Posts Tagged ‘writing’

filled with flots and jets i am today

One of the things I love about an aggregated informational world is the idea that if you’ve got enough information flowing past you things will wash up on shore. In the Wesch video there’s a bit about how a person finds significance based on our relationships/contrast with other people. That flow of what you and other people care about is important for significance I guess. You see how people who make stuff you care about care about certain things and you learn what you feel about things.

Journalism is about working yourself up into a lather over something you previously felt nothing about. It is diametrically opposed to what you do as a novelist, which is to very slowly discover what you feel about things. – Kazuo Ishiguro

I feel like aggregating information aids in both of these acts. You need that flow to see what other people are getting into a lather about and sometimes you can get into that lather too. There’s something to be said for having a pile of information you’re barely reading until you see people talking about the same thing so many times and it just bubbles up seemingly everywhere. I love that, especially when news is breaking.

And then there are the people who do the librarian/journalist type aggregation themsleves like @acarvin the NPR journalist who’s become the go to retweeter for the revolutions in the Middle East. He’s being the human in the middle putting an eye on things (and sometimes he, like others, gets fooled).

I can see how these software bits and the fancy learning environments are good for bringing information together but man oh man do I ever like the idea of the infopro (ie the person not the tool) as aggregator supreme. In a much more modest way I’ve been trying to play that kind of role in this class, going through the twitterstream and putting the conversations into a more followable format on Storify. This is not the most efficient means of aggregation, I realize. That Wesch video is talking about automatically pulling in everything tagged anthropology on Flickr, but I’m sure a lot of those pictures are absolute shit. If we’re filters we’re filters sifting for treasure. And it’s not easy.

The other day Jessamyn West posted a commencement address I really enjoyed, which included this:

Some of what I do is go places that “my people” don’t go to, represent us, and then come back and tell my folks what I found there, whether it’s being a techie at a librarian conference, a librarian at the tech conference or a rural librarian at the big city meeting. The world needs people who stay and people who roam, cross-pollinate, bumblebee style.

Sometimes I was surprised that I’d be one of very few people in my communities speaking out cogently and clearly for my ideas, against filtering, against digital rights management, for copyright reform and open access, that sort of thing.

Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker movement sometimes called this isolation of idealism the “long loneliness” and said it could only be solved by the love that comes with community. I feel that by sharing your ideas and ideals with others, you’re not as lonely.

I don’t know, this idea of streams of information merging with each other and being separated out is important and kind of beautiful. I don’t know about the wisdom of crowds but I do love cross-pollination and that’s something that works if you’re aggregating across different ideas.

spimes and blogging affordances

An excellent book about the design of technology and how things work is Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things. It’s one of my favourite nonfiction books and it’s all about what our tools allow us to do and make us do. The idea is that technology has moved through different stages through history, affording us different roles.

From Cory Doctorow’s review of the book on BoingBoing:

Sterling traces the history of tools from artifacts (farmers’ tools) to machines (customers’ devices) to products (customers’ purchases) to gizmos (end-users’ platforms) and to the future, which is defined by what Sterling calls Spimes.

A Spime is a location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified object that flings off data about itself and its environment in great quantities. A universe of Spimes is an informational universe, and it is the use of this information that informs the most exciting part of Sterling’s argument.

The book came out in 2005, but as Foursquare and all the other locative services continue to gain traction, that spimey future looks a lot closer.

In regards to the specific affordances of blogging I find it funny that as Twitter gets taken up, blogging is where people are going to express their lengthy thoughts. Blogging as the means of talking out serious issues instead of just tossing off a couple of one-liners with a good hashtag isn’t something I expected when I began. But blogging is a platform for putting different subject matter into. Twitter is awesome for jokes and conversation. Way better than a blog where you have to go through the monumental effort of publishing your text. It takes multiples of seconds to log in and pick New Post and all that. So terribly slow. (And seriously, as qwerty keyboards on phones are replaced with touchscreens the annoyance of typing out anything more than 140 characters at a time does make Twitter more attractive.)

And then there’s this interesting post on how Twitter beats Google+, which twists the idea of expressing complete thoughts from a single brain further. The thesis there is that G+ isn’t a new enough medium, because storytelling there feels too much like blogging, and isn’t as collaborative as the exquisite corpseishness that is Twitter.

But maybe I’m just a stick in the mud with wanting things to come from one mind and human’s fingers (ignoring the publishing machine behind everything. I like the myth of the heroic individual that’s enabled by the culture of blogging. What about you?

book review: the curtain

Reading Milan Kundera essays about topics like Art and The Novel and such always makes me want to be a better writer than I am. To be a bit pretentious because that’s a way of faking yourself out into thinking that maybe you’re doing something worth a damn.

To write without having that ambition is cynicism: a mediocre plumber may be useful to people, but a mediocre novelist who consciously produces books that are ephemeral, commonplace, conventional – thus, not useful, thus burdensome, thus noxious – is contemptible.

The Curtain is a short book-length essay about art and history and how history has no taste.

The more attentively, fixedly, one observes a reality, the better one sees that it does not correspond to people’s idea of it; under Kafka’s long gaze it is gradually revealed as empty of reason, thus non-reasonable, thus implausible.

And part of what I love about a book like this, even though it’s so European and also so snobby is seeing bits of me reflected in there, like someday I might not make something that’s a piece of shit.

For if agelasts tend to see sacrilege in every joke, it’s because every joke is a sacrilege. There is an irreconcilable incompatibility between the comical and the sacred, and we can only ask where the sacred begins and ends. Is it confined just to the Temple? Or does its domain reach further, does it also annex what are known as the great secular values: maternity, love, patriotism, human dignity?

An important book for me to read. I feel more at odds with this whole idea of being at school learning to do something that’s almost the opposite of art, but being at odds with something is good. Keeps me from being complacent.

RSS feed

Spam prevention powered by Akismet