09.33, Monday 17 Jan 2005

1. representation

To discuss things we have to somehow represent them, with words (or whatever). Representation, as a form of translation, is never exact. A transformed system must always be incomplete and make statements the original did not.

But representations are essential because, unlike the originals, they can be manipulated and communicated. This means that one quality of representations worth noting is it's communicability. How long does it take to express it? Is it resiliant to transmission noise? Where it points to physical forms, are those forms ones that are easily picked out by humans, or not?

When we use the representation "conversation," we've decided to grant objecthood to a pattern of communication that exists outside people, that is someone independent from the people who are having it. This makes actions on that representation easier to imagine: a conversation can be enhanced or spoiled. Imagine we didn't have that, and our representation pointed out an individual's pause between hearing and speaking. In a conversation, we'd think of being "tightly looped" (to ourselves) or "highly coupled" (to others) instead. Would this change what we valued in the conversation? Would it alter the thing itself?

2. representation as subjectification, forceful imposition; the impossibility of compromise

Over the weekend we, very briefly, discussed the impossibility of a non-heirarchic society. All decisions would have to be reached by compromise. But imagine two groups, who must understand one another's worldviews in order to critique and negotiate. While you don't need to articulate (therefore represent) your own worldview, another group will attempt. They'll necessarily reduce your worldview in order to understand and examine it. They will misrepresent, because a translated system necessarily misrepresents. This causes conflict.

To be examined, the representation of the other's worldview must exist inside another, in this reduced form.

This is an act of pigeonholing, however. To represent someone is to constain them, they are made to follow your representation, and their freedom is limited. Creating a representation for someone is subjectifying them. Representation is forceful imposition. Representation is power, and hierarchy.

3. representations have their own physics; the emergence of patterns; representation as power, but also representation as constraining

Representations aren't passive, they have inertia and follow their own nature. This is due to the emergent behaviour of many representions existing and interacting simultaneously.

Smaller, simpler representations can be transmitted faster. Robust representions are less likely to mutate with communication. Given two possible representations of the same or similar things (which are mutually exclusive in the same society), the one which spreads faster will win. (This is only to a first order. The more complex representation will win if, perhaps, it's more easily derived from its supporting representations. Representations don't just spread through contact; they can be created simultaneously and independently, cued by the existing pattern.)

Imagine we represent a group of people: "hackers," "women," "conservatives." We've imposed subjecthood on them. When we move through the world, we'll leave traces and deposits that conform to our representation of them. Our representation of "voters" included that high-minded people concerned with affairs of state may vote. It isn't that "women" are excluded from voting, it's that our representation never even contemplated it.

What happens when that-which-is-represented acts in a way that doesn't conform to our representation? (Wanting to vote.) We could alter our representation--but representations treated like that would be encrusted with nuance and detail. They'd be hard to grasp, transmit, and use. A more complex representation would die out, in an ecosystem of competing representations.

So we could alter that which is represented, to prevent it from not conforming. This is the easier alternative, and often what happens. This is how subjectifying constrains freedom. It isn't a conscious process. It's a natural consequence of having things, representations, communication, regulations, and many minds.

A group will always struggle to represent the other, to avoid being represented itself. A represented group will always be constained from breaking out of its representation, and the very stuff of the world will be cast in the shape of this constraint.

It doesn't help to create your own representation. As soon as it's used by others it has its own nature.

4. dasein as the unrepresentable

Perhaps this is what Being In The World is, those moments where everything mundane drops away and there's just Being, Doing: At those moments, what's happening is unrepresentable.

Whenever we Do, we simultaneously represent it. Representation is important. It allows us to discuss thing. It allows us to think about them. More than that, it reduces things so that analogies can be made. Analogies require finding a plane on which two things can be compared, so that we can say: more, less. To find an analogy, construct a line, or a net, or a shape out of some representations. Construct a parallel line, or net, or shape some distance away, out of other representions. Now conclusions from one shape can be carried over to the other.

Without analogy, we wouldn't be able to explore the territory of ideas. Analogy is what gives ideas geography, and with geography we can discover.

But analogy also means we have to compare, and to compare means to reduce one or the other, to make both representations subject to the comparison. Comparison is imposition.

So we always and continuously represent, and in this way we experience everyday life as a series of better/worse events. We draw parallels and experience events as related to other events--in this way we can have habits, and so the mundane emerges.

When you are Being In The World, these moments are unrepresentable and cannot be compared. In pure Dasein/dancing, there are no better or worse moments. There is no time.

5. different classes of representation (tagging is minimal); geeks, as hackers, enjoy folktags because they minimally represent and attempt to impose

Some representations expressly don't attempt to fully represent. It's understood they're partial and just describe some aspect, that they are incomplete, that they are subjective, and that there can be many of them. These minimal representations are less forceful.

Geeks are hackers, and hackers are those who, by their nature, understand representation. They distrust representation of themselves by others just as they attempt to use representation to completely represent everything. Due to this exposure, they see the power of representation. I suspect this is why geeks enjoy folktags: these minimal representations are used in a way that is attached to the speaker. They are incomplete, and attempt to have a small impact.

6. even using representation in public exposes the representation to more forces--reflections on identity and reputation because of expectations of truth or conformity. already the representation is less than authentic

Representation is power, but power has two faces. Nouns are representations. In the virtual worlds, including cyberspace, speaking is action, and speaking is impossibly without nouns. When we don't grant classes use of nouns, or the ability to create nouns, we don't just constrain them, we oppress them. Freedom is being able to represent the world and to discuss it.

We have a powerful drive to represent the world as much as possible, and to make these representations transformable in a robust way. ISBNs for books are transformable through text, speech, and bytes in a code that keeps the essence of the representation intact. Representations like this will prosper in our world of interlocking worlds, and so they emerge. We do this deliberately now, to encompass and label all there is. We have an obligation to enlarge the franchise of representations as much as possible, and this is inevitable because of the physics of representations.

Representation is power.

But representations are subject to many forces. If you create a representation, a text, it reflects on you as a person. If your name is on it, your identity becomes tainted as the author of that representation. If you make an unwelcome suggestion, that's remembered. But also, if a slightly untruthful representation will gain a larger audience than a more truthful one, there's a force to produce the former (again, not a conscious force, but an invisible hand in the ecosystem). Representations, as well as being reduced, and small, and disliking nuance, must conform to their own nature, and you to theirs. Publicly authored representations are therefore inauthentic. The most authentic representations are those that don't ask for an audience, but force themselves on readers, and make no assertations of truth or authorship. These three are the best: spam, graffiti, ambiguous or chance events (divination and lies).

7. the semiotcracy

There is a drive to create representations. There are qualities of representations that make them thrive. There are interactions of representations that create forces. Representations are power, and there is an ethical imperitive to increase the franchise (because of negentropy), while at the same time representations constrain. Representations have their own physics.

We now live in a world where representations are all important. They are our limbs and our eyes; they are our possibilities.

The quality of a representation that makes it easy to handle, discuss, reshape, pass on: this is how semiotcratic it is.

The overwhelming importance of creating representations at this point in time, our world which can only be experienced through them, the resistence to representation, the emergent physics coupled with human nature, the forces we feel from them and on them: this is our direction; this is the semiotcracy.

Follow-up posts: