Monday, October 25, 2004

Steal This Blog

The disconnectedness one feels because of an inability to connect and gain insights from the multiple paths constituting the online self is amplified by the modern web browser being insensate to the learnings of the browser.

A blog covers a great deal of ground in allowing the linkage of thoughts into a (hopefully) consistent stream. It limits the flexibility of a reader in providing insight to the blogger to mostly comments.

A wiki, on the other hand, like wikipedia, allows free rein to reader and writer to work on a shared perception of online reality. As the anthropological viewpoint would have it, the observer changes the observed, and vice-versa. Thus, the web becomes more a 'MutualNet' rather than a 'LinkNet'

The sense of control/authorship is then a shared right - Skippy makes some interesting points on this idea. From a semiotic perspective, a reader has never had the ability to layer meaning on the material, unless he/she chose to annotate it, and thereby extend the material, while keeping the original material inviolate.

Jug Suraiya, a leading Indian columnist made a related point in his piece "Pinch This Column" where he invited readers to in effect, take his column and commit piracy on himself, as an act of atonement for his own pirate acts.
Perhaps I can take a tip from the 1970s American yippie leader Abbie Hoffman who titled his anti-establishment book 'Steal This Book'. Hoffman didn't want any part of the establishment to benefit - including that part which would earn royalties on his book.

So he exhorted his readers to steal it. The book became a beststealer, if not a bestseller, and made Abbie famous.

So be my guest. Feel free to steal this column, whenever and however frequently you like. No takers? Oh well. At least no one can say I didn't offer.

Taking his point up, one could potentially rewrite his column if it were a wiki. At best, one can only annotate it.

Contrast this idea with the oral tradition, where embeliishment, and rewrites were what the audience expected, and a good storyteller was one, who in the telling of the tale, told a larger or different tale from the one he/she had heard.

Steven Harnard has an interesting essay titled
Back to the Oral Tradition Through Skywriting at the Speed of Thought
where he praises "The Adaptive Advantage of Hearsay Over Trial-and-Error" and the Oral Tradition
The oral tradition arose out of this reciprocal altruism. It can be thought of as a collective, serial form of cognitive barter, whereby we inherit the knowledge of those who have it already, and in return, we add what we ourselves know, or at least pass on what we have learned.
There is also something intrinsically very conversational and interactive, hence very like the oral tradition, in this quote/commenting capability itself, over and above the accelerated rate of exchange with one's interlocutor(s) provided by the email and web postings. Emulating this instant "text-capturing" power of digital-text processing would again have been prohibitively time-consuming in the Gutenberg medium, in which copying, retyping or real cut/pasting were the only options. This instant quote/commenting capability can even restore to digital interactions with inert texts (even when their authors are long-since dead) some of the "live" interactivity of the oral tradition -- albeit rather one-sided in the case of an expired author, but other skyreaders can in principle take up the interactive baton, and it can be rather exhilarating to carry on a live if unilateral dialogue with a long-dead author in almost real-time before a live audience that is potentially the entire planet!

There are boatloads of other interesting ideas in that paper, including the possiblity of creative peer-review of research, and a fear of such review being inhibiting factors.

As Jethro Tull would have it, one feels one is Skating away on the thin ice of the new day.
Well, do you ever get the feeling that the story’s
Too damn real and in the present tense?
Or that everybody’s on the stage, and it seems like
You’re the only person sitting in the audience

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader