[-empyre-] Resistance is Futile :)

Christina Spiesel christina.spiesel at yale.edu
Wed Jul 3 00:13:07 EST 2013

Dear All,

Two problems:  1) Big data is full of junk data because it is just 
scooped. The assumption is that the junk will just become noise. Does 
anyone know if that's ever been tested? 2) Big data reports trends or 
data on individual phenomena, data on persons.  So on the one hand we 
have a portrait of humans dominated by the statistical person which can 
say nothing of use about an individual. When it reports trends, 
individual variation is dropped out. When big data  reports a collection 
of stuff affiliated say with an email address, meaning made out of that 
collection of stuff is subject to all kinds of misinterpretation because 
the context for any one bit of information is lost and yet one bit of 
information or another may be endowed with "meaning" by the viewer of 
the data. She /read/ that book? Must mean....A lot of humans seem to be 
concrete thinkers around the meaning of things and there is a lingering 
fantasy that because we can be impressed powerfully, we are literally 
impressed by things we see, rather like a new version of the old idea 
that pregnant ladies should only look on beautiful things to avoid 
having an ugly child.

Two more problems: 1) To borrow a thought from a terrific book(Jan 
Lauwereyns' /Brain and the Gaze: On the Active Boundaries of Vision/), 
our visual systems are "meaning making machines" and to understand them, 
we have to understand both the brain and the gaze, and so the problem of 
the subjectivity of the observer is always in play. This is an argument 
for the whole mind, not just a particular function of it, imho, but to 
tell the truth, I'm not finished with the book yet. 2) Our brains, just 
like our statistics, drop information in order to clarify. So like 
"junk" DNA, we are discovering that what is dropped is often more 
important than we imagined at first.

I am a bit agnostic over the question of whether and how our brains are 
changing. The more I read history, the more I am discouraged by the 
thought that little has changed. But for survival, we have to do a 
better job of projecting into the future, need to learn to envision a 
longer term than we have been doing. Would pulling the past along with 
us a little more help or hinder?  Does everyone need to learn more 
biology (to climb out of a physics machine model) and semiotics?

My best,


On 7/2/2013 8:13 AM, Simon Biggs wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi Terry
> Some very interesting and nuanced ideas here. Where is thought? Where 
> is mind? Where is the voice in our heads we often characterise as 
> thinking? What other forms might thinking/thought assume, especially 
> in a technological society? How can we, in this context, avoid a 
> dualist dead-end? Contested territory.
> Philosophers like Andy Clark might propose that mind and cognition are 
> not functions of the individual sentient being but a networked and 
> extended process that engages multiple agents - not just people but 
> technical and other systems. Sue Hawksley (another of this month's 
> discussants) undertook her PhD supervised by Andy and she might wish 
> to comment on this. Bruno Latour's work on on inter-agency is highly 
> salient here.
> James Leach, an anthropologist who was a guest on empyre about a year 
> ago, might propose that mind is not a property of the individual but a 
> negotiated collective (social) state from which we individually emerge 
> (although in his thinking the notion of the individual is likely 
> problematic). In this context the individual mind/self/internal-voice 
> emerges from a complexity of voices that situate themselves through 
> various performative activities.
> Big Data could be considered in these terms - a sort of dark matter 
> that permeates what we recognise as knowledge - that which we can 
> articulate as a shared understanding of things. How does Big Data, as 
> a form of collective pre-knowledge, relate to our perception of things 
> and sense of self in a technologised society? Returning to Latour, how 
> might his insights into scientific practices interact with Leach's 
> ideas concerning the social performance of the self? More generally, 
> how might we consider these questions in relation to networked social 
> media, where many of these processes can be seen played out?
> I fear you will read what I've written here and think it is of an ilk 
> you might consider as an "obsessive compulsive rehearsing of highly 
> stratified bureaucratic cataloguing of meaning". It might well be. If 
> so then I'd be especially interested in your thoughts.
> best
> Simon
> On 2 Jul 2013, at 08:36, Terry Flaxton <Terry.Flaxton at uwe.ac.uk 
> <mailto:Terry.Flaxton at uwe.ac.uk>> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> I'm not sure how the list works but I offer what follows as a 
>> provocation for discussion:
>> I sat through ISEA, as with many other conferences and for a long 
>> time an idea has been growing in me that challenges what I've been 
>> hearing: I /feel/ that theoretical constructs /alone/ are without 
>> worth. Put another way: The end of theory is nigh.
>> Take a construct like that of 'Big Data' where we now have accepted 
>> an idea that there are trawling algorithms that can find sufficient 
>> meaning to agglomerate a conclusion from our collective behaviour 
>> both online and via social media. But this is a narrative construct 
>> about one behaviour that has /appeared/ to have been successful. 
>> Whether it is really successful is another thing.
>> Big Data, if it exists, is a consequence of two things: 
>> Industrialisation of repetitive tasks and the tendency of the Western 
>> Mind to require a /particular/ kind of answer. The 'repetitive tasks' 
>> in this case are the so called democratic free thoughts of earths 
>> individuals - thinking as if freely and yet constrained by an 
>> obsessive compulsive rehearsing of received thinking. I'm not sure 
>> whether the Eastern Mind is susceptible to the same level by left 
>> brain dominant thinking - I suspect though, that this is also the case.
>> ...But Big Data does not exist. It is a fairy tale for consumption.
>> A cognitive approximation of hope and fear distributed within a 
>> fairy-tale mime.
>> Theory, or the obsessive compulsive rehearsing of highly stratified 
>> bureaucratic cataloguing of meaning, by the societal grouping known 
>> as /academia/ (and associated groupings)/, /is now dead.
>> Here are my reasons for /thinking/ this:
>> For several million years the human project has advanced its 
>> requirement to export memory and knowledge outside of itself, beyond 
>> the material, into its exogramatic form, data.
>> Prior cognitive distributive networks are reconfiguring to enable 
>> this development to engage in valuable exchange, but the 'language' 
>> that has served us well previously, is no longer fit for task and is 
>> currently responsible for remediating the vista before us -- the 
>> consequence is that the landscape we view seems to appear as one 
>> thing, but is in fact something else altogether.
>> Effectively our thinking minds are getting in the way.
>> New 'language' is developing but due to an increased velocitisation 
>> of human experience language is lagging behind neural developments - 
>> the reason being, theoretic language per se developed from the needs 
>> of the prior paradigm and is of a ratiocinatory bureaucratic 
>> construction. Using it to describe something that is beyond its 
>> nature renders it inherently reductionist.
>> We now need to conceptualise new forms of communication to suit and 
>> be relevant to the paradigmatic changes within cognitive distributive 
>> networks -- Fortunately for us, Art is the primary vessel for this 
>> communication. Unfortunately for us, current artistic behaviour is 
>> rehearsing past and increasingly irrelevant concerns.
>> In developing an appropriate response to the nature of the incoming 
>> paradigm, we need to /cognate/ beyond the kinds of thought we have 
>> known until now - we need to create new behaviours that utilise our 
>> next developmental stage of mind, which uses entrainment rather than 
>> ratiocinatory, rehearsed frontal lobe behaviour, as its primary form.
>> ...So I've stayed away from the analogue based theoretical language 
>> of the last 70 years because that use of language compromises the 
>> possible changes. Given my proposition, ratiocination is the 
>> 'worry-beads' of the mind, but entrainment is a possible way of 
>> leading towards a way in which the human psyche can now begin to 
>> respond. There's nothing wrong with the thinking mind -- in its place 
>> - which is to follow, rather than lead human cognition.
>> The thinking mind takes its lead from the deep cognitive mind.
>> Between the two is the intermediary state, which used to be described 
>> as intuition. It processed deep cognition and rendered it 
>> understandable to the thinking mind - intuition in gnostic circles 
>> was known as inward teaching, where the thinking mind was 
>> 'instructed' in its duties. Now intuition is simply /the intermediary 
>> process - /because our late Enlightenment thinking requires 
>> demystification. But demystification empowers thinking and 
>> disempowers intuitive cognition.
>> This description is another fairy tale - but:
>> Becoming sensitive to the production of this mechanism is the primary 
>> behaviour required for understanding the incoming paradigm - and 
>> resistance, in this particular case, is futile.
>> Terry Flaxton
>> Professor of Cinematography and Lens Based Media
>> University of West of England
>> http://www.visualfields.co.uk/flaxtonpage1.htm
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au <mailto:empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> Simon Biggs
> simon at littlepig.org.uk <mailto:simon at littlepig.org.uk>
> http://www.littlepig.org.uk @SimonBiggsUK 
> http://amazon.com/author/simonbiggs
> s.biggs at ed.ac.uk <mailto:s.biggs at ed.ac.uk> Edinburgh College of Art, 
> University of Edinburgh
> http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/edinburgh-college-art/school-of-art/staff/staff?person_id=182&cw_xml=profile.php
> http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/simon-biggs%285dfcaf34-56b1-4452-9100-aaab96935e31%29.html
> http://www.eca.ac.uk/circle/  http://www.elmcip.net/ 
>  http://www.movingtargets.org.uk/  http://designinaction.com/
> MSc by Research in Interdisciplinary Creative Practices 
> http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/postgraduate/degrees?id=656&cw_xml=details.php
> _______________________________________________
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Faculty homepage: http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/CSpiesel.htm
Book: http://www.lawondisplay.fromthesquare.org
Publications available on-line:
"More Than a Thousand Words in Response to Rebecca Tushnet"

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