Posts in category: Computers

Chejfec on the Internet & cognition

“[M]y morale as a walker had been in a bad way for some time.

The reasoning that follows may seem a bit abstract, so I’ll expound on it quickly. When I walk, my impression is that a digital sensibility overtakes me, one governed by overlapping windows. I say this not with pride but with annoyance: nothing worse could happen to me, because it affects my intuitive side and feels like a prison sentence. The places or circumstances that have drawn my attention take the from of Internet links, and this isn’t only true for the objects themseleves, which are generally urban, part of the life of the street or of the city as a whole, shaped precisely and distinguished from their surroundings, but also the associations they call to mind, the recollection of what is observed, which may be related, kindred, or quite distinct, depending on whichever way these links are formed. On a walk an image will lead me into a memory or into several, and these in turn summon other memories or connected thoughts, often by chance, etc., all creating a delirious branching effect that overwhelms me and leaves me exhausted. I’m a victim, that is, of the early days of the Internet, when wandering or surfing the Web was governed less by destiny or by the efficiency of search engines that it is today, and one drifted among things that were similar, irrelevant, or only loosely related. Until one reached the point of exhaustion over the needlessly prolonged Internet journey, with an ensuing loss of motivation to delve (or in my case, walk) any further, and then the moment of distortion would arrive, or of parallel nature, I don’t know which, when I would notice that every object had essentially turned into a link, and its own materiality had moved into the background, whose depth was virtual, peripheral and free-floating. / [ . . . ] It’s impossible for me to know how different my old-time, pre-Internet perceptions were; they probably were, in diverse ways. Before the Internet, my sense of a city was organized differently: my first impressions were stamped with their origins and the specific times, as it were, of their formation; they were bounded by the passage of time and by new experiences. And, in the resulting sedimentation, each memory retained its relative autonomy. But after the Internet, it happened that the same system formatted my sensibility, which ever since has tended to link events, in sequences of familiarity, though these sequences may be forced and often ridiculous. Those sequences of familiarity lead to groupings that are more or less volatile, it’s true, that nonetheless tend to leave what’s unique to each impression on a secondary plane, diluting in part the thickness of the experience.”

 

– Sergio Chejfec, My Two Worlds, p. 18-20 (Mis dos mundos, 2008; trans. Margaret B. Carson, Open Letter, 2011)

Posthumous digital letters

There’s a nice article at The Millions by Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin (“You’ve Got Mail: On the New Age of Biography”):

Holroyd’s suggestion that the computer represents a turning point in biographical writing carries some weight.  After centuries of shuffling papers, biographers must now deal with the sudden digitization of the self, and the behavioral changes that have followed. Contemporary literary biographies — of Susan Sontag, David Foster Wallace, Nora Ephron, John Updike, all of whom adopted email quite late in their lives — are petri dishes for a new age of biography.

What’s going to happen to all your digital information when we die, anyways? Do you have a plan for that? There’s a whole host of legal and practical unknowns. Digital data’s great, but precarious. Read all about it at the Digital Beyond.

New design!

If you’re a returning visitor, you’ll notice a pretty big change in the appearance of this site, as of last night. I worked with graphic designer Sasha Endoh to settle on the current appearance, and I’m very thankful to her for putting in the time. She does great design work, and if you need a site revamp she just might be one of the best people out there who could help you get there. I hope you like the site’s new look!

Exquisite spam

Since I migrated Bibliomanic away from Wordpress.com, I have the pleasure of relentless spam comments, none of which I approve. Nevertheless, many are a laugh riot. This blog would be a funnier publication if I let a few of the good ones slip through. Thus, see here:

The following Ive been trying to get help re my famliy being hijacked by people who steal dead bodies. Its a real shame that govt blocks people asking for help, its also a shame that john key sabotaged my help from IHRO when they confronted him about it. Shame on you nz politicians for supporting child abusers.

that has nothing to do with politics louis vuitton hlouis vuitton handbags replicabags replica everything to do with how we are being duped for paying for things that

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Bibliomanic migrates

Thanks in part to the Web System Design course I’m taking, I’ve learned some HTML, XML, and CSS basics. I’m still no expert, but I find it amazing what I’ve learned in the short span of a month and a half.

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An Interview with Stéfan Sinclair

In mid-January of this year, I paid a visit to Stéfan Sinclair, who is Associate Professor of Digital Humanities in McGill’s Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. Since he received his Ph.D. in French literature, Professor Sinclair has worked on numerous projects designing digital humanities text visualization tools, often in collaboration with other scholars. He was most generous and open in responding to my questions as we sat in his windowed office overlooking the intersection of rue Sherbrooke and rue University.

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Flarfarama, pt. 2

Behold: a selection of some of the most search phrases entered by visitors to this site (via WordPress site statistics).

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An experiment in self-publishing

Responses to the Threat of Technological Distraction,’ the paper I wrote for the philosophy of technology seminar in which I was enrolled this semester, is now complete. I’ve assigned a Creative Commons license to the work and am self-publishing it here. If you read it, I would appreciate any impressions or feedback.

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Flarfarama

Although I didn’t know it at the time, in 2007 I was writing flarf poetry. Flarf exemplifies the random, heterogeneous, often absurd character of spam e-mails and of other information available on the web, appropriated and blended into a discontinuous (non-sequiturs rule) mesh of colorful language. It’s striking for its aforementioned absurdity, sudden shifts of subject, its non-hanging-togetherness. If there is meaning in flarf, generally speaking, that meaning consists in the flarf poet’s attempt to mirror (or simply record, curate, edit) special instances of digitally-mediated language, almost always removed from — what? everything? — context, human relationships, an immediate setting which would give the totally of the poem its traditional meaning.

discontinuity in modernist form

An unpublished work of mine; not however, flarf.

Seeing months ago via Rod Smith’s Facebook feed that two Mel Nichols videos were featured on the Huffington Post set off a train of thought that led me here, to bibliomanic, to speak of flarf. In the mid-aughts, I used to see these two poets, Rod Smith and Mel Nichols, when I attended the regime of regular Thursday night pub-crawls that they and Dan Gutstein (my then poetry teacher, at George Washington U) followed.

Most of my flarf was a long poem without any line breaks I wrote on a typewriter in drafts and in numerous revisions on a computer: ‘Starving revelation tooth factory’. The title (a riddle, the answer of which is something like the human body in frenzy, pleases me, but the poem is unsatisfactory to me today, with the rest of my so-called “juvenilia” (in fact, this was the name of a collection I put together when I was about fifteen), it’s a little embarrassing. “Starving revelation tooth factory” is a narcissistically jagged long poem. Contains some flarf elements, much autobiographical incident, a heaping bucketful of discontinuous imagery, flibbertigibbet and other what-have-you, “kerflaffle-fla-flam,” and even the following (which I can still admire the beauty of):

felicific calculus
apophenic pareidolia
psychoramic steganography
thrombic lycocoptyopenic purpura
gnitirw erutuf sdrawkcab
meop ni esrever

That’s not flarf. And neither is Charles Bernstein. My attitude towards flarf poetry is ambivalent, but I don’t like it. On Wikipedia on the ‘Flarf’ page I read:

‘I love a movement that’s willing to describe its texts as ‘a kind of corrosive, cute, or cloying awfulness.’ – Joyelle McSweeney

Ugh. Flarf surrenders to the sometimes-vacuity of the digital infoscape. And for me, it seems rooted in the first eight years of the new millenium, standing opposite George W. Bush’s empty rhetoric, littered with mistakes and itself hollow, void of meaning, like the image flarf attempts to project of language as existing in a weird vacuum of truth and human intimacy or even intelligence.

I don’t think that art or literature or poetry needs to be engagé to be meaningful, but poetic language should not be complicit with the prevailing inane discourses that they have the power to counteract.

Sage advice from Albert Borgmann

“A reform [of technology] is the recognition and restraint of the pattern of technology so as to give focal concerns a central place in our lives.” – Albert Borgmann

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Thoughts on Internet distraction, pt. 2

There’s a lot of dystopic-sounding studies of computers and networks out there, and it’s hardly a new trend: Trapped in the Net; Life on the Screen; The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace; Silicon Shock; The Net Effect: Romanticism, Capitalism, and the Internet; Technobabble; Digital Diaspora; Cyburbia; Slaves of the Machine; Moths to the Flame; High Noon on the Electronic Frontier; Monster or Messiah?; Digerati; War of the Worlds.

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Thoughts on Internet distraction, pt. 1

Nicholas Carr believes — and shows, using lots of evidence drawn from research in neuroscience and cognitive science (the book is shelved in McGill’s Osler medical library) — that our interlinked computing technologies pose a serious challenge to deep thought, hampering our capacity to reflect and contemplate in meaningful ways. This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking claim; at least, not for anyone who has had the experience of, while piloting a web browser, being unable to focus for any length of time on the task at hand, or who has found their attention increasingly diverted and distributed through a web of hyperlinks. Figures of speech to describe our computerized, information-saturated mental state abound: popcorn brainmental obesity are among the most apt. Forget information overload.

Four books

Also pictured: Information Anxiety (Richard Saul Wurman); Within the Context of No Context (George W.S. Trow); and Future Shock (Alvin Toffler).

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