logovolution

•October 30, 2007 • Leave a Comment

What came first, the word or the meaning?  Alright, obviously the thing that needed a word came before its word, but bear with me here.  What’s interesting in the very opening of “Cyber Typing” is how long the author spending expounding on how netizens and academics love making up words for things.  In fact, it almost seems like she’s trying to justify why she’s come up with the oh-so-clever term “cybertyping.”  To what extent, though, do the words we are exposed to and choose impact the way we think?  Is coining the term “cybertyping” to refer to stereotyping as it exists in and surrounding the web something necessary or even beneficial?

Much in the way that Derrida talked about the graphosphere and how paper thought influences us, our language and vocabulary do the same (it’s really more of a give-and-take, culture influencing language and language influencing thought).  While the subjects of stereotyping and prejudice are topics that do need to be discussed, is there really a new idea here that needs to be given legitimacy with a new word?  The author is obviously aware of questions like these, and spends a good deal of time justifying the word, and even the creation of neologisms.

Don’t get me wrong, I love language and watching it grow and change.  I think neologisms are great when they give a term to something that needs a term, but we should take the time to think about the kind of words we develop and use on a regular basis – they define us as much as we define them.

As an aside, I’ve never heard the word “cybertyping” used before, and the book was published several years ago.  Either I’m living under a rock and people use this all the time, or maybe there just wasn’t much of a need for it.

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Paper or Me

•October 25, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In this essay, Derrida is asked four questions about “paper.”  These questions are:

  1. Does paper function in a multimedia capacity and is it adequate for the communication of thoughts?
  2. Does paper as a medium influence the thoughts that are committed to it?
  3. What are the implications of increasingly electronic identification?
  4. Does digitization bring about a new “written-oral” status?

1. Derrida says that paper functions as a “virtual multimedia,” and that it is reducing or withdrawing.  He examines the historical importance of paper as it is tied to humanity, discussing its important symbolic place in human technology and thinking.  Paper is more than a base on which words are written, it is a metaphor that permeates our existence.  It has the ability to credit or discredit ideas and thoughts (“paper tiger” and “looks good ‘on paper'”).  The discussion of communicating thoughts then occurs, where Derrida asks what could possibly be adequate to communicate thoughts.  Paper as a virtual multimedia to communicate thoughts existed in a moment of technology where it was the way to communicate thoughts.  This medium is thought of as adequate until other methods present themselves, and then is viewed as something of a constraint.  Thinking of paper as a constraint produced transgressions that lose meaning when translated to the digital world (typographical experiments and the like).  By moving beyond those constraints, we both gain and lose something, but computerization should be seen only as the “evolution” of paper.

2. Paper as a medium has influenced the thoughts committed to it.  Derrida examines Freud’s “mystical notepad.”  Then, of course, we have to examine what exactly paper is.  Paper is more than just a physical object.  It is a base for writing, it is an act of transmission, and it is a symbol of a method of thought.  We examine the term “graphosphere” as the “paper form of thinking.”

3. Derrida here reminds the questioner that the transition into electronic identification, the removal of paper from government systems, is more fact than science ficiton.  He thinks that the increasing digitization of information about people is both liberating and oppressive.  Paper is a part of who we are, and its reduction makes us anxious, but digitization saves time, space, and increases immediacy.  However, the globalization of data and “invisible hegemonies or appropriations” worry us and affect the boundaries between what is public and what is private.  We still place importance on paper, requiring signatures and etc, and thus preserve our ties to paper.  We yet refer to it and it lives on (as in the screen) in a metaphoric way.  The increase of digitization is a trade-off, it is better AND worse than paper.  He mentions the digitization and sharing of information in relation to international law and the “decline of nation states.”

4. Yes.  Here Derrida discusses how he does not use e-mail or surf the web, though he recognizes the implications and importance of these technologies.  He seems a little frightened by the immediate globalization of discourse that occurs on the internet, and refers to his nostalgia for writing on paper.  He says again that we still value paper, that the goal of many online publications is still print, and that though new media represent inheritance of paper ideas, we still value paper itself.  He ends on an interesting note, wanting there to be more paper, paper that chronicles everything, or “saves the world in paper,” but also implies that there is too much of it, that sometimes he desires the “save the world from paper.”  Who is the guest, hostage, or host – us or paper?

I think there’s a lot here that I’m missing.  I think I understand a lot of the basic points but get tripped up on details.  I’d like to know more about the works that Derrida references throughout the text, and wish that I knew French.  The questioner “Les Cahiers de mediologie” seems to carry some baggage in the name that I don’t understand, and I’d like to know what this “tain” that is referenced twice in the essay is.  Sometimes it is difficult to get at Derrida’s answers to the questions, and in a lot of ways it seems he avoids giving a straight answer (which I’m sure is intentional, since these inquiries call into question some complex issues).  I think the segment of this essay I understood the least was question two, regarding the graphosphere and paper influencing thought prcoess, mostly because I am unfamiliar with the part of Freud’s work he is referencing.  I look forward to the discussion on this reading so that maybe I can clear up my understanding.

Foucault’s “What is an author”

•October 18, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In this text, Foucault first calls into question our concept of “authors.”  Even though we consider the author and authorship to be a concept we’ve always had, it hasn’t always existed in its current form and might not always.  He says that the author has not “died” entirely and that it is a worthy endeavor to examine the author’s function.

He then asks what constitutues a “work” and where, when considering an author, we determine where to “cut off” what we consider a body of work.  He also discusses what function the author’s name servers – just a regular dude doesn’t have the same function as the name “Homer,” and that proving that just a regular dude doesn’t exist isn’t that same as proving that an author didn’t write a work to which is was previously accredited.

Next he discusses what the characteristics of the “author function” are.  He brings these classifications down to four main points.  1.  The author is tied to the legal system and ownership.  2. The author function does not universally affect works.  3. This function is very complex – we give authors value and value authors for a variety of different reasons, and elevate the author beyond the physical person.  There are many criteria for determining what is and isn’t an author.  4. “Author” may refer to more than just a person.  The author could be the person himself, a fictional narrative voice, or a combination of different “people.”

Foucault also attempts to demonstrate that the idea of authorship extends beyond works and into the realm of discourses (he talks about Marx and Freud shaping entire bodies of discourse).

I guess it’s hard for me to understand exactly where this problem of authorship becomes something that needs to be considered.  It’s definitely an interesting issue to think about and can relate to our notions and class discussions of ownership and copyright, but I’m not sure I totally “get” the implications of this writing.

They don’t get it.

•October 16, 2007 • Leave a Comment

It’s like Lessig said – we are constantly building on past creative expressions to create new content. Media changes over time. Distribution methods and content creation are changing, but law is not. Copyright law is extending and becoming progressively restrictive, causing less people to be in control of more “intellectual property.” Why, in the age of new media, is law steadfastly refusing change? Maybe it’s because those folks in charge just don’t (or don’t want to) understand and adopt a new media point-of-view. From “Last Cry of the Dinosaurs:”

If people just give away their blog posts to the Huffpo, they will be relegated to working on an assembly line just to pay their bills, he said. What Eisner clearly doesn’t get is that those blog posts, while given away for free, provide incredible value in terms of recognition for authors and their organizations (both Art and I blog for the Huffington Post).

It seems that Eisner just doesn’t “get” how blogs work. I think that this is largely indicative of a pretty big problem that a lot of these Old Media Dinosaurs seem to share in common. We’ve seen this theme before – anyone remember Senator Ted Stevens and the “series of tubes” that is the internet? The man in charge of regulating the internet DOESN’T UNDERSTAND IT. How can we expect to be able to move forward in new media when the big dogs who push copyright laws without understanding the opportunities that are now available, or even a basic understanding of technology?

I guess the real question is how to deal with the dinosaurs. What do you do against multi-million dollar corporations who are staunchly mired in old media? Can their lawyers keep fooling our lawmakers into extending copyright further and further into technology or is new media the trigger of their extinction?

“blog post” “Weinberg” “metadata”

•October 4, 2007 • Leave a Comment

On the web, we’re getting pretty used to “third order” organization, even if we don’t necessarily realize it.  We use services like ebay and amazon to search for potential purchases – hell, even google, allowing us to search by brief description, uses a third order philosophy to try and bring us exactly what we’re looking for.  The increasing popularity of user-driven metadata sites, though, requires us to think more about how we, the everyday user, organize things in a third order space.  Weinberger talks about how we are used to organizing things in a first order way in our daily lives without much thought:

Without pausing for thought, you have coordinated four intersecting sets of criteria: how big the bottles are, what the contents are used for, which part of a meal they’re applied to, and how frequently you need them.

As we continue to add information to information, first order rules no longer apply as easily.  When ordering our photos, files, or other digital property that can have metadata associated with it, we suddenly need to think about the best way to organize.  When we tag images, associate reviews with movies or books, or even organize our “top friends” in a social networking site, it becomes more important to appropriately and accurately associate metadata with an item of information.

What about the implications of multiple users all organizing and adding metadata to the same set of information?  Just like with issues of misinformation or vandalizing on Wikipedia, we encounter issues of inappropriate tagging, irrelevant information, or even malicious attempts at disrupting the third-ordering of information.  On Wikipedia, a hierarchy and large user base dedicated to proper organization is a check for disruptive behavior, and I think this model is largely successful and will be employed in other sites that plan to maintain relevant and userful data.

my first Wikipedia contribution ever

•September 27, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Well, editing Wikipedia wasn’t nearly as simple as they like to make it sound.  It was easy enough to hit “edit this page,” but actually finding something to contribute wasn’t nearly as simple.  There aren’t many things that I know or have access to that the internet hasn’t already marked up in a far more elegant way than I could.  I dug around for a while (alright, so I actually got lost reading articles full of knowledge that I’ll probably never need), agonizing over where I could actually add something or make something better.  You see, I’m a lurker.   I’m the person who reads the forums, blogs, and whatever else but doesn’t necessarily always have something to add – I hate restating things that have already been said, and only contribute if I feel my input is at least somewhat significant or interesting.

After a while, trying to think of something obscure I knew about and might be able to edit, I landed on the topic of roguelikes.  Specifically my favorite roguelike, ADoM (that’s Ancient Domains of Mystery for the uninitiated).  I was surprised to see that the roguelike article itself had been up for deletion.  Though very niche, it’s a really well-established genre of games that dates back quite a while, but the article was up for deletion largely because of the lack of sources and references.  I ventured to ADoM’s page and noted that it, too, suffered from lack of citing (and some gaps in knowledge of the game), so I got to work.

I added sources to some statements in the article that could be considered subjective (someone referenced the game creator’s opinions without providing direct links).  It took some time to locate the sources, but I dug through the author’s articles on his site until I found specific references and added them.  I also did some general cleanup on the article and added a “Story” section, which is important to this particular roguelike.  My lack of knowledge about Wikipedia syntax and confusion over citing sources increased the time it took to make the edits, and I had to leave some things in a less-than-perfect state, but by this morning some of the problems I encountered had been cleaned up – with my material still there, just looking much nicer.

I also added a screenshot of the ADoM overworld, which I feel is significant to the game since only a few roguelikes feature a static overworld.  Hopefully it will stay there, but it seems there is a good deal of red tape regarding what images can be used, so I guess we’ll see.

meta-narrative

•September 20, 2007 • Leave a Comment

The internet is opening up new possibilities in narrative. I wouldn’t say it’s entirely changing narrative, but it’s changing the way we experience narratives – from daily news sources to fiction. The “Creative Crowdwriting” article we read held quite a bit of interest for me. Not only is it just plain cool to collaborate with hundreds of other people online to create a story, or to see a story embedded with hyperlinks that disengage us from a linear narrative, but I’m really interested in this idea of the meta-narrative that happens while the story is being written – it’s like seeing into the author’s head (except the author is hundreds of people and his head is the history and discussions surrounding the wiki medium).

Throughout the five-week span, however, some participants did their own literary thing. One, who came to be known as “Bananaman,” rewrote small sections along a banana-based theme. Ettinghausen described “…one scene where somebody got stabbed with a kind of stiletto knife, and he changed ‘stiletto knife’ to ‘a sharpened sliver of banana.'”

Now, the story is not just about someone getting stabbed (or just about someone getting stabbed with a banana), but there’s this meta-story about a guy who came in and introduced a banana theme to the overall story. Now, it’s not a new idea that a narrative changes as it is being written, but we usually don’t get to see that process. With a group of people using a wiki to write something, not only do we see the end product, but if we’re there at the right time, we see the process. Writers begin to develop characteristics, social groups, an entire little structure within the frame of this one project. The result is eventually a narrative that has several related narratives surrounding it – there’s more to the story than just the words on the page.