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Some discussion Questions for Week 4: What does it mean to be a Rhizome

September 20, 2009 Leave a comment

1. Firstly, would it be fruitful to think of  a book as multiplicity and an assemblage in light of the discussion on ergodic literature as well as the ongoing contention by the likes of critics such as Manovich on the tension between the database and the narrative?  Can ergodic works be argued in terms of the machinic assemblage that may or may not be attributive (e.g. these attributions may be embodied by a series of tags that would inform the various algorithmic call functions of the positionality of the  search points within the metalibrary for categories of content)after it has been raised to the level of the substantive (when the functions are called, the content no longer exist in the registry as a metadata but is now a data that is made manifest and coherent). Would it be that ergodic literature is a body without organs because is a form of transient narrative  that is as much pre-determined as it is determined by the decision-making processes of both the machine and human user, which thus leads to a series of signifying practices that have alternating intensities?

2. Can we think of Talan Memmott’s Lexia/Perplexia (his discursive use of the I-terminal as representing the cyborgian self against the self-as-Other) and then his Self-Portrait as tearing asunder the classical notion of the rootbook where the arbitrary law is set by the taproot and to instead cede into seeing the book as the fascicular root. How would the strata differ between the root-book and the book of radicle root?

3. Taken from the Social-Tesseracting Part 2 posting

“1. Dimensionality defines working concepts of reality.
2. Theoretically, dimensionality can also expand to define a spectrum of nascent social actions.
3. These particular social actions encompass communication trends defined by synthetic interactions.
4. Synthetic interactions create social froth that can be produced geophysically or geolocatively. Both connection types depend on relevant electronic gesturing:

5. This mix of synthetic interactions and electronic gesturing provokes a descriptive framework of this aggregated sodality. This framework is termed Social Tesseracting.
6. In order to adequately formulate Social Tesseracting, contemporary theorists need to extend “valid” reality definitions based currently on the endpoint of the geophysical.”

How would we see this social froth, electronic gesturing through remote tweeting and social cloud that are defined in a multiplicity of dimensionality against the contention that the existing linguistic models are not abstract enough and could not connect the language to the pragmatic and the semantic statements and the collective enunciation of the assemblage.

…they do not reach the abstract machine that connects a language to the semantic and pragmatic contents of statements, to collective assemblages of enunciation, to a whole micropolitics of the social field. A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles. A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs, and specialized languages. There is no ideal speaker-listener, any more than there is a homogeneous linguistic community. Language is, in Weinreich’s words, “an essentially heterogeneous reality.”‘ There is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language within a political multiplicity. Language stabilizes around a parish, a bishopric, a capital. It forms a bulb. It evolves by subterranean stems and flows, along river valleys or train tracks; it spreads like a patch ofoil.* It is always possible to break a language.

down into internal structural elements, an undertaking not fundamentally
different from a search for roots.

4. What is the meaning of social-tesseracting in terms of a dimensionality that is always n-1 because “the multiple must be made, not by always adding a higher dimension, but rather in the simplest of ways, by dint of sobriety, with the number of dimensions one already has available – always n – 1 (the only way the one belongs to the multiple: always subtracted). Subtract the unique from the multiplicity to be constituted; write at n – 1 dimensions. A system of this kind could be called a rhizome. ” What is the significance of this form of multiplicity of subtraction.  Is this because of the necessity of  “flattening all of the multiplicities on a single plane of consistency or exteriority, regardless of their number of dimensions”? Is this to ensure that the subjectivity of the nature of the social tesseract is marked and defined?

5. Should we think of the cut-ups and stir-fried narrative as a “principle of asignifying rupture: against the oversignifying breaks separating structures or cutting across a single structure. A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines.” How is the passage below in the manifesto of Jim Andrew’s works:

It seems to me that there are a couple of things about the Web that naturally go with cut ups. The hyper link itself is wonderfully diverse in its associativity. The way that we end up going from text to text via hyper links makes for a cut up of sorts, cut ups not on the level of the word, as in Dali, or the chunk, as in Burroughs, but on a larger scale, link to link, text to text. The memory of surfing the Web, recalled later, is often of an intoxicating blur of diversely associative texts strung together by our own and the individual authors’ associativity via the provided links.

“…the rhizome by rupture; lengthen, prolong, and relay the line of flight; mak[ing] it vary, until you have produced the most abstract and tortuous of lines of n dimensions and broken directions. Conjugate deterritorialized flows.”

6. If a rhizome is a map and not a tracing, is the map a cross-modal platform?  Would it be “…connectable in all of its dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification. It can be torn, reversed, adapted to any kind of mounting, reworked by an individual, group, or social formation. It can be drawn on a wall, conceived of as a work of art, constructed as a political action or as a meditation. Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the rhizome is that it always has multiple entryways.” Hence the social connectivity, communication mapping across different modality of speech and exchanges, form a large tangle of rhizomatic mapping of user-streams.  Can we talk about this mapping in terms of the the forms of memories in the social technologies we’ve read, as well as the social text that engages processes more than engagement with the end result, and then linking it to the unconscious. Moreover, it is stated that the map constructs the unconscious through the fostering of connections without fields and removal of the blockages of the bodies without organs. I argue that the last phrase may be an allusion to the removal of the blockage of suppressed memories in the psychoanalytic sense. It would be interesting to try to discuss this in relation to the kinds of neuroses, psychoses, schizophrenia and obsession that social technologies could breed. Also speak of our obsessive need to attain resolution of the cut-up and fragmented texts.

7. So how would we compare the ergodic aspects of Talan Memmott text with that of Jim Andrews and then the social technologies discussed in the Augmentology blog?

1. Dimensionality defines working concepts of reality.
2. Theoretically, dimensionality can also expand to define a spectrum of nascent social actions.
3. These particular social actions encompass communication trends defined by synthetic interactions.
4. Synthetic interactions create social froth that can be produced geophysically or geolocatively. Both connection types depend on relevant electronic gesturing:

5. This mix of synthetic interactions and electronic gesturing provokes a descriptive framework of this aggregated sodality. This framework is termed Social Tesseracting.
6. In order to adequately formulate Social Tesseracting, contemporary theorists need to extend “valid” reality definitions based currently on the endpoint of the geophysical.

In assessing the growing ethological importance of Social Tesseracting, the following markers demand examination:

a) Social White-Space: Just as with the convention of white space in graphic design, social tesseracts manifest in habituated actions performed routinely over a substantiated period [think: responding to smartphone emails during geophysical-based discourse]:

Social white space exists in synthetically mediated consciousness via overlaying reality clusters. These clusters may exist outside of the geoloaded end of the Reality-Virtuality Continuum [ie the locatable “real person”]. Conjunctive or intermediary areas of connectivity mediate this “primary” reality state [think: Information Shadowing, the Network Effect and Warnock’s Dilemma]. Social white-space is currently effecting educative goals and is altering engagement within the workplace.

b)  Immediation: the instantaneous modification of remote events via the removal of geo-specific time lag. Immediation highlights the impact potential of synthetic connectors. Examples of Immediation in action:

c) Regenerative Comprehension: indicated by rapid shifts in the nature of content creation and absorption. A primary example is Twitter’s chronologically-reversed tweet reading order acting to modify awareness. Other examples include:

d) Process Centering: Social Tesseractions are marked by fluid, process-oriented engagement rather than rigid procedural structuring. Process centering prompts a re-evaluation of data formation and alters the entrenched importance of institutionalised categorisations. An emergent example of process centering is Google Wave. Google Wave uses an algorithmic variation of “operational transformations” [live concurrent editing] which occur through a process called transformation:

  • The server transforms the client’s request, resulting in the client manifesting the same transformed output.
  • The notion of concurrency is invariably important as it mimics geophysical conversational states.
  • Utilizing the server as a point of relay [when more than one client’s output is involved] assists in providing scalability and reliability.
  • The playback feature allows the server to present the document as a stream of operations that have occurred thus far in a particular wave/state.

Transformation relies on continual modification via process centering. This accent on process acts to rewire the notion of documents as statically defined “objects” and [by proxy] any information contained within. This has enormous implications in regards to such institutionally-governed categories such as literacy, media, the professional/amateur divide, narrative, and information construction.

_Social Tesseracting_: Part 3 will expand on these indicators through examining: Information Deformation, Attribution Modding, and the Decline of Silo Ghettos.


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Reading the Ergodic against the Traversal

September 14, 2009 Leave a comment

I published this first in my blog, since again, it has me engaged at the dialectical level with my own work, and the objective of my work. I am republishing it here again for the purpose of this class.

(First published on http://modularcriticism.blogspot.com/2009/09/reading-ergodic-literature-against.html)

Also, this is a poem I wrote 5 years ago that was published in Anthurium that I decided to revisit here as I think about the link between the psychological, psychosis, Lacan, Manovich’s database complex and media art in the moving talk by Jonathan Harrison (I daresay his visuals are made more poignant BECAUSE of the way he narrated their intentions rather than the actual visuals themselves)

glassy clear beads converge into aqua blue sea of white foam, splashing, ravishing mares enveloping inlets and inclines, bubbling, crystallizing into delicate skin of a naked nymph frolicking among waves leaping high as she metamorphosizes into a curvaceous snowy swan flying high to melt into the horizon where the sun transforms into an orange glob of heat, seizes H20s, and gathers clouds impregnated and producing cumuli which soon dissolves into liquid droplets that reverse precipitation to glassy clear beads splashed blue by Neptune, the fish, producing glassy blue beads that converge.

———————————–Begin text for blog entry below———————–

In reading through Aspet’s work on the meaning of Ergodic Literature, in light of the class discussions and blog posts (and I found David Gruber’s post on this very enlightening), I a now thinking as to what is it about media art that is poignant or ground-breaking compared to hand-crafted or even machine-crafted art (after all, art created with the help of machines and the skills of artisans, be they smiths, welders, machinists, furniture makers, builders etc, have been in existence, in different modes and forms according to existing tools (I refrain here from using the word technology, as it has been over-utilized in very unclear terms). One thing we do know about art, as Jonathan Harris himself would agree, is how it invokes our emotion. One need no sublime art to do that, even the cheesiest forms that hits at a raw nerve or emotional events that is within our recent history, would be enough to break the dam. But what is this new level of emotional access that we could and would like to do with Ergodic literature, a literature that seems able to break through the surface level to allow the audience to interact with the work at the making, or not? How is this different from the campsite fire game of spinning a yarn where each person seated in a circle would add a piece to the tale. Or even a book version where people used to add their own version of a tale that could have been started by anybody else, and continued by another anonymous writer.? Are we able to articulate the collective consciousness of the authors and readers in a manner more incisive as we begin to data-mine the mental models of these different contributors by deconstructing and then reconstructing the way in which their creative processes work by the way in which they choose use particular adjectives, verbs and leading cues?

While Aspeth’s arguments of the Ergodic model is dated in the sense that he seems unable to transcend the old computational model of unicoded ASCII mode of scriptons and textons, he provides a model that can be ripped apart and reconstructed if we now think in terms of a literature (across all textual platforms) whereby the scripton and texton can by turns be transformative to and away from each other. Wardrip-Fruin has provided a pretty good beginning to the re-articulation of Aarseth’s model when he parallels data and process, separating them only by a porous line to signify the artificial separation of the two just to aid our mind that has been schooled and trimmed in a manner not unlike the old-school literary critics that Aarseth had sharply criticized to grasp this layered model of reluctant categories. But more importantly, how can the ergodic model, with its traversal function that seemingly promise the reader/audience the freedom to traverse and trespass the rigid limitations that have been trained by their ids. I see in the traversal function the same form of traversal function that Lacan advocated in his model of the graph of desire


(borrowed from the Lacan and Monotheism:Psychoanalysis and the Traversal of Cultural Fantasy article because I was too lazy to draw my own), where the purpose of traversing the fantasy of the barred subject who is the split subject as the subject who tries to move from original signification to a new form of signification after imbibing the analytic discourse. The analysand crossing over. But in the crossing over, the split subject is able to form his/her own subjectivation by acknowledging the cause of the desire, the objet petit a. But at the point of traversal of phantasy (fantasy), there is something that drops up, which I will call the remainder. And it is this object that drops out that is my point of interest here. For likewise, in traversing the function that Aarspeth and Waldrip-Fruin talks about, there is always something that will escape the net of the model, or something that has to be sacrificed. I have not put my finger into what is being sacrificed, but perhaps in narrating the tale of that which is unnarratable in the conventional literary sense (but then, when one has read Lawrence Sterne’s Tristam Shandy, the very notion of a tale that violates Propp’s 31 functions of narrative elements is not a proper tale has long been dismissed). The protagonist is not human and will not being given humanistic qualities (which is another point of contention and problematics that I will not be tempted to discurse into here). Nor is it an animal or a being that is living and breathing in the cell-biology sense. It would be the narrative tale of a machine and in this tale, there would be many secret chambers, intentional and unintentional. And there would be the remainder. Will the remainder articulate itself organically in the tale, or do I have to find a way to work it in? I will be posting on this in my next post but for now, I want to go back into what it means to be ergodic.

I wrote this piece of poem at an age and time when I knew not what ergodic literature is. Nor did I know much then (except through a slight glance at the crude pomo generative text site
which only those uninformed in the inner logics and rationale of post-structuralist thought could have thought laughable) about how to think through the difference between a machine-generated text using Natural Language and a humanly structured text, where much thought and care is given into making the creation light and spontaneous, and to hide the layers of careful work that is put into creating that effect of sponataneity. The machine likewise is a result of carefully worded code, since to be careless is to invite syntax errors and logical inconsistencies that will result in a manifestation that is obviously ridiculous. Yet, it seems that we think of the software that is created to run the machine as an extension of the way in which the human thinks (and maybe in the way in which certain construction projects are done) ; a series of unfinished work (code) that is left hanging and merely covered over by other code, but always there and waiting to be accessed at some point by one who may be searching for it, or who may have stumbled upon it, a series of random texts that is the articulation of the connection between a score follower and computer-based speech recognition software. Or even texts that have been fed into a database that the code has been instructed to call up whenever certain strings or scripts are detected. As Wardrip-Fruin would say, the “central logic is planning.”This is what Talan Memmott did. Neologism takes on a different meaning, and the author becomes a virtual being, one that goes from mimesis to autopoesis to becoming one that mirrors the real (one that, as Lev Manovich says in his article “Database as a Symbolic Form” about unlimited database size which is the promise dream of the leading commercial database Oracle, parallelling the story by Borges about the map equal in size to the territory the world represents (and I struck by how resonating the stories written by a man who was blind at the peak of his creativity can resonate so well with what one would see in media art, does this speak of an inner eye, the ability to access the unconscious more strongly when one is able to block out the continuous interference from the outside.) Does the promise of infinite storage in the virtual landscape means that we can build a real-life holodeck of all memories and fantasies, with all our thrill at discovering the unexpected and unanticipated that seems to have organically sprung out from the genetic algorithm we have spun? Perhaps this speaks to the psychological database that is a part of the tale. I would like to quote here a poignant articulation of such a database in Manovich’s article

Other types of interactive interfaces make the paradigm even more explicit by presenting the user with an explicit menu of all available choices. In such interfaces, all of the categories are always available, just a mouse click away. The complete paradigm is present before the user, its elements neatly arranged in a menu. This is another example of how new media makes explicit the psychological processes involved in cultural communication. Other examples include the already discussed shift from creation to selection, which externalizes and codifies the database of cultural elements existing in the creator’s mind; as well as the very phenomena of interactive links…New media takes “interaction” literally, equating it with a strictly physical interaction between a user and a screen (by pressing a button), at the sake of psychological interaction. The psychological processes of filling-in, hypothesis forming, recall and identification – which are required for us to comprehend any text or image at all – are erroneously equated with an objectively existing structure of interactive links…Does new media similarly function to play out a particular psychological condition, something which can be called a database complex? In this respect, it is interesting that database imagination has accompanied computer art from its very beginning.

Hence, what is the relationship between this psychological database complex that Manovich is talking about with the procedural rhetoric that Bogost has highlighted in the function of persuasive games. Game engines can only function if there is a database to store that function. By creating persuasive games instead of serious games, are we then performing the traversal of function, the traversal of phantasy, where we reach into a higher ethical level than is possible through traditional modes? Are we closer to building this engine/database of ontology that has only been a series of abstract words and sketchy diagrams? Are we now revolutionizing the original conception of syntagm and paradigm by making them the signifier (or framework) by which we can now position our generative text and art? By making tangible the paradigmatic and syntagmatic what has only been a discursive construct of the lexical, can we now build a database of consciousness based on a clearer and thorough-going articulation of the ontological?

Maybe new media, and media art, has never been anything new or the province of the digital age. It’s ability to play a more discursive role is perhaps only accelerated by the existence of digital tools. But at the same time, it gives voice to pseudo-artists who has only scrapped slightly at the surface of the

envisioned by Aarseth and later Waldrip-Fruin.

And to end, I do agree with Harrison in his article Beyond Flash, that

I believe our medium – the online medium – has the potential to become the next great way of processing and expressing our world. Some would say it has already reached this point, but I believe it still inhabits an awkward adolescence, with no real virtuosos and no real masterpieces, and that the only way for it to mature is for its leaders and practitioners to push themselves to make better work, which will, in turn, reach a larger and less insular audience. If the work is purely technological, it will be less likely to reach this larger audience, for it won’t resonate with as many people. If it connects on a more human level, on the level of ideas, it stands a better chance of touching people deeply and spreading widely, like a Toni Morrison novel or a Steven Spielberg movie.

And that is the vision of my project, I have hinted on in this page, and which I will be blogging about after this. An intellectual idea that cannot change lives even at the most banal level is one that is stuck at the canal of its birth.