Saturday, December 08, 2007

Everything Is, And Then It Isn't

Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Order - by David Weinberger
Ludwig Wittgenstein @ Wikipedia

I've been reading Everything is Miscellaneous lately and have come to the conclusion that the author, David Weinberger, wants a digital search system that acts much like the way Wittgenstein described language. The way Weinberger argues that information inherently seeks disorder is similar to Wittgenstein's claim that language exists only in public and plays only by the rules of the particular game at a particular time. In other words, both argue that information and language are contextual. If a searcher is seeking a particular topic then the search engine needs to tailor itself in such a way as to retrieve the appropriate information. The search is thus a Wittgensteinian language-game where the meaning is attach by how the game is being played. For example, someone searching for an intellectual history of fascism would not need to read a biography of Hitler or Mussolini but rather rightist authors of the late 19th century. The search would have to alter itself around that kind of information. Thus information, much like language, gains meaning to the searcher by the rules the searcher is playing by.
The organic nature of the system both authors propose is one that changes constantly according to the users. Besides both being about how meaning is attached to information/language, each author argues that only through public usage rather than a single definitive listing will the systems work. Wittgenstein argued against both a private language and a static one, comparing language to a city that has developed over the centuries where the inner streets are a complicated mess while the later built outer streets have a more organized look to them. The point is, information and language both grow exponentially while leaving no concrete blueprint for people to follow. Instead they have to muddy through the language and information games required by the nature of each respective system.
The book itself is quite fascinating, especially when thrown against some of Warren Ellis's ideas he wrote in Planetary. It just may be the case that information is a fundamental element of the universe, or rather, the aether 19th century scientists believed held up the universe. Nothing is without information of one kind or another. And the only way to express that information is through language. I believe that information and language are intrinsic to each other, where neither is useful without the other.

No comments: