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Daniel Rourke (M, 35)
London, UK
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All things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of an Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth.
- Georges Bataille
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    Polytopia
    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...

    The Total Library
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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
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    hypertext/?="The Metaphor is the Message"
    Project: The Total Library, Polytopia
    Readers: Do you think in hypertext?

    The era of the linear tome is dead, information is a web - who'd have thought it - a net of knots in time and space, a palimpsest with infinite, self-referential layers.

    I find that the model of hypertext has become the metaphor via which my thoughts, my research, finds form. I can't read one book at a time. Instead I skip between many, following an annotation in one, buying a bibiliographed reference, dipping into books by the same or similar authors in the bookstore, scribbling notes in one book about another. I make the world my internet; the library my world wide web.

    Less I describe my journeys in hypertext, how about I carve them in hypertext, for you to explore?

    Here's a hypertextual mind-map of some of my recent travels as reader. Click the to interact hypertextually**



    I started this post because I am interested in the metaphors we use to model the world. As our understanding of the world evolves, so do our metaphors. As the metaphors shift, so our models are re-moulded in ever newer forms. The forms metaphors take say a lot about the culture they emerged from. The model, in many aspects, is not important: The metaphor is the message.

    For example...

    Over the millennia religions, philosophers, scientists and psychologists have cultivated countless metaphors for the soul; mind; consciousness. By looking at just a handful of the metaphors that were prevalent at different times in history, one begins to notice fascinating messages about the cultures that bore us:

    If we look back over recent centuries we will see the brain described as a hydrodynamic machine, clockwork, and as a steam engine. When I was a child in the 1950's I read that the human brain was a telephone switching network. Later it became a digital computer, and then a massively parallel digital computer. A few years ago someone put up their hand after a talk I had given at the University of Utah and asked a question I had been waiting for for a couple of years: "Isn't the human brain just like the world wide web?". The brain always seems to be one of the most advanced technologies that we humans currently have. - Rodney A. Brooks

    As new technologies/theories are invented, we tend to use them as metaphors to explain the world around us and within us. Consciousness isn't the only human attribute we blindly re-metaphorise.

    In recent years the Gaia Hypothesis has become very successful at explaining climate change, ecology shifts or the ever-constant salinity of the oceans as the workings of Planet Earth's immune system. The model here posits Earth as an organism, inspired at a time in history when Biological, Darwinian science was reaching its peak. Newton's mechanistic universe was probably influenced by the technically cutting-edge clocks that ticked so perfectly on his office wall. Richard Dawkins' 'meme theory' of language, for instance, came from a strong understanding of genetics.

    Our language itself is packed full of artefacts of metaphor. Phrases and words that have become so absolute in our understanding of the world that we forget they all came from technologies we invented. Think of the phrase "letting off some steam". Or "mapping the territory"? Or "what makes him tick? Or "photographic memory". Engines, maps, clocks and photos have become interwoven into our linguistic frameworks, used to describe anger, ideas, other people's inner-realms and inner-mindscapes.

    There are countless other models that grow out of technological or ideological changes. So too do cultural movements, in turn, become inspired by the models of the world that exist at the time. So we had the Cubists working shortly after Einstein's Relativity was being devised, or Andy Warhol reacting to consumerist, mass-produced culture by creating art that was also mass-produced. At present, architects are pursuing design down an organic-pathway, originally laid out by fractal modelling, organic chemistry, and evolutionary theory. Twisting the metaphor of the organism - a concept that philosophers of Biology try to model with their own metaphors - in order to design and implement more 'natural' human environments.

    And the metaphors never stop. Mind is now a quantum computer, mind is a neural network, mind is the internet, mind is a hypertext...

    And so I come back to my original point, hypertext, or more specifically the application of hypertext as a metaphor for reading, thinking, researching.

    Somewhere in the feedback between culture, science, technology and thought there is an idea called 'human' that persists. Trying to raise this idea to anything above a metaphor is difficult, until we come to recognise the ripples in time and space that our models of reality leave in their wake. Tracing those models back through history and off into the future we begin to draw the outline of ourselves and our limitations.

    Is it possible to use and abuse a metaphor, like hypertext, to map that territory, to permanently inscribe those lines in the sand? Even as I attempt to form my ideas into words the metaphors keep coming. Can our evolving metaphors of reality, of its perception be plotted? On a map? A hypertextual mind-map? An interlinking system of symbols, signs, cultures, ideas and relationships that feed into each other, grow forward and away from each other, merge and link back to themselves with enough clicks on the metaphorical mouse-button?

    What metaphors are the message? and can Space Collective, and internet entities like it, espouse new messages in their models?

    UPDATE: Part Two of this piece can be found here: Palimpsests/Palimpsests/Palimpsests

    ** I created this mind-map with online tool mindmeister.com. It is far from a perfect, hypertextual representation of my thoughts as they relate to books. For one thing, the mind-map can only be manipulated into a tree structure, so that branches move outwards, but never come back to link with each other across branches.

    Apart from this, the mind-map is merely a tool for you to explore, click on some of the links ( ) and generally interact with. Mind Meister allows for the possibility of collaborative mind-maps, could there be possibilities for Space Collective Projects etc? If you would like to expand my mind-map then let me know and I can add you in as a collaborator.

    The metaphor is the message.

    Fri, Apr 18, 2008  Permanent link
    Categories: consciousness, Mind, hypertext, metaphor
    Sent to project: The Total Library, Polytopia
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    Robokku     Tue, Apr 22, 2008  Permanent link
    An interesting list of synapses you added, Obvious. (Do you mind the capital 'O'?) That illustrates your point, doesn't it?

    As for mine, does that mean I was wrong about your idea of narratives? Are narratives linear? I don't think what I said implied that. Should it have? Can we have a narrative mesh? Is that what your mind map is? Or is this hypertext model in contrast to an idea of narrative understanding?

    Questions are fun! Nice post.
    meika     Tue, Apr 22, 2008  Permanent link
    well, I've read this for the third time and now that I have, I am thinking, it's really three posts. Or rather, three incomprehensive posts, which you didn't write about, and neither have I yet, so....

    The animal is the original metaphor, in carrying over it's movement it composes both body and landscape from the substance of the terrain, thus does the animal give language its grammar. Subject-Verb-Object. The animal carved out the cave from the bedrock of evolution, and that the shamans sat in.

    In turn, return, this structure immediately becomes a new substrate over which said languaging animal can move, and of course, this substrate, as it is consumed in part and defecated on, becomes a new nourishing terrain, and the composition of body and landscape continues.

    Call it virtual, religious, artistic, it's motive force is not hunger or sex, but meaning. What does it mean? And how can I make it?

    The story of the animal walking through its landscape is that from the POV inside the animal, which in walking with friends and family, becomes a shared interwoven landscape of culture, and dialogue.

    We write in serial mediums because that is how we have come to share things, technologically speaking, taking our turn in conversations, just as we take our turn as we pass through the seven ages of a life. These stories help put us compose our place and make sense of the second incomprehension (socius), and just as surely as they put us in our place.

    We mind map when we describe our individual, inner view, before we have serialised it for consumption by others in the second incomprehension (socius). This is the first incomprehension but only as it appears to each of us as individuals, as we are ego-centred and thus motivated, we think we come first. First incomprehension (self-awareness).

    We'll let it come first here because the second incomprehension is such a forgiving beast.

    Other peoples' mind maps are hard to read, because they describe the other's experience, and what we experience in reading a mind map, is not their own mind as it is to them within their landscape, but our journey across their map. And the map is not the territory, even if the metaphor is the message. Not yet anyway.

    But the attempt will inform the shared landscape (second incomprehension).

    Now, the third part... where did it go, I was sure I just put it down here next to the final third incomprehension, but now it's not, so...

    Okay, found it, hypertext...

    Hypertext is actually a compromise between the mindmap and the linear story or turn-taking dialogue. For it allows the reader to chose to skip around or continue on reading as some writer intended/allowed. (I tend to hover over a link, read the location and either skip or open in a new tab, that's how I parse links, read the spoor, choose my route through the linkage ecology, ignoring, defering, chasing, gathering.)

    Mind maps give no choice but that readers must choose, and skip around. Writers of mind maps attempt to describe the whole, but on this side, our inputs are still linear, as we all have tin ears when it comes to others whole experience. For the moment.

    Linear stories give no choice either, unless you stop reading...

    Hyperlinks, we'll, the reader can take them or leave them.

    Now, where did I put the third incomprehension, I just put it down here, right next to hypertext.

    Did anyone see it?



    also, after reading this post and researching various mindmapping software, discovered that my favourite mindmapping program, freemind, can have it's maps natively imported by the wiki engine Wikkawiki

    Rourke     Thu, Apr 24, 2008  Permanent link
    Does incomprehenson come in the activity of the mind, or the translation into the model/metaphor?

    • Mind / Body

    • Language / Thought

    • Model / Environment

    • Narrative / Time

    Is that the kind of distinction you are refering too? There is an awful lot of feedback there - exactly how much I would love to speculate at length on (maybe another time).

    I'm glad you mentioned the 3-dimensionality of hypertext. It's something I forgot to imply specifically. Surely language has always been 3-dimensional, 4 if you include its position across time. In that sense hypertext still has a way to go. What time-extended versions of hypertext are there? Metaphorical or otherwise?
    Robokku     Thu, Apr 24, 2008  Permanent link
    Some thoughts on hypertext and time extension:

    Please click here

    Now that you've read that, was any of it what you had in mind, obvious? Did you understand it, meika?
    meika     Thu, Apr 24, 2008  Permanent link
    Does incomprehenson come in the activity of the mind, or the translation into the model/metaphor?


    Umm, they might be the same thing, carrying over?

    There is an awful lot of feedback there - exactly how much I would love to speculate at length on (maybe another time).


    !

    Yesterday a friend an I compare trying to do 'work' while getting distracted by a web of links, and how hard it is to remember stuff a few months later, "that photoshop tutorial just went poof"
    "it's like my mind has turned into a web of links" he shakes his head.

    Fuzzy.

    How to get anything done while learning more?
    Rourke     Thu, Apr 24, 2008  Permanent link
    Thanks again Meika, your last comment reminded me of a poem/visual piece my girlfriend (Holly Pester) worked on recently. It really is impossible to talk about anything:



    I'm sure its relevant to something here. Srry.
     
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