Gravity & Literature

And I made a rural pen,

And I stain'd the water clear,

And I wrote my happy songs

Every child may joy to hear.

--William Blake, Songs of Innocence, Introduction

Monday, December 18, 2006

Random Access Hilarity

For those of you engaged on a never-ending quest for additional blogs to read, I recommend this. The latest there leads on to a further link and asks a question that I thought would be of interest to our group here--it has to do with algorithms, randomness, and the question of authorship.

Also Nietzsche and Family Circus.

*Addendum*

Here's a permanent link to that post.

Friday, December 15, 2006

alliterates

here is the link

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A couplet for Johnson

Kick at the rock, Sam Johnson, break your bones:
But cloudy, cloudy is the stuff of stones.
~Richard Wilbur (1921- )

That is all.

Discussion Board Archive

I've added a link where we can start transferring discussion board comments here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Feedback Mountain

A friend of mine sent me a link. It was sent to him by someone else, and so on. I didn't see the joke until he pointed it out--I should mention, perhaps, that he's gay. He found it quite hysterical.

I, of course, cautiously shared the laugh and immediately thought of how the page functioned as a feedback loop--and I wondered if the resulting "joke" constituted some kind of emergence.

It certainly reflects Amazon.com's belief that you are what you buy, and that so is everyone else, unless we are to believe that the feature is being tinkered with by programmers who are being told to push certain products.

Tell me what you think:

Go to Amazon.com. Search for "Philips-Norelco-BG2020-Mens-Bodygroom." Scroll down to the "Customers who bought this item also bought" section. Think about it. Respond here.

More Thoughts on "Lateral Reading"


I've been trying to come up with a definition of what I mean by "lateral reading" as it applies to the digital age and decided to through it out here to see if anyone wanted to dive in and help figure it out.

Imagine that reading on the internet is like using a giant bookwheel, only using multiple windows for different texts. So, let's say we're reading a copy of Northanger Abbey online. So here is an excerpt of the text:
Catherine's feelings, as she got into the carriage, were in a very unsettled state; divided between regret for the loss of one great pleasure, and the hope of soon enjoying another, almost its equal in degree, however unlike in kind. She could not think the Tilneys had acted quite well by her, in so readily giving up their engagement, without sending her any message of excuse. It was now but an hour later than the time fixed on for the beginning of their walk; and, in spite of what she had heard of the prodigious accumulation of dirt in the course of that hour, she could not from her own observation help thinking that they might have gone with very little inconvenience. To feel herself slighted by them was very painful. On the other hand, the delight of exploring an edifice like Udolpho, as her fancy represented Blaize Castle to be, was such a counterpoise of good as might console her for almost anything.

They passed briskly down Pulteney Street, and through Laura Place, without the exchange of many words. Thorpe talked to his horse, and she meditated, by turns, on broken promises and broken arches, phaetons and false hangings, Tilneys and trap-doors.

Now instead of just reading by scrolling down and clicking on "Next," what if the page looked like this?
Catherine's feelings, as she got into the carriage, were in a very unsettled state; divided between regret for the loss of one great pleasure, and the hope of soon enjoying another, almost its equal in degree, however unlike in kind. She could not think the Tilneys had acted quite well by her, in so readily giving up their engagement, without sending her any message of excuse. It was now but an hour later than the time fixed on for the beginning of their walk; and, in spite of what she had heard of the prodigious accumulation of dirt in the course of that hour, she could not from her own observation help thinking that they might have gone with very little inconvenience. To feel herself slighted by them was very painful. On the other hand, the delight of exploring an edifice like Udolpho, as her fancy represented Blaize Castle to be, was such a counterpoise of good as might console her for almost anything.

They passed briskly down Pulteney Street, and through Laura Place, without the exchange of many words. Thorpe talked to his horse, and she meditated, by turns, on broken promises and broken arches, phaetons and false hangings, Tilneys and trap-doors.

This is of course a very rough example of that kind of reading, but you begin to see the possibilities. On different sites the same text may have different keywords highlighted and different kinds of links. Reading is non-linear, and "close reading" is something entirely different.

Sense? Nonsense? You guys tell me.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Like Lost, but more relevant?

In keeping with our various themes of Lost, networking, games, connections, feedback, and all sorts of other things I can only ever hope to understand partially--

I came across this in the blog of another friend of mine (to which I will not link):

http://www.lost.eu/e120


The site explains it all. I'm not "playing" the game, but it seeks to establish itself as having the most users ever--7 million. I believe we were talking about feedback loop user-based "games" last night, and with the title of this one I couldn't resist posting it.

Also, it's a student project, apparently, so I feel a sense of kinship. Let us all know what the braver of you find out...

Monday, December 04, 2006

What's in a name

Just as a matter of interest, a google search for "Cliff Siskin" now turns up this blog as the seventh listing. "Clifford Siskin" not so much.

Can Blogger and Wiki Save the World?


Illustrations by Lisa Strausfeld and James Nick Sears/Pentagram

These images represent terrorist attacks and some of the actors, weapons and targets linked to them. The physical relationship of the items suggests the level of connection.

Here's something interesting from the Times Magazine yesterday. How does one utilize open-source information sharing in an environment that demands secrecy?



Intelligence hoarding presented one set of problems, but pouring it into a common ocean, Meyerrose realized soon after moving into his office, is not the answer either. “Intelligence is about looking for needles in haystacks, and we can’t just keep putting more hay on the stack,” he said. What the agencies needed was a way to take the thousands of disparate, unorganized pieces of intel they generate every day and somehow divine which are the most importan

Intelligence heads wanted to try to find some new answers to this problem. So the C.I.A. set up a competition, later taken over by the D.N.I., called the Galileo Awards: any employee at any intelligence agency could submit an essay describing a new idea to improve information sharing, and the best ones would win a prize. The first essay selected was by Calvin Andrus, chief technology officer of the Center for Mission Innovation at the C.I.A. In his essay, “The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community,” Andrus posed a deceptively simple question: How did the Internet become so useful in helping people find information?

Andrus argued that the real power of the Internet comes from the boom in self-publishing: everyday people surging online to impart their thoughts and views. He was particularly intrigued by Wikipedia, the “reader-authored” encyclopedia, where anyone can edit an entry or create a new one without seeking permission from Wikipedia’s owners. This open-door policy, as Andrus noted, allows Wikipedia to cover new subjects quickly. The day of the London terrorist bombings, Andrus visited Wikipedia and noticed that barely minutes after the attacks, someone had posted a page describing them. Over the next hour, other contributors — some physically in London, with access to on-the-spot details — began adding more information and correcting inaccurate news reports. “You could just sit there and hit refresh, refresh, refresh, and get a sort of ticker-tape experience,” Andrus told me. What most impressed Andrus was Wikipedia’s self-governing nature. No central editor decreed what subjects would be covered. Individuals simply wrote pages on subjects that interested them — and then like-minded readers would add new facts or fix errors. Blogs, Andrus noted, had the same effect: they leveraged the wisdom of the crowd. When a blogger finds an interesting tidbit of news, he posts a link to it, along with a bit of commentary. Then other bloggers find that link and, if they agree it’s an interesting news item, post their own links pointing to it. This produces a cascade effect. Whatever the first blogger pointed toward can quickly amass so many links pointing in its direction that it rockets to worldwide notoriety in a matter of hours.

Spies, Andrus theorized, could take advantage of these rapid, self-organizing effects. If analysts and agents were encouraged to post personal blogs and wikis on Intelink — linking to their favorite analyst reports or the news bulletins they considered important — then mob intelligence would take over. In the traditional cold-war spy bureaucracy, an analyst’s report lived or died by the whims of the hierarchy. If he was in the right place on the totem pole, his report on Soviet missiles could be pushed up higher; if a supervisor chose to ignore it, the report essentially vanished. Blogs and wikis, in contrast, work democratically. Pieces of intel would receive attention merely because other analysts found them interesting. This grass-roots process, Andrus argued, suited the modern intelligence challenge of sifting through thousands of disparate clues: if a fact or observation struck a chord with enough analysts, it would snowball into popularity, no matter what their supervisors thought.

What do you think folks? Too good to be true? Part of the problem is that blog networking seems engineered to expose rather than conceal.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Media

Continuing in the vein of whether or not the format influences the way we read--

I've been reading Helgerson and Stallybras on Jonson's authorial self-fashioning. Both make the point (as did some of Jonson's contemporaries) that Jonson's 1616 Works elevated his plays above the status of, well, plays. By bringing them out in a folio (sixteen years before Shakespeare's plays would appear in one), Jonson separated himself, or sought to separate himself, from the "lowness" of the fair and the theatre. So: same "text" (though not really, of course, but for the most part), different medium, different status.

Jonson wanted master-poet status--laureateship. The Alchemist could get him there--or nearer there--but not if he left it on the stage.