Monday, January 31, 2005

tag you're it

Prompted by AKMA's understated note about how we, following Orwell, tend to assume that clarity, accuracy, and power of expression are relatively easy to achieve, if only we use a little elbow grease:

Large topic. Some memorable writing appears in the comments sections of various blogs. Free there even from the looser normative constraints of blogging, this writing is often rife with ambiguity, rich in figure, and wide of the genteel deorative mark set by journalistic norms and public affairs bloggers.

That is to say, AKMA is noting a need to work on our communicative skills that is itself complicated by the burden of trying to get at something -- something that is not just a simplistic one-size-fits-all retread -- in language that daily enables this miracle to occur, but not without resistance. Language and community after all rely on universals, and we are and have particulars, but somehow even particulars, to be seen as such, must partake in some way of universals. It is at war with itself.

Throw in complications of medium, genre, audience and we can all feel collectively guilty and challenged. Without some determined effort to say what we mean, the effort of others to intepret is not earned. Some say what is most needed is some shared basis for the labor of interpretation:
...we lack collective narratives that recreate a shared imagination of our condition both in resistance and in liberation - to reforge an interpretive community. Alan Toner via wood s lot
And if the promise of shared information -- the managed liberation of worker knowledge, the formation of collective interests for the common good thanks to networked communication -- encounters a resistance that arises from the very process that is also enabling it: the disgruntlegregation, so to unspeak, of norms? Instead of a forging created by all this talking, blogging, conferencing, a fraying. (I seem to recall a kindred question on pseudopodium back when it was Bellona Times, in other terms, and can't find it.)

AKMA participates in more than one interpretive community, and has written interestingly about interpretation. He and Shelley Powers among others have reservations about tags, which are also supposed to be building the semantic web. The tags issue might be one sliver of how challenging semantic hygiene can be.

I fail to communicate. The trigger for this failure was merely this, cited by Toner:
Language... is the danger of all dangers, because it is that which begins by creating the possibility of a danger. — He cites Holderlin I've added a link.
As I take Orwellian responsibility for my misspeaking, so might I also be advised to probe the slippery theatrics of language, in and out of which all these misspent words slide.

10 Comments:

Blogger Juke said...

http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=62-0743228154-0

2/01/2005 10:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Good idea.

2/03/2005 7:39 AM  
Blogger Jon Husband said...

I too have been wondering about the seeming promise of tags, and have been exploring the ways controlled vocabularies and subjective tags might interoperate more effectively, given some interpretative rigour.

Also reading and thinking about Mcluhan's work on clichés, and wondering whether the widespread use of tags would help us all, online, converge towards the increasingly frequent use of clichés.

Blink !

2/03/2005 3:28 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I had a very long comment I deleted when I realised I was suggesting that we're full on heading toward complete and utter meaninglessness in language. That gibberish was the new universal and my blog and comments the particular.

The Holderlin line cemented it for me. I don't get it. Though I did read and enjoy his poetry - very lucid, thanks for the link, Tom. Odd that, poetry clear, prose baffling. I think I may have to blog/post in blank verse for a bit, see if I can't make my thoughts a little more clear.

2/03/2005 5:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Wish you hadn't censored yrself, BS.

Jon, I'd like to know more about what McL had to say about cliche, and about how that fits into yr thinking on tags.

To me, tags are a way of discovering how richly diverse our various notions of things can be - I envision even ordinary things festooned with tags of every stripe, color, and persuasion. Things will then be put into curious adjacencies. Different disciplines might discover they mesh through tags of items they'd never have dreamt of putting together. I.e., the interest to me is not how we tag, but what we will be surprised to find, regardless of our attempts to fecklessly systematize, after we've been doing it for a while.

2/03/2005 9:02 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Ah, it wasn't so much censorship as it was...confusion. I was trying horribly too hard to make a point about the effects of language - and how I never read Shelley or Akma not because they aren't clear, or aren't fine writers - which they both are - or the subject matter doesn't interest me, it does - but the notion that I was trying to get at was this - both Shelley and AKMA write toward order, as opposed to away from it. That probably makes no sense. It runs to personal taste, but deeper, I'm thinking. That the language, in the way it is composed, has an emotional effect much as music does.

Somehow, you have intuited the sort of stuff I might like, in leaving that link on my blog. And this doesn't run to your motives. And it's not just the subject matter, again, I'm thinking.

I read with my ears as much as I do with my eyes. And I love to be mesmerised - almost put into a trance - by writing. Form and style and substance in a unity. And this has an emotional effect, ultimately, as opposed to an effect in the parts of the brain subject to logic and reason as in reading a well written document on scientic research etc.

I mean this is all fairly obvious. But where I came to wonmder about this was in visiting some of the American neocon blogs yesterday and for the life of me I couldn't see or understand what 'area of the emotions' let's call it - I couldn't see 'the appeal' - at all. I'm normally quite empathetic. But this left me baffled. That these sites were "illwritten" should have helped me a little, but it didn't. That there was a collective vibe, there was no doubt, but I was left feeling somewhat vaguely ill - and I am not generally shocked by people's views. Not that I've seen it all, but...I just didn't see 'the appeal' - which had everything to do with the language.

So you can see why I nixed it!

2/04/2005 12:50 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Ah, it wasn't so much censorship as it was...confusion. I was trying horribly too hard to make a point about the effects of language - and how I never read Shelley or Akma not because they aren't clear, or aren't fine writers - which they both are - or the subject matter doesn't interest me, it does - but the notion that I was trying to get at was this - both Shelley and AKMA write toward order, as opposed to away from it. That probably makes no sense. It runs to personal taste, but deeper, I'm thinking. That the language, in the way it is composed, has an emotional effect much as music does.

Somehow, you have intuited the sort of stuff I might like, in leaving that link on my blog. And this doesn't run to your motives. And it's not just the subject matter, again, I'm thinking.

I read with my ears as much as I do with my eyes. And I love to be mesmerised - almost put into a trance - by writing. Form and style and substance in a unity. And this has an emotional effect, ultimately, as opposed to an effect in the parts of the brain subject to logic and reason as in reading a well written document on scientic research etc.

I mean this is all fairly obvious. But where I came to wonmder about this was in visiting some of the American neocon blogs yesterday and for the life of me I couldn't see or understand what 'area of the emotions' let's call it - I couldn't see 'the appeal' - at all. I'm normally quite empathetic. But this left me baffled. That these sites were "illwritten" should have helped me a little, but it didn't. That there was a collective vibe, there was no doubt, but I was left feeling somewhat vaguely ill - and I am not generally shocked by people's views. Not that I've seen it all, but...I just didn't see 'the appeal' - which had everything to do with the language.

So you can see why I nixed it!

2/04/2005 12:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

Like Homer said: there is no point of stasis - if you marshal words in the service of clarity and light, there are risks, not the least of which is forgetting what you were originally moved to talk about. If one is moved to speak richly and obliquely, there are other risks, including getting tagged autistic or something. Of course Homer never said anything of the sort. But this is what the entirety of him is saying, among other things.

2/05/2005 12:05 AM  
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