If it works, it’s obsolete

Paul Raven @ 02-02-2014

There are some elephants in the room that Chairman Bruce would like to show to us.

[Opening ceremony speech from transmediale2014]


ProtoTXTSPK

Paul Raven @ 01-08-2011

Via Chairman Bruce, another piece of ammunition against the Rejectionistas who rely on the old “digital messaging is destroying language through compression and abbreviation and slang!” canard; turns out telegraph operators of the 1890s were rockin’ the txtspk to save on time and limited characterspace:

In their conversations telegraphers use a system of abbreviations which enables them to say considerably more in a certain period of time then they otherwise could. Their morning greeting to a friend in a distant city is usually “g. m.,” and the farewell for the evening, “g. n.,” the letters of course standing for good morning and good night. The salutation may be accompanied by an inquiry by one as to the health of the other, which would be expressed thus: “Hw r u ts mng?” And the answer would be: “I’m pty wl; hw r u?” or “I’m nt flg vy wl; fraid I’ve gt t mlaria.”

By the time these courtesies have taken place some early messages have come from the receiving department or from some other wire, and the man before whom they are placed says to his friend many miles away: “Wl hrs a fu; Gol hang ts everlastin grind. I wish I ws rich.” And the other man says: “No rest fo t wickd, min pen,” the last two words indicating that he wants the sender to wait a minute while he adjusts and tests his pen. Presently he clicks out “g a,” meaning “go ahead,” and the day’s work has begun.

This just in: civilisation still standing after ~120 years of convenience-based linguistic innovation.

[ Well, OK, civilisation’s looking to be on rocky ground right now, but you can’t lay our economic problems at the feet of ppl usn abbrvs. y, u mad? ]


Faux-vintage photos, authenticity and atemporality

Paul Raven @ 17-05-2011

More drive-by linkage for ya, bub – and this one’s a two-fer. First up, Nathan Jurgenson delivers a three-part essay on the deeper significance of the fad for faux-vintage photo processing apps, e.g. the Hipstamatic:

I submit that we have chosen to create and view faux-vintage photos because they seem more authentic and real. One does not need to be consciously aware of this when choosing the filter, hitting the “like” button on Facebook or reblogging on Tumblr. We have associated authenticity with the style of a vintage photo because, previously, vintage photos wereactually vintage. They stood the test of time, they described a world past, and, as such, they earned a sense of importance.

[…]

The faux-vintage photos populating our social media streams share a similar quality with the inner-city Brooklyn neighborhood rich with authentic grit: they conjure authenticity and real-ness in the age of simulation and the vast proliferation of digital images. And, in this way, the Hipstamatic photo places yourself and your present into the context of the past, the authentic, the important and the real.

Then, next day, Adam Rothstein (yup, him again – what can I say, he’s doing a lot of interesting stuff in my info-river of late) gets all definitive on the term atemporality, and skewers Jurgenson’s theorising in the process:

Atemporality is the point at which this temporality begins to break down, though still in a temporal way. We still have a sense of time, but the wide span we call “history” begins to get weird loops, whorls, and whirlpools in it. The usual cycle of fads booming and busting grow eccentric, and spin oddly off-center. The idea of what is “current” begins to break down. We have trouble remembering if something used to be common a long time ago, or if that was today but maybe in Japan, or if maybe someone simply suggested that it would happen soon in the future. The river of time spreads out into a brackish salt marsh delta, and we know time is still flowing, but we don’t remember where it was we were trying to go. Were we trying to go? What does that even mean?

[…]

Anyone offering authenticity has something to sell you, and likely, a something you do not need. They try to convince you that the way you are doing it is not as “real” as something else. Funny–because reality was just fine before they came along. Before they tried to monetize a particular world-view, to increase the value of a certain temporal commodity by claiming to be the exclusive arbiter of what is authentic and what is forged and fake. And we wouldn’t want to fool ourselves either; this is a capitalistic world, and everything ends up bought and sold. Any particular atemporal trend will end up named, stamped into a commodity, and sold, until stretched into a thin veneer of shiny, zombified goo. But that’s okay, because we already have a friend that we met in a comment thread, that can get us that real shit. The Real Shit, because it is the stuff we want and nothing else, and because we’re getting it from the source that we know and trust. That is the network, and that is atemporality. All real shit. No authenticity.

Go read both in full. Go on.


Personal atemporal feedback loop

Paul Raven @ 21-02-2011

More fun and games with atemporal media: TwitShift offers a novel service, wherein they hoover up the last year’s worth of output from your Twitter account and repost every tweet on exactly the same day and time as they were posted originally… exactly one year later. [This link via LifeHacker, who aren’t getting their proper attribution links until they provide URLs that are guaranteed to deliver the viewer to the page I actually wanted them to see.]

Atemporal reportage is no new phenomenon, of course; for example, George Orwell has been (re)covering the fall of Europe to the Nazis for some time now, exactly seventy years since it actually happened. But the personal angle of TwitShift is curious, because it highlights a fascination with our own very recent pasts, a growing trend wherein – as the distance we can see into the future with any feeling of confidence decreases – we’re obsessed with building a narrative about how we got to where we are.

There are good and bad sides to this, I think; aphorisms about understanding history and the repetition of mistakes are plentiful, but the problem with looking back over one’s shoulder is that it increases the likelihood of one walking into a lamppost. Given the way my own life was unexpectedly upended by circumstance a year ago, I’m really feeling that tension: it would be interesting to revisit my own experiences with the benefit of hindsight, but I’m not sure how much genuine value I’d get from doing so.

I wonder how much further you could take this idea, though? Multiple atemporal feedback loops at different distances: last week, last month, last year, last decade? Become the sole academic of your own history! Be your own psychological panopticon! The doors of The Hall Of Mirrors are also mirrored! When the road ahead is foggy and strewn with rubble, what better recourse than to remind oneself of earlier successful swerves?


Perpetual perfect present: journalism strategies for an atemporal world

Paul Raven @ 18-02-2011

Apparently the BBC has been doing this for a while, but this is the first time I’ve seen anyone mention it explicitly; The Guardian attempts to address the atemporality of the globalised 24/7 newsriver:

So our new policy, adopted last week (wherever you are in the world), is to omit time references such as last night, yesterday, today, tonight and tomorrow from guardian.co.uk stories. If a day is relevant (for example, to say when a meeting is going to happen or happened) we will state the actual day – as in “the government will announce its proposals in a white paper on Wednesday [rather than ‘tomorrow’]” or “the government’s proposals, announced on Wednesday [rather than ‘yesterday’], have been greeted with a storm of protest”.

The BBC website, among others, adopted a similar strategy some time ago and I feel it gives an immediacy to their reports akin to watching or listening to a live news broadcast. So in a sense we are, perhaps belatedly, recognising another way in which a website is different from a newspaper.

We are likely to make much more use of the present tense (“the government is facing a deepening crisis …”) and present perfect tense (“the crisis engulfing the government has intensified …”); until the change of approach, we would probably have written “the crisis engulfing the government intensified tonight …”

Largely unmentioned is the root cause of the problem being addressed, namely that folk who aren’t “digital natives” don’t make a habit of checking the date and time on online articles. To be fair, I only learned that necessity the hard way, after being called out on having posted some five-year-old nugget as news…

Though this raises an interesting facet of atemporality, namely that not all information is time sensitive to the same degree. A lot of more general knowledge is “news” if it’s new to the person reading it. The central channel of the river flows faster than the edges…


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