Elsewhere

In many ways, algorithms remain outside our grasp, and they are designed to be. This is not to say that we should not aspire to illuminate their workings and impact. We should. But we may also need to prepare ourselves for more and more encounters with the unexpected and ineffable associations they will sometimes draw for us, the fundamental uncertainty about who we are speaking to or hearing, and the palpable but opaque undercurrents that move quietly beneath knowledge when it is managed by algorithms.

Honor Harger quotes from Tarleton Gillespie essay The Relevance of Algorithms.

An accommodation with and accounting for “fundamental uncertainty” is one of the core qualities of the new literacy.

(via new-aesthetic)

(via gordonr)

A Vast Wasteland, Five Decades Later - Ethan Zuckerman

http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2011/09/12/a-vast-wasteland-five-decades-later/

Ethan Zuckerman cites Terry Fisher in a long post about a recent retrospective at the Berkman Center about Newton Minow’s (in)famous ‘vast wasteland’ speech 50 years ago. Fisher got to bat clean-up, and departs from TV and stretches out:

New technologies, and some of the practices that surround them (though are not dictated by them) are eroding some existing, long-standing dichotomies: public/private, professional/amateur, speaker/audience, news/entertainment, university/society. There are huge benefits and costs to this corrosion. We see the collapse of oligarchies, address of systematic biases, democratization of processes. But we also have fragmentation, loss of a coherent single culture, the rise of a tower of pundit babel, and the superficiality of much programming. This move, he [Fisher] argues, is impossible to stop. Instead, we need to think through the new opportunities the shift presents: the ability to change who contributes to this process. And we need to figure out how to ameliorate the costs we suffer. That means creating distributed models for sifting, curating, organizing, like Wikipedia, Slashdot and academic projects like Jeffrey Schapp’s Digital Humanities project. In this new world, the FCC may not be the prime mover – the real power is located in intermediaries like Google, and if we were to push for the public interest, that’s where we’d apply leverage.

The web is slowly being converted to a giant mall (see The Stripmalling Of Social Media: Media Sprawl And The New Urbanism), and TV is made into just another pile of ‘content’ for it’s yawning maw. Google and other private companies wire their policies into the plumbing of the social web, and the FCC is hopelessly out of date, focused on channels and spectrum instead of the global agora we are constructing, and living in.

Fisher is right in the particulars: a fragmentation of culture, and the dissolution of public/private, to name just a few of his points. Like Fisher, I am caught up in the quest for a distributed ‘engine of meaning’ to make sense of the streaming world through a combination of human and algorithmic curation, and it will have to be based on social structures we aren’t mining yet, I guess.

Trawling With Engines Of Meaning

Ultimately no human brain, no planet full of human brains, can possibly catalog the dark, expanding ocean of data we spew. In a future of information auto-organized by folksonomy, we may not even have words for the kinds of sorting that will be going on; like mathematical proofs with 30,000 steps, they may be beyond comprehension. But they’ll enable searches that are vast and eerily powerful. We won’t be surfing with search engines any more. We’ll be trawling with engines of meaning.

via -@bruces (Bruce Sterling)

I love the poetry of the words, but I believe we will depend on social networks to act as our ‘engines of meaning’ — and they may involve 30,000 steps. Meaning is the new search.

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