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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

on determinism from trippi via lessig

in a recent piece in wired by professor lessig, i found an echo of something i’ve been commenting on occasionally….

After a short stint at Progeny Linux Systems, Trippi recognized, he told me, “you will absolutely suffocate anything that you’re trying to do on the Internet by trying to command and control it.”

i think this point is bigger than the internet, but then again, i’m crazy. everyone knows there’s nothing bigger than the internet 🙂

posted by roj at 9:57 am  

Sunday, November 9, 2003

joi ponders his inner old man

joi ito is someone with whom i’ve had an evolving interaction (and the great pleasure of sharing dinner a couple times – putting me in some rather illustrious company, if a bit crowded 🙂 – joi will have dinner with anybody 🙂 )

today, joi ponders his inner cranky old man, which apparently escaped recently.

I think this issue of having difficulty engaging in a discussion with someone on a topic you understand well where you have a strong opinion is an issue that many academics face. This forces them to climb their ivory towers and engage in esoteric debates in an esoteric language with their peers and not reach down to the average person. This is also why many academics avoid publishing in popular media.

… and then asks about solutions, and gives the blog a quick nod.

this is something i’ve been occasionally brushing up against here. sometimes i even notice i’ve been given a clue.

anyway, since it’s one of the major threads i seem to have woven here, i thought i’d dig deep into my past (all the way back to 1986 or so), and bring in some deep thoughts on the subject from someone else. i present umberto eco, the blogger.

umberto eco, travels in hyper reality, preface to the american edition, 1986.

an american interviewer once asked me how i managed to reconcile my work as a scholar and university professor, author of books published by university presses, with my other work as what would be called in the united states a “columnist” – not to mention the fact that, once in my life, i even wrote a novel (a negligible incident and, in any case, an activity allowed by the constitution of every democratic nation). it is true that along with my academic job, i also write regularly for newspapers and magazines, where, in terms less technical than in my books on semiotics, i discuss various aspects of daily life, ranging from sport to politics and culture.
my answer was that this habit is common to all european intellectuals, in germany, france, spain and, naturally, italy: all countries where a scholar or scientist often feels required to speak out in the papers, to comment, if only from the point of view of his own interests and special field, on the events that concern all citizens. and i added, somewhat maliciously, that if there was any problem with this it was not my problem as a european intellectual; it was more a problem of american intellectuals, who live in a country where the division of labor between university professors and militant intellectuals is much more strict than in our countries.
it is true that many american university professors write for cultural reviews or for the book page of the daily papers. but many italian scholars and literary critics also write columns where they take a stand on political questions, and they do this not only as a natural part of their work, but also as a duty. there is, then, a difference in “patterns of culture.” cultural anthropologists accept cultures in which people eat dogs, monkeys, frogs, and snakes, and even cultures where adults chew gum, so it should be all right for countries to exist where university professors contribute to the newspapers.

update: fixed the first-paragraph misaligned quotations so the paragraph is visible, and fixed some spelling errors.

posted by roj at 7:05 pm  

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

constructive disagreement

as usual, akma brings an eloquence to something i’ve been fumbling with here occasionally.

and it should be an important lesson to our friends at diebold and sunncomm – not to mention political “with us or against us” leaders.

posted by roj at 9:32 am  

Monday, October 27, 2003

determinism vs the law of unintended consequences

just a quick thought this afternoon… something i should explore later…

i’ve talked about determinism a few times here on the blog.

there’s some overlap between the concept i’m exploring (and calling determinism) and the law of unintended consequences. i’ve come to this concept from a base in technology and applications of technology, and the law of unintended consquences comes from (i think) economics and politics. that means there’s a language gap and some conceptual leaps to bring things together, but i think this is a case where the domains need to come together a bit.

posted by roj at 1:46 pm  

Monday, October 27, 2003

wynton marsalis sits in the back

this is significant.

(with a nod to sidney harman. this is a guy i need to meet)

posted by roj at 11:26 am  

Monday, October 20, 2003

remapping the space

i was tooling around the web, and finally wandered into joi’s space, where i found this.

apparently, joi’s been noodling. and thinking. i know from personal experience that this is a dangerous combination. please put on appropriate safety gear before proceeding.

i’m going to throw some wrenches into the works, based on the language if nothing else. it’s entirely possible we’ll end up talking past each other, but he did ask for comments (and unfortunately, my comment turned into a graphic, so it can’t really be a comment-comment, it’ll have to be a reference-comment).

IE low context is stuff like CD’s and books which don’t change, are worth approximately the same amount to most people and don’t have much timing or personal context.

i disagree with this. the first thing i’m going to do is split the concepts of “context” and “don’t change” – i think things that don’t change can have a lot of personal context, and a lot of [personal] value. “our song” doesn’t change, but is very context-rich. so are “my baby[‘s] pictures.”

The far right is very personal, very timing sensitive, high context information such as information about your current “state”

again, i think there’s a natural and important split here. to emphasize, “very timing sensitive” information isn’t necessarily personal. the first example that comes to mind is “evacuate” (see what happens when you live in a constant state of terror alert?). anyway, the point is that time-sensitive material could be incredibly relevant to one or a million people.

i’m going to avoid joi’s layers and mapping things to this space for now. i came up with this:


i’m not entirely comfortable with all the labels, but i think this generally reflects my view of “the space.”

probably one of the most important points i want to make with the graphic on the table is that things move through this space. they don’t just “appear” and “stick.” consider a transition from the “media” sector – a book or song or film is a static entity – but as it is “remixed” (quoted, parodied, rewritten, clipped, edited) it becomes more and more a part of the culture. “i’ll be back” rides a vector from “media” to “culture.” also consider the personal equivalent – the line from the first movie you saw on your first date with your soulmate – the one where you both looked at each other and it “clicked.” this becomes a touchstone in the relationship – and a vector from “media” to “identity.” (that is, the identity of the relationship).

finally, since joi did mention value, i think there’s also an important aspect to “content” here, and perhaps this leads to a third axis. there’s a range from “low content” (which might be an sms message) to “high content” (which might be a fully immersive experience). an important aspect of this axis is that “low content” can refer to “high content” if it has “high context” – that line from the movie can be a metaphor for the whole first-date experience – but only for the two of you who shared the context.

this was a quick post- time to rush out the door, but i’ll let the rest of you hack this apart while i’m out.

posted by roj at 9:34 am  

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

it’s an opt-out kinda universe

ok, so this is a bit self-serving, but… a few days ago, i said it in a chat room, and i felt like saying it again.

“it’s an opt-out kinda universe. embrace it”

posted by roj at 8:41 am  

Sunday, October 5, 2003

can the law handle the wiki?

many moons ago, i spent some time brutalizing a paper describing an interesting political concept (emergent democracy).

today, i learned that this paper and some related materials would be required reading for law students at a well-known university. that’s interesting in and of itself. but it gets better….

apparently, these lawyers-in-training are having a hard time wrapping themselves around the philosophy of the wiki.

i can think of several reasons a “mutable text” would disturb lawyers and lawyers-in-training, but i’ll just leave it with this, in the hopes that some of these students will “get it”…

a wiki is like the entire body of laws and court opinions, only everyone’s a lawyer and everyone’s a judge and everyone’s a legislator.

… oh, and it’s important to play nice on a wiki.

update: added link to the course syllabus

posted by roj at 10:57 pm  

Saturday, October 4, 2003

the lamp of diogenes

several [fairly] recent events have inspired me to revisit an old thought found here on this blog.

back in august, i asked “is there, today, enough “light” to find an honest man?

the light of the net has been cast on verisign (and, for the moment, verisign has been brought into the light), and google has had some serious light focused on it. (not that my little post is “serious light” – but if it was enough to get my attention….)

the eternal optimist within me looks at these and thinks “maybe. or maybe there is.” maybe we won’t find an honest man with the light of the net, but perhaps we can keep a few of them more honest than they would otherwise be….

which is interesting, and begs the follow-up question: can there be a Not-Evil Empire? can you run an empire with all these lights on?

posted by roj at 4:21 am  

Tuesday, September 30, 2003


someone has to be the first example

[this dedicated to all the other rebels with a cause]

posted by roj at 7:24 pm  
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