Sometimes I think I will never leave Rua dos Douradores. Once written down, that seems to me like an eternity.”
*I’m currently working on a project (well, returning to a project) based on Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet. It came up in conversation the other day, so I thought that was a sign. It’s an audio installation, but looking back on the book now, and re-reading a few posts down the feed here, it’s oddly like looking at code.
Thoughtful (no surprise) discussion with Amy Goodman on how the Occupy movement has re-invigorated a sense of solidarity and responsibility for other humans in this country. Watch it here.
“All you need to know thus far is that Ruby is basically built from sentences. They aren’t exactly English sentences. They are short collections of words and punctuation [that] encompass a single thought. These sentences can form books. They can form pages. They can form entire novels, when strung together. Novels that can be read by humans, but also by computers.” _why
Over the past few years, as I slowly learn the syntax of code, I constantly come back to its relationship to its what constitutes it: natural language. A series of dictates to do something. And the hurdle for me is I already know how to talk. The difficulty of learning code, for many of us, is divorcing known language use and grammar from speech. Speaking to a machine in one of its native tongues means unlearning systems that speak to humans. I often feel lost in the complexity of the task.
I probably won’t abandon the task. As with anything in a state of becoming, the discussion of what our interactions with media should look like and be like is in a curious spot. In the past year, there are more apparent instances of a sympathetic outreach to non-programmers to learn what is under the hood. Sites like Codeacademy and treatises like Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed enable the user to and make plain the case for why we should have a basic knowledge of the syntax. I’ve learned to abandon the unscalable wall of hand-coding; the confluence of existing systems is meant to be used and allow for new permutations. It is more important that the task is executed and communicated well than that I re-invented the wheel. I guess what I see is a desire to make this all more human, to bring these engineered technologies back to a physical body and a psychology of speaking to one another.
Language has always been a clunky technology to begin with. We use our oral capabilities with some visual representation to describe a complexity of bodily, mental and emotional responses. To reconfigure this organic, evolving and somewhat haphazard system into the virtual realm for us to move through cannot be an easy task. But it is certainly an exciting prospect.
Annie Lowrey does a far more eloquent job than I in talking about the sympathetic development of code for the layman in her article on a disappeared Ruby hacker over at Slate. Very worth the read.
“All culture is being sold down the river by the sorts of people who want to turn the entire planet into an international airport arrival concourse. That’s not the victory of somebody’s culture over another culture. That’s the victory of schlockmeisterism and crapola over good taste and good sense.” – Terence McKenna
Brian Lamb writes a compelling article on cultural sustainability through maker culture and education here.
From the Museum of Jurassic Technology’s exhibit on the polymath Athanasius Kircher: “The last of his books to be published during his lifetime, Turris Babel was Kircher’s attempt to reconstruct the specifics surrounding the famous biblical story, recounted in Genesis 10-11, of Nimrod’s attempt to build a tower that reached the heavens. Apart from his interest in ancient civilizations and biblical historicism, the story was of particular interest to Kircher as an account of the origin of languages, and, by Kircher’s extension, of polytheism. The second half of Turris is devoted to Kircher’s theories on linguistics. The first section, similar to his Arca Noë of four years earlier, contains an imaginative speculative expansion of the Tower of Babel story in light of Kircher’s knowledge of history, geography, and physics. This model illustrates Kircher’s proof that Nimrod’s ambition was intrinsically flawed: in order to reach the nearest heavenly body; the Moon, the tower would have to be 178,672 miles high, comprised of over three million tons of matter. The uneven distribution of the Earth’s mass would tip the balance of the planet and move it from its position at the center of the universe, resulting in a cataclysmic disruption in the order of nature.”
An excerpt from Sarah Rara’s “ouija moiré”, a video that explores sonic and visual interference.
A son can bear with equanimity the loss of his father, but the loss of his inheritance may drive him to despair.
I feel very frustrated today that as our economy collapses, we strive to recreate it’s former failing self, instead of look at what we could do if we weren’t so worried about having objects of material value to an unknown collective. Why haven’t we, in an age that moves toward the immaterial, embraced knowledge and cultural production? We have more access, but know less.