Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Do You Even Tune In?

It seems likely to me that a lot of the content on the Web is nearly identical: blog posts often say similar things to other blog posts on the same topic. These blog posts are written, often not by the blog's owner, to collect advertising revenue. What does that tell us about the content?

With so many blog posts being so similar, that is, saying the same things about the same things, we can imagine them as songs played on a radio. The Internet Surfer is fed or otherwise comes across these postings, and so “hears the song.” With a blog post, it's unlikely the person will reread the post the way so many people like to hear certain songs again and again. Blog posts are disposable; we consume the post and never read it again.

Memory for news, events, memes, blog posts, can be expected to decrease as exposure to these media items increases; being able to remember only so much, more text, sounds, and images leads to a lower absolute number of these items being remembered. Our Surfer may remember an exemplar of a type of media item. A particularly popular Star Wars meme, or a blog post that said something just so, may function as the memory handle on a whole slough of similar and possibly inferior items.

Each type of media item is like the song on the radio: you've seen one of the type, and you've seen them all. Seeing one of a type is hearing the song again. As we scan the Web, “turning the dial,” we hear the same song many times. Songs come into and fall out of favor rapidly, and we may forget we've even heard the song.

I use the radio analogy not only because it struck me first; the radio is entertainment used to collect advertising revenue. The Web is entirely entertainment: news, activism, shopping, Internet radio and streaming video – all are entertainment. “What about online education! What about moocs?” I am impatient at having to say it again: the entire Web is entertainment. What is not entertainment is not the Web; it is something else for which I have no name.

A final note: when thinking of blog posts as songs, we formed a schema of the song from the different, similar blog posts. Future radio may be used (to collect advertising revenue) to broadcast or to stream songs that have been altered by a computer, in such a way that no two plays are identical. In the first case, “out of many, one”; in the second, from one, many.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

One-Dimensional Places: An attempt at a phenomenology of the rest-stop affordances of the roadside attraction, generalizing from an example

Let's say I was sitting on some rocks beside the rock staircase leading to an overlook, reading Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation, and I overheard a man speak; I'm not saying a man with his wife said the following, as they began their way up the stair:
“Why don't you just use the rest room, walk up the stairs, and leave, like everybody else? Bring your extra pillow, make yourself comfortable; reservations close at five o'clock.”
I am saying he might have, and so now we are in the realm of philosophy!

The empty picnic table, the well worn but unoccupied trails, the rocks beside the staircase, are decoration to most. "This is not a park"; this is another rest-stop on a drive across a state. Use of these amenities is, socially, implicitly forbidden. The disappointment of the one who sees the picnic table occupied by a single human form: “We don't actually want to stop here at the table, though you are preventing our possible use, and so you must go.”

The single human form is anathema to most, in a circumstance such as this one. “Truth begins with two,” Nietzsche wrote. Leaving aside that “I am legion,” I am carrying Baudrillard's book; I am not alone though I am a single (“embookened”) human form. The single human form: the image of the crazed serial killer. The book (and not this book only): subversion incarnate.

What sights, sounds, scents, coruscations of touch would this brave gentleman have foregone, to have been able to speak of a single human form reading a book in a somewhat natural setting, this way? In his mind, who knows what catastrophe he averted by making clear that he was unhappy at the prospect of sharing oxygen and vicinity with a “strange” human form? Fear; pacification of existence. One removes the other, and the other the one.

I got up and left; we two were not slated to be friends. What catastrophe I have averted in my imagination! I did not get into a conflict with another human being. I know that single human form better than he; surviving attempted murder was never anything I'd planned on, and it was that single human form I did not heed, that made the five scars in my body (“defensive wounds.”) It is that single human form that, as far as I know, as far as I can know, is still haunting entrances to parks.

Look at what has just happened: objective ambiguity. Marcuse, in One-Dimensional Man, gave a few examples of this. Assessing from two points of view neutralizes all objections. Yet this is still an irrational rationality. What do any of you dialectical thinkers have to say? 

I do not believe in “neutral” or “indifferent” worlds. Once something exists, it has an essential orientation, even if it exists only as possibility or impossibility. The pencil does not balance on its point. It was not intended to; that is not the design intent of a pencil. Perhaps some skilled pencil-balancer is out there; then, it would be that single human form's essential orientation, and so on. There is no zero-point, all is flux; or, zero is never reached without being left, once more, immediately or nearly so. The world is not digital, though this picnic table is a simulation.

I came back, circling around, to the picnic table, and returned to where I began, knowing it for the first time. And I've left out of fear of – the police and the madhouse!