All posts for the month August, 2003

Pollard Predicts the Future of Communication – An interesting analysis of patterns of communication now and in the future from Dave Pollard.
I see the weblog becoming a ubiquitous communication medium, a proxy for every individual, where everything you want to know about that individual (which they have given you permission to see) can be called up. The effect of that will be to eliminate many communications whose purpose is simply to get information. The blog will be the main vehicle by which we educate, inform and explain (the first of the five communication objectives) and express ourselves (the last of the five objectives). The middle three objectives – to persuade, decide and relate – are the more intense and participatory reasons for communicating, and even the much-improved weblogs of the future aren’t going to be up to those tasks.

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that the communication ‘killer app’ of the future will be peer-to-peer videoconferencing. Not the bulky, cumbersome room videoconferencing tool of today, but the next-gen personal wireless webcam-based tool that will allow you to look at, and talk to, some one on the other side of the globe as if they were right beside you. For the same reason that I have predicted weblogs will transform the way in which we share information, by becoming the proxy for what you know, so do I predict webcams will transform communications by becoming the proxy for where you are. Turning on your individual webcam in the future, so others can see you, will be as simple and automatic as putting on your glasses is today, so you can see others.

How – Peer to peer – Agreed, as I’ve said several times too.
Want to know what I think – see my web-log proxy – Agreed.
Want to communicate with me – see my portable web-cam – I wonder ?

Chance and Stupidity have Changed History – Top Ten history books by Terry Deary in the Guardian [via Jorn]. Particularly interested in No.7 The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity have Changed History by Erik Durschmied. Reminds me of “Tipping Point” [see Ton]. One of my themes is chaos / catastrophe and the fact that significant outcomes are often controlled far more by subtle circumstantial details than rational plans.

A butterfly flies through the forest rain,
And turns the wind into a hurricane.
A schoolboy yawns, sits back and hits return,
And round the world computers crash and burn.
by Neil Hannon – The Divine Comedy
(The Certainty of Chance, from memory)

John F Sowa – An interesting source of more philosophically based knowledge modelling material for the world of electronic communications from an ex-IBM consultant John F Sowa. [via Onno][via Matthew]. Biog includes MIT, Harvard and VUB (home of Heylighen and Principia Cybernetica), and as well as on-line parts of Sowa’s “Knowledge Representation” he includes a review of Lakoff and Johnson’s latest “Philosophy In The Flesh” – already on my hit list. Interestingly they say quoting a 1965 review of William James “Principles of Psychology” …
Rereading James brings a sense of perspective and even a little humility to our regard for more modern achievements”.
I’d have to agree. Nothing new under the sun, it was ever thus, as I may have mentioned.

West Met East – Metaphorically Speaking – Resturned from China. Suprisingly I didn’t get to read Northrop as much as expected, because I’d just received Lakoff and Johnson’s “Metaphors We Live By” the morning I departed. I’ve just finished the book itself on the flight back, just the afterword added to the 2003 edition to go.

Excellent stuff on categorization & ontologies based on metaphor (orientational, structural, ontological, emergent, creative and complex), including dead metaphors in the archaeology of language, as well as metonymy and weak and strong homonymy (bells kept ringing about those problematic classifications Alan Thomson listed for us in EPISTLE, back in 97/98). A theory of truth and, more importantly, understanding as pragmatic experiential coherence. In one final rant in Ch30 (p232 of my 2003 Chicago Press edition) they say …

[Quote] Communication theories based on the conduit metaphor [the idea that information is simply transmitted and received] turn from pathetic to evil when they are applied indisciminately on a large scale …. There what is most crucial for understanding is almost never included, and it is assumed that the words in [an electronic] file have meaning in themsleves – disembodied, objective, understandable meaning. When a society lives by the conduit metaphor on a large scale, misunderstanding …. and much worse are the likely products. [Unquote]

A brief book which paradoxically, despite significant repetition, is quite densely packed with good concise material, much of it unexpected from the title focussing on Metaphor specifically – a one page (p195) potted history of western philosophy, and an analysis of the myths of both objectivity and subjectivity (Ch24 to Ch 29). Lots of clues re-inforcing the need for me to get round to reading McLuhan. The medium and the message ? I’m glad I read this before picking up on the later philosophical works of Lakoff and Johnson – I have Lakoff’s Women, Fire and Dangerous Things already. Spot on my agenda.