am not talking about English or German, Arabic or Chinese. The main issue I see is written vs. spoken language. I find it amazing that few people make this distinction, but it is a very important one. The difficulty, though, is how to truly nail it down. For example: When I speak into a telephone, the audio signal is transformed into an electrical signal. In many (if not most) cases, that electrical signal is then transformed into either a light signal or a radio signal. The light or radio signal is the one that usually travels most of the distance (as these travel the fastest), then the signals are trasformed back (first into an electrical signal and then into another audio signal). In other words: there are several cases of writing and rewriting of data involved — so this is actually a written (and often translated) message, even though it appears to us to be simply spoken.

    When I say “In Language We Trust”, I mean written language… even though writing is difficult to define. Is my genetic information a case of written language or not? Is the Magna Charta that gets printed in textbooks and encyclopedias across the globe the exact same text as the one written almost 800 years ago in England? Are the pictures etched into the Code of Hammurabi also writing? Why (or why not)?

    Of course I am playing Devil’s Advocate here. When I get a call on the telephone about some stupendous offer for me to save money, get rich quick or buy insurance to cover the risk that my cat might die in a car accident, I may ask them to send something in writing (though more likely I will simply hang up). I do not trust insurance salesman, and I do not trust statements uttered in spoken language as much as I trust information in writing.

    Written language seems to have a permanence that makes it more reliable. This is true in spades for a particular type of written content online: Domain names. We are all invested in domain names, much in the same way as we all have a stake in the English Language (or if some other language is your native language, then that language). When we say “house”, “tomorrow” or “water” in our native language to another person who speaks the same language as their native language, there is generally a trust that we are roughly speaking using the same names to mean the same things. Likewise, if I ask you to visit house.com, tomorrow.net or water.org, then there is little doubt that we are referring to the same thing (note, however, that the most of the information presented at tomorrow.net may very well be ads brought to you by Google, and that Google will probably deliver content that it feels will probably maximize profit for Google, Inc. — nonethless: this is what the administrator of tomorrow.net has decided, and the fact that the registrant of tomorrow.net is a company named “Oversee” and located in Los Angeles, California is public information, as is the company’s telephone number, street addess, etc.; there is no doubt that this company is ultimately responsible for any information presented at the URL “tomorrow.net” … and there is proof of this fact in writing). We often rely on the public nature of registries: the bank notes we use are numbered in this manner, the land upon which houses and other buildings are built are recorded in land registries, and so on. Registries are to ownership of private property much the same as dictionaries are to language — as a society we “buy into” both of these systems, in order to facilitate order and ease of use (in the case of property, to simplify commerce; and in the case of language, to simplify communication).

    This is probably far more detailed and complicated that what you were bargaining for when you decided to read this post. The plain and simple version might simply read: “In Language We Trust” refers to written language, not hot air! :D

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