the Massive Archive (“I have forgotten my umbrella” & tweeted about it)

I have argued elsewhere against the futility of the Infinite Archive – as expressed through various projects, many of them by google (like the desire to scan and digitize every book ever). But the futility of the Infinite Archive is built into the dream: its being is its perpetually unfinished becoming. The problem is thus not with the Infinite Archive (that at least can be thought and conceived. The problem, rather is with the Massive Archive.

Human beings can think infinity. We can grasp the concept. Sure there are vagaries that escape some and nuances that escape others. We are not all mathemagicians. But the infinitesimal and the massively massive are much more difficult entering into impossible. There are not infinite grains of sand on a beach. Planck length can be grasped mathematically but conceptually? As numbers approach the massively huge and minusculely small, we humans lose the ability to fully grasp their meaning.

Why does this matter? How does this relate to the archival project? Consider, if you will, the process of collecting the libraries, works, letters, files, papers, and documents of the notable. Various libraries and universities pride themselves on the collections that they possess and the research potential of those archives can, indeed, be tremendous. But what will happen to the collected papers of a contemporary figure? For some, it may be little different. But what about those who maintain a significant digital and social media presence? Who conduct research, writing, & public speech, etc. through those various platforms and the platforms to come? Will their archives necessarily include their Twitter feeds? What about deleted tweets? Saved but unpublished blog post drafts? The value of these archives is that they often include personal documents but how will we decide which private messages and private feeds are to be archived? How many of the endless stream of digital photos saved in ever cheaper digital storage? What part of our search histories (even the ones on incognito?)? Ironic and/or informative hashtags? Location data? What portion of the cloud? Will the NSA contribute what they have gathered?

The personal archive of a contemporary individual is not infinite. But the process of archiving a digital life in order that it might be useful and meaningful for later generations is going to involve a whole new form of culling and curation. Because surely keeping everything would make the archive unwieldy, spoiled for riches and thus starving because of its own excess. How can Nietzsche’s laundry lists compare to Istagramming our meals? But who decides what is archived and what is left to the digital landfill? Who decides which fragments and feeds might be relevant in a century or two? And what would that deciding look like?

There remains hope that the metadata of the future might resolve this issue down the line (for those down the line) but since the process of attaching appropriate metadata to current archiving and digitization projects is so complex and time-consuming at present, one wonders if that will provide much help to the present. One can conceive of a search capable of “finding what we are looking for” but is there a practical way of implementing such a vision? Keywords and tags are useful but certainly flawed.

Perhaps the solution lies in curation, perhaps in improved metadata, maybe in some really cool thing that I don’t even know about, but the issue of the Massive Archive remains and remains to be solved. And now, this.

The greatest American liberty

The greatest American liberty is to be left alone to do and say as one pleases (ending at (just the) tip of the other’s nose).

You can call this religious liberty or freedom of speech or any other sociopolitical semantic construction you desire. What many of the conservatives in the room seem to be forgetting of late is that this live and let die policy demands that you don’t get upset by what you see if you insist on being a voyeur and spying on your neighbors.

Exponentially worse than the linguistic decision to allow literally (because of such rampant misuse) to also be defined as figuratively, is the application of law to enforce ‘religious’ liberty. Liberty is based on what one can be forced to do or kept from doing (or, rather, the absence of that force). It is not (in any way) based on what one can be asked to tolerate, to accept, to understand, to learn about, or to accept as fully human. Religious liberty (or liberty of any legally enforceable kind) is unrelated to what one may or may not agree with (despite deeply held beliefs). Otherwise my religious liberty invalidates your capitalism and willingness to destroy the planet.

Given that so many of those ‘deeply held beliefs’ are based on modern interpretations of ancient, translated writing  (mythologic, figurative, and often marked by extreme poetic license) the claim becomes even more tenuous. Social reality is based on consensual construction and shared meaning. Liberty is not, and cannot, be based on the attempt to force shared meaning, especially such culturally specific (in this case evangelical) meaning. The inability to accept that meaning is constructed or the inability to believe that history did not happen the way one wants to believe it did is not a basis upon which to insist that others blindly follow the path of ignorance. One is entitled, in America, to be ignorant and useless. One is not empowered to insist that the government protect that ignorance or force it upon others.

For Hire: In-House Media Theorist

It began as a somewhat offhand comment when considering my qualifications to work at a tech company but upon reflection, the idea of an in-house media theorist seems like a pretty sound idea.

 

Maybe it is something that already exists.

 

Here’s the idea: as a media theorist (cultural analyst, thoryvologist, critic, philosopher) I have studied and developed through that study an understanding of technology, of technologies role in the world and in society. While my current research/writing is more focused on ecological concerns, a thoryvological study of the iPhone or any other device, medium, software, platform, etc. would be simple to embark upon.

 

This would not perform standard business plan analysis (what is the product, who is the user, how can this be monetized) but would seek to instead understand other relationships and complications (how does this affect society, what needs does this create rather than fill, what are the unintended consequences, where are the environmental impacts, how can this be abused). Was the impact on spelling and grammar considered with the initial character restriction of text messaging? Was the concept of monetizing friendship considered with the launch of Facebook? What is cost/benefit analysis of metadata as a feature? What are a companies responsibilities towards ideas like Privacy and Ownership?

 

Only serious enquiries. Full-time, part-time, and freelance opportunities considered. Standard consulting rates apply.

Concerning the drift: the separation of evangelicalism

At what point does American evangelicalism become recognized as a wholly separate religion, as different from early Christianity (even post-Nicean Roman Christianity) as early Christianity was from Second Temple Judaism?

Perhaps this is not a new idea, but here are some brief elaborations of the point as they have become prominent in current news trends:

  • “Traditional” identity politics
  • Young Earth creationism
  • Prosperity Theology
  • Biblical ‘literalism’
  • Millenarianism
  • Theocratic ambitions
  • Martial inclinations

 

It is not that there is not a certain basis for these teachings and practices within the Bible or the history of Christianity but rather their confluence that sets evangelicalism apart. The Bible maintains a number of “traditional” marriages that are not between one man and one woman (Abraham relationship with Hagar comes to mind, or, more pointedly, Jacob marrying sisters Leah and Rachel, or Solomon’s 700 wives plus the 300 concubines). Opposition to marriage equality is thus not based on Biblical tradition as such, but an interpretation thereof. Prosperity theology seems to directly contradict Biblical references to camels and needles or upsetting the moneylenders. Millenarianism and Young Earth creationism both stem from a certain literal interpretation of what historically been understood as figurative passages (in the books of Revelation and Genesis respectively). The martial inclinations and theocratic ambitions are not unique to modern evangelicals – the Holy Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Conquistadors provide some historical analogs. Of course those historical incidents have their own significant deviation from the red letters.

What seems relevant, then, is the efficacy or validity of such historical/theological appeals. If what qualifies as an abomination is selectively applied, if who qualifies as a neighbor is not universally extended, appeals to “God is Love” seem misplaced and may explain their ineffectiveness. Christianity broke from Judaism in, among other things, a selective application of scripture and law. Is this not a manifestation of the same?

This is idea is already given weight in the way that modern polls and surveys are conducted. Routinely, evangelicals are separated from Roman Catholics and “mainline/mainstream” Protestants. This is likely not even a devision that evangelicals would themselves protest (as it is a common enough belief that they are not of the same faith as Catholics). What would seem contentious about this claim, really, seems to boil down to a single issue – who retains the name “Christian”?

Powering Down: towards equalization

Knowledge only becomes power in the absence of power.

 

Power, as exercised through force be it violence, coercion, ideology, money, or influence, is not an exercise in ignorance, is not without knowledge. But the truism ‘knowledge is power’ is false so far as it concerns the pursuit of knowledge as such, knowledge in the form of science or philosophy or education for education’s sake (and not the sake of employment, etc.). Consider this: scientists overwhelmingly know that the globe is warming, that the climate is changing, that the oceans are acidifying, that more are more species are going extinct. This knowledge has not, in any real sense, given them the power to change policy to actually do something about it.

Knowledge should directly translate to power and thus education to empowerment but at present it does not. And changing an ‘ought’ to an ‘is’ is no small matter.

Instead, force is power. Force, like knowledge, is currently unequally distributed. Force, unlike knowledge, is not well suited to equal distribution. The solution is not to give everyone nuclear launch codes or even their own gun but instead to reduce the individual and collective capacity for violence across the board. And then to move from a power economy based on force to one more adapted to knowledge – a ‘commodity’ (not that I like to think of it as such) far more suited to equal distribution if efforts were made and resources made available (combined with a completely revised philosophy of education and its purpose).
As an interesting digression, one might be compelled to speculate as to whether human technological advancement has actually hindered our biological evolution. Technology, in a significant majority of contemporary cases, is created to solve social needs and problems created by previous technologies not biological needs. What biological purpose do guns serve? Certainly, as a ranged weapon, they extend the lethality of the human body in hunting and the pursuit of food. But the capacity of firearms to hunt actually exceeds the human need. It might be noted here that the current human population of earth is only supported through advancements in technology (agriculture, etc). But that begs the question of the current human population vs. overpopulation/the carrying capacity of the planet for human life. Is 7.2 billion sustainable? Or the projected 10? Sustainable for whom? For what? And in what sense? One might also question modern medicine. Certainly medical and hygienic advances have extended the length and raised the quality of human life. But much medical advancement has been in areas that industrialization, pollution, and technological advancement have directly caused.

What evolutionary benefit has technology offered vs what they have hindered? (“so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”)

I think it is fair to say that media are the extensions of man and we have become over-extended. Our reach has exceeded our (and the planet’s, and our fellow living creatures’) capacity to adapt. Our rate of (technologically enhanced) change is matched only by those species that have coevolved with us – maize, rats, toy dog breeds, superbugs. Perhaps future of the Anthopocene will be humans living in disinfected bio-enclosures (both terrestrial and orbiting) with our HFCS and miniature pugs while superbugs and rats enter an evolutionary arms race for who will dominate the hot sweltering open air.

 

This circles back to the original thought. Power as force and the capacity for force needs to be reduced and eliminated. The concept of political empowerment and enfranchisement should not focus on extending the individual and collective capacity for force to more and more people but on reducing that capacity overall. The capacity for annihilation should not be possessed, desired, or sought (“I suppose I could part with one doomsday device and still be feared.”). Moreover, incidental or accidental annihilation (antibiotics have created superbugs and carbon emissions are driving climate change) needs to be better understood and equally avoided. Through knowledge and the power that it would convey in the absence of force.

a brief thought on ethics and the inanimate/unhuman

My thoughts on justice revolve around juxtaposition: rights as justified by force vs. responsibilities demanded by ethics.

Rights are not innate or inherent. Whether basic rights, expanded rights, universal rights, they must all be backed by and maintained through force. Rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be taken away, can be limited. Thus justice based on rights can only be guaranteed by force. In the expansion of rights beyond the human (beyond the privileged human), it becomes easier to understand justice that is based on responsibilities instead. An animal cannot, at present in our society, insist on its ethical treatment alone but does so through advocates who demand a responsibility to animals. Similarly, we must accept a responsibility to our environment, the land, the oceans, the living, the inanimate.

This is not presently the case – consider the rare examples of shark attacks (#notallsharks) and the mass slaughter of sharks for their fins. Consider the human responsibility for changing the moleculelar make up of the atmosphere, the salinity and acidification of the oceans. This brings us into more complicated territory because, while the living creatures of the oceans, of the planet certainly care about such things as a habitable environment, can it be said that the ocean cares? Do mountain ranges have demands that need to be heard?

The question is not what rights and privileges do we have because we can force others to give them to us (human rights exist only in the mind if they are not backed up by threats of or actual violence and that is equally how they are threatened and removed). The question is what responsibilities do we have to the 10,000 things. Our responsibilities to the inanimate are difficult for me to articulate without becoming biocentric. This is because I am unable to think as the inanimate think (thinking already being the wrong word, words already being the wrong form of communication, communication already limiting understand, etc. etc.)

Yet even to begin down the process of responsibilities to the planet for the sake of the living is to begin heading in the right direction. Perhaps one day we will come to understand the will of the wind. Such a conversation would be awesome to behold.

borrowed words (power of the commons)

reagan's 3rd sotu

reagan's 3rd sotu2

reagan's 3rd sotu3

reagan's 3rd sotu4

reagan's 3rd sotu5

reagan's 3rd sotu6

reagan's 3rd sotu7

reagan's 3rd sotu8

reagan's 3rd sotu9

reagan's 3rd sotu10

reagan's 3rd sotu11

 

 

 

&&&

The source text used here is Ronald Reagan’s Third State of the Union Speech (delivered on January 25, 1984). Nothing has been added. This is not an effort to create a strawman Reagan but rather an experiment to show the creative, poetic, and theoretical potential within contextomy. Reagan was used because he remains a polarizing figure but also because State of the Union addresses are in the public domain. The power of the commons.