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Klippbok: påskhelgen 2012

Jag har hunnit läsa ikapp lite i helgen (dock inget av det här, men det kanske kommer), och är några valda citat från det:

Poeten Kenneth Goldsmith skriver i essän “The Bounce and the Roll” om hur det är att vara just poet i nätets tidsålder:

All of this is to point out the new quandary that writers — whose notions of literary production and reception were forged in the age of the slow roll — face in the age of the bounce. To construct a career based on the ephemerality of the meme is at once thrilling and terrifying. Embracing it is like jumping off a cliff and freefalling, throwing away the script that we’ve come to know so well. Yet it seems inevitable; it’s clearly the next move; it will happen. The question is how it will happen and how much human intervention will be necessary to successfully sustain it as a viable literary practice. If Issue 1 [stor PDF] is any hint, then it’s clear that machines will need to play a much more central role in the discourse; although it was curated and collated by humans, what made it possible was the fact that a computer wrote all the poems and then they were distributed and propagated electronically.

Annie Lowrey ville lära sig programmera, valde Ruby, och följde den enigmatiske Ruby-filosofen _why och sökte orsakerna till hans omtalade “info-självmord”. Här lite bara om hans programmerings-filosofi:

_why himself repeatedly stressed programming’s creative potential. In the (poignant) Guide, he writes, “Vitamin R goes straight to the head. Ruby will teach you to express your ideas through a computer. You will be writing stories for a machine,” he says. “The language will become a tool for you to better connect your mind to the world.”

Från en artikel i New York Times om Tom McCarthys roman Men in Space (från 2007, innan C):

The novel is constructed in such a way that the text is not a single story, but rather a field of multiple resonances, and instead of invoking the icon’s geometry the meaning of any number of scenes might be similarly multiplied by invoking biology, mythology, cybernetics or literary theory. But the centrality of multiplicity in this sophisticated novel is also a model of the fabulating mind’s encounter with an ungraspable reality. In an important passage, McCarthy describes a traveler at the rear of a train:

“He loves riding the wake, leaning on the rail against the window watching the tracks appear from underneath as though the tram itself were plowing them, churning them up while the box on its roof trailed cable like a spider spinning thread above: making the world by moving through it.”

En detalj från en artikel i Lapham’s Quarterly om den inflytelserika Rogets Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases:

Fans of the television show Friends may recall the episode in which the dim-witted Joey Tribbiani discovers the built-in thesaurus in his word-processing program and tries to spruce up a letter of recommendation for his friends’ adoption agency. He thesaurusizes every word, so that the sentence “They are warm, nice people with big hearts” turns into “They are humid, prepossessing homo sapiens with full-sized aortic pumps.”

Dokumentärfilmaren m.m., Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War, Standard Operating ProcedureTabloid, t.ex.), är ju en intressant figur, och en artikel om honom i Smithsonian Magazine är en bra introduktion. Det här kände jag inte till, t.ex. (vilket bara leder till mer läsande):

Born in suburban Long Island, Morris graduated from the University of Wisconsin. After a stint of cello study in France, he talked his way into the Princeton graduate philosophy seminar of Thomas Kuhn, an icon of postmodernism, the man who coined the term “paradigm shift.”It wasn’t exactly a meeting of the minds. In fact, it almost cracked Morris’ skull, which is what Kuhn seemed to be aiming to do at the climax of an argument when the esteemed philosopher threw an ashtray at Morris’ head. […] “The Ashtray,” Morris’ five-part, 20,000-word account of that episode and their philosophical clash over the nature of truth, is a good introduction to the unique kind of writing he’s doing now. (Don’t miss the section on the obscure Greek philosopher of irrationalism, Hippasus of Metapontum,a digression worthy of Jorge Luis Borges.)

(En intervju som Morris gjort med Stephen King låg förresten också och skräpade.)

George Dyson intervjuades nyligen av The Observers John Nautghton apropå hans bok Turing’s Cathedral (nämnd här tidigare). Här är ett par intressanta frågor och svar:

JN How long did the book take to write?

GD It is now exactly 10 years since I decided to go to Princeton and start digging up material, and (thanks to Charles Simonyi) was invited to spend a year at IAS. I love doing research, I enjoy editing, but I have great trouble forcing myself to do the writing that is necessary in between. I cannot write at my boat-building workshop, because of the distractions, and I cannot write at home, because there are no distractions. So I end up going back and forth a lot, and eventually something begins to take form. From there it is all downhill, with something like 30 rewrites before anything is ready for print. The sobering thought is that the Bigelow-Von Neumann group conceived, designed, built, and began solving serious problems with their computer in less time than it took me to write about it!


JN Another significant moral of the tale is the importance of open publication. The documentation for the IAS machine was all published, which meant that the machine could be cloned elsewhere (and indeed was by commercial companies such as IBM, as well as other research institutes), whereas the guys who built the ENIAC lodged patents, started a company and in due course became enmeshed in litigation. In our time, the computing industry is increasingly enmeshed in the same kinds of patent wars, so maybe there’s a lesson here for us. Is there a correlation between openness and innovation?

GD Yes, indeed. And what is amazing – and would horrify Abraham Flexner [the founding spirit of the IAS] – is that academic institutions are now leading the way in proprietary restriction on the results of scientific research! Of course there are arguments that this will fund more science, but those arguments do not make sense to me. Again, back to the original agreement made between Oppenheimer and the army at Los Alamos: the weapons would be secret, but the science would be open. And the more we backtrack on that agreement (whether with the military or with industry) the more we lose.The inner sanctum of the IAS is the climate-controlled Rosenwald rare book room in their main library, which holds priceless classical manuscripts and later texts. A full set of the bound volumes of the Electronic Computer Project Interim Progress Reports are now shelved there, next to first editions of Newton and Euclid, where they belong.


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