Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ask a glass of water

One way of testing the waters of a particular infoecology is to see if you understand its sense of humor. Not only because it's fun, but also because things need to be connected in various ways to make humorous sense.

You see, things are generally not funny in and of themselves. They are embedded within deep, interconnected structures that make various semantic noises when they resonate with each other, and if you know to play your chords right, you can make funny noises with them. They are not funny because they sound funny, though, but because the subtle resonances make both sense and no sense at the same time - and this juxtaposition of non/sense is what makes one smile.

Things are both a and not-a, at the same time. According to the logic of the context, this thing that cannot be, is, and is all the more funny because it is logical. Though it is not the logic itself that is funny, the fact that a contradiction can be brought to bear while still following all the rules - the disharmonious harmony of it all equals a laugh.

If you are in tune with the various lateral connections that make up a given ecology, you will get the gist of how and why a joke is funny. The parts will make sense, the relations will occur naturally, and the composition will just work itself out, intuitively. And, conversely, if you find yourself out of tune, the joke in question will fall flat - like any other instrument that is out of tune.

The fastest way to make sure that you are, in fact, in tune with a particular environment is to see if you can make it laugh by invoking its own logic. If you can pull a string there, harp a chord there and ever so slightly drum it in at the end - you are indeed resonating with those around you.

Some have described my recent obsession with infoecology as all work and no play. As you can see, I'm not all convinced that this is the case. Though I might need to bring more humor to the table if I'm to convince them of this.

I'm sure Thales would agree. The world being humorous and all. -

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Follow the white rabbit

I recently stopped following some four hundred people on our favorite Twitter network. Not because i suddenly discovered I dislike them or anything, but because I decided that my two timelines needed to be diverged. And thus, diverging happened - my English account stopped following a lot of people, and my Swedish one took on these very same people. The result being more or less plus/minus zero.

From where I'm sitting, things are looking as they've always had. The same updates come from the same people as before, and the only difference is that they now happen in different timelines. And that the two are, as it were, a tad bit less interlingual than before.

There are reasons behind why I did this, but they are not as interesting as the fact that people left and right are starting to unfollow me. Not for anything I said, but because I unfollowed them. And that makes me think - why do people on Twitter follow each other?

Now, you may or may not know this, but my Twitter output is rather weird. It's Horses and Tulkus and infoecology and a thousand other strange things you really wouldn't want to explain to your parents in a dark alley. And it's brutally in your face, so you really can't miss it - that follow button is a big deal for your timeline.

In short - you either like it or unfollow it. Which many a new follower have noticed, just moments before they became new unfollowers.

So, I unfollowed most of my old Swedish mates, in order to diverge the timelines. And moments later, they started to unfollow me back, for no other reason than me not following them. Which made me think - are/were people following people they don't like in order to live up to their end of some unwritten social contract? Do people feel obliged to follow people back, just because that's what you're expected to do?

What have I done to these people all this time? And how did they stand being forced to expose their digital eyes to my strange ruminations, just to fulfill the unwritten rule "if they follow me, I follow them"?

I don't quite follow this logic. But apparently it's at work out there in the world. For some, strange reason. -

Friday, April 20, 2012


I've always imagined they have a lot of sex in the vaults. Not because I'm kinky, but because I'm a wannabe sociologist. And sociologists have a free pass to think about these things.

It should very much be a Fallout perk. "Sociologist".

For those of you who don't know, Fallout is a series of computer games set in a post-apocalyptic future, where the nukes have done their scientific magic. Those humans that have survived are either heavily mutated, or the descendants of those who happened to be in fallout shelters - vaults - when the bombs fell.

Now, picture the life in these vaults. Going outside isn't really an option, because of the brutal levels of radiation. And since going outside isn't an option, you're pretty much stuck with what you have inside the vault. Which, being built to last for generations, isn't going to change all that much. The physical environment is, for all intents and purposes, a given - like a mountain, it remains the same, unchanging.

The cultural environment isn't likely to change, either. The influx of new books, songs, ideas and news is naturally going to be rather limited, and on the whole you are stuck with what you happened to have on hand as the bombs fell. It goes without saying that taking a pleasant stroll to the public library downtown isn't really on the list of things to do.

As it stands, the only interesting thing going on in a vault is what the other inhabitants are doing. And because of the lack of any other action of any kind, social relations, tensions and processes are magnified by a brutalfold. In an ecology where relations are the only relevant information -

Well. It becomes really important who sleeps with whom. And in the absence of long term distractions, sleeping with people becomes a very attractive prospect indeed.

Even more so than under pre-apocalyptic circumstances.

I can only imagine the tension that the inhabitants must feel. Every move is scrutinized, analyzed, made into public knowledge and on the whole neither forgiven nor forgotten. Politics, metapolitics and metametapolitics is the name of every game, and the urge to get away from this will either drive people insane, horny or both -

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Out of replace

I sometimes go to a nearby shopping mall just to be there.

Make no mistake. I have no business being there. I'm dirt poor, and can't afford to shop just about anything. If I actually made business there, I'd be put out of business quicker than a record label not migrating to the digital economy.

But I come there anyway. And the reason I go there is twofold. For one, they have a restaurant that serves an unlimited amount of food for a very limited amount of money, which goes a long way to balance my books. More importantly, though, I come to watch the others who are there, for whatever reason they might have.

Which, more often than not, is to shop. But that is not any of my business.

I do this to remind myself of the kind of society I live in. To remind myself of the Spectacle, and the brutally artificial forms under which we try to find ourselves. To watch how people try to conform to norms that are by design unfullfillable, and to watch how they invariably fail in oh so tragic ways.

I do this not to gloat, but to firmly ground myself in the reality of the unreal. And, basically, to bitchslap myself into continue doing what I'm doing - with the rationale that if I don't, this tragedy will continue ad infinitum. Or until it crash lands in a flurry of postconsumerist inevitabilities.

I have no business being there. Yet I go there, as a reminder to myself: Another world is not only possible, it is also very, very necessary.

It's easy to forget why you do the things you do. It's even easier to forget to remind yourself. And if you forget that long enough, you might start to think you have no business doing what you're doing. That you are out of place, slowly going out of business.

Sometimes, we just have to balance those books. Every once in a while.

Conferring relations

Imagine that you're at a conference, listening to various speakers about a wide range of interesting topics. Those you've listened to so far have been quite eloquent, and you have just arrived to yet another talk about - something. You're not quite sure, but if the other talks are anything to go by, this is sure to be well worth the listen.

But as the speaker gets going, it becomes clear that he really has no clue as to how this thing called public speaking works. He's obviously tying to sell something, but as the train wreck progresses, it becomes clearer that you are not going to find out what by listening to his utter lack of wordplay.

So you leave, and hit one of the nearby places with free conference food. It's not great, but it's free and it's food. That's good enough for the moment.

While there, you discover that you're not alone in this sudden relocation to greener buffet tables. Another listener from the talk you just left has found his way there, and you naturally fall into conversation about how awful the speaker was. In short order, you're talking and laughing like you've known each other for a lot longer than the mere moments you've actually spent in conversation.

Now ask yourself - which of these two have made the biggest impact on you? The overpaid speaker, or the chance encounter with the random stranger?

This is the difference between marketing and public relations. And you really don't need to go to a stuffy conference with terrible free food to spot the difference.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to relate?

Someone asked me for a case where the concept of an ecology of relations was applicable. Which, of course, is a reasonable thing to ask for – the only way to prove the usability of a concept is after all to use it. If it seems useful or provides insight, it's worth the effort to get a grip on it; if it doesn't, there are other things in the world to spend time on.

The short version of what an ecology of relations is, is the sum total of all the intricate, complex webs of interpersonal relations within a social setting, i.e. a workplace, a group of students or whatever you may wish to analyze. Wherever there are people that coexist for an extended period of time, an ecology emerges – with it's own unique set of characteristics, quirks and pathologies.

An example of such an ecology is a traditional geek internet forum about some technical topic, where the technical knowledge required to participate in the discussions is sufficiently high to exclude most women a priori. The male norm is writ large, and to say that the male gaze is present would imply that feminist theory had some say in the matter.

Now, imagine that a verified, bona fide woman with an amazing grasp of the technicalities of this particular forum's topic enters the picture. Not a group of women, not some women, but a woman – one, like a gendered singularity. A woman who, whenever someone says something to the effect that women can't know anything about these things, slams them with a technical savvy so brutal that no one can deny that she knows everything there is to know about anything worth knowing -

You can imagine the ecology of relations turning out in several ways. Either she becomes the Woman of the group, beloved by all and sexually greeted by the most daring/desperate of them; or she becomes the Woman of the group, which means that her technical expertise doesn't quite liberate her from the essence of Woman; or she becomes just another member, valued for her skill rather than her lady bits.

The third one is rather utopian, I admit. But one can always dream.

The usefulness of a concept like “relational ecology” (or whatever shorthand is bound to emerge) arises from cases like the first one. Especially when we imagine things changing about the ecology in question – like, for instance, another woman of equal skill entering the scene. What happens? What follows from this change?

For one thing, the already present woman might suddenly find herself not liking this new arrival very much. She's popular, well liked, and even the casual sexual invitations taking place behind the scenes is a small price to pay for the immense personal popularity she enjoys within this particular ecology. We might say that a monopoly is threatened, and when something is threatened -

I don't think I have to belabor this extremely oversimplified example all that much. I trust you get the drift of what I'm about, and how the thought of an ecology of relations might be useful if used properly.

Like with all concepts, one will of course have to add some aspects from other relevant ecologies of information to make use of it – like the concepts of “male norm” and “gaze” mentioned above. If you know your way around feminist territories, you may do wonderful critique of my example -

But I do hope I've made the case for why one might choose to think more about this concept. And I do hope you'll find some use for it in your everyday life – hopefully, you may even find a way to change things for the better.

And in the end, that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In so many words

I recently read a post by @LeslieHeme that got me thinking. About chess and Heidegger, strangely enough.

Do go ahead and read it. I'll wait right here until you come back.

You done? Good. And congratulations on a good read.

No text exists in a vacuum. They are all interconnected, whether you (or their authors) know it or not. Through the lateral hyperlinks of the infoecology, any given text always finds itself within a community of other texts. Sometimes by virtue of being direct or indirect responses to each other; sometimes by virtue of the reader making the connection. Sometimes by existing in close proximity to each other - in every meaning of the word.

It's like chess. Every piece is ready to move, always, and you have to take every piece into account. Not just the missing ones.

Every word is interconnected with every other word. To invoke Heidegger, one can't even say that it rains without making a whole range of metaphysical statements about the world. For one thing - what is this "it" that makes it rain? Can you see it, touch it, negotiate better weather patterns with it? What is this "it" that causes rain to happen where previously no rain happened?

Any attempt to answer these questions will involve more words, with even more metaphysical implications. And so on and so forth, until we are deep enough in semantic interconnectedness to make even a postmodern author jealous.

This is just background noise, though, and not what @LeslieHeme got me thinking about. Rather, it was about all those other words I know that is not infoecology, yet are about the same thing. You probably know them - lifeworlds, contexts, discourses, webspheres, traditions, schools of thought, etc. And as I got to think about them, I remembered that I really don't use them all that often any more.

I've forgotten the words, but remembered the implications. And am having a blast reconstructing them in a new word.

I can live with that.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Relatively ponderous

One thing I've thought about recently is how often one talks to people. And which people get's talked to more often than others.

You may or may not have noticed this, but some people somehow manages to get into the "people you talk to" zone. People who, for one reason or another, just happen to text, tweet or in some way talk at you, with some sort of regularity.

We may attribute this to differences in mental distance. Some people are just closer than others, and so the thought of writing something to - or at - them comes to you easier than they otherwise might. And, conversely, that some people are more distant than others, and thus less likely to be written too.

Now, there are reasons why people are where they are in your mental geography. Which vary from person to person - in every sense of the word. Let's leave them for later.

One more specific thing on my mind lately is how much you should talk to those you find yourself in proximity to. It is quite possible to talk to people more or less nonstop during the day, in various forms. But do you really want to? And is it okay to drop out of these close, constant encounters for the sole reason that you've talked all day?

I ponder. And I just might another ecology to the one I've talked about for the last few days. The ecology of relations - interpersonal relations.

I ponder indeed.

Tough love, tougher peace

They say that war is hard. That tough decisions have to be made in wartime, and that it separates the chaff from the wheat. That war is a big forge that hammers toughness into people, much like the forges of times past hammered metal into swords.

They are wrong.

Now, war is not easy, either. But it exists in the realm of extremity that simplifies things. There is us and them, we and the enemy, friends and foes; and out of this simple distinction, every big decision in the world as always-already made beforehand. Friends, protect; enemies, destroy.

This is not easy. But it's simple enough. And as long as you are in the realm of extremes, all you have to do is follow the logic of the friend/foe distinction. All the brutally hard and uneasy choices one makes on the local scale, are situated within a global framework which is rarely questioned.

War is brutal and everything but easy. But it's simple.

Peace, on the other hand, removes this  framework. Suddenly, the simple/brutal life logic of the soldier is removed. There are no more foes, and thus the prospect of friends become that much harder. Us and them, too, becomes confusing as "we the people" disintegrate into an ever evolving confusion of identity merging and politics.

Suddenly, you are left on your own. You and your cosmological infoecology against the world. And all those words Sartre wrote about being forced into freedom becomes flesh - your flesh, as it were. Without much of a clue as to what the next step is.

How do you build a life? A friendship? A love? A self?

Many who return from a war zone find themselves unable to care about the small things. About the everyday choices that building a life, friend, love, self requires. Not because they find them unimportant, but because the simple/brutal logic of war gives them permission to act as if they don't care. And when given the choice between certainty and uncertainty, many prefer the former over the latter.

It's a simple choice. Probably an easy one too.

But what did we say about tough choices?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Getting to know

Love makes you do strange things. One of them is that you lower your boundaries. Things that one wouldn't normally do become very doable indeed, and things one would never tell anyone else are suddenly open for deep discussions.  Being in love is truly an eye-opening experience.

You may recognize this from your own experience.

One of the boundaries that suddenly gets lowered is the infoecological one. Before love happened, you walked about in your own context and vaguely knew about things outside of it. After, you find yourself listening to new music, reading new texts, visiting new places and on the whole doing the strangest new things. Things you really wouldn't have imagined doing in that state of things before love struck, but started doing as a result of getting to know the other.

Suddenly, you find yourself interested in all manner of interesting situations. I'm sure you can think back to loves past and find examples of these.

The thing is, of course, that you really don't need to be in love to learn new things and add new loci to your internal context. It's a very effective motivator, to be sure, but it's not necessary by any means.

We could all do with a bit less boundaries in our lives, I think. And the infoecological ones are the easiest to lower. The rest follows, once you get going.

Have fun!

Friday, April 6, 2012

An eye for the internet

We trust our eyes. They are our trusted friends, advisors and guardians when we move about in the world; there are few things we encounter that cannot be encountered that much more spectacularly when our eyes are there to see them.

On the internet, this is not always so.

In fact, many sites are doing two things at once to fool our eyes. They display ginormous and numerous ads everywhere, in order to draw our eyes' attention to them. And they also do a lot of invisible things, in order to gather data about you. The one thing is offensive at best, and the other is rather nasty at it's worst.

Fortunately, there are ways to restore your ability to trust your eyes. Three easy ways. First off - get Firefox, or something that is not Internet Explorer. It's easier on the eyes, to say the least.

Secondly, get Adblock. It does what it says it does - blocks ads. No ifs, buts or anythings - they are just gone. Out of sight, out of mind.

Thirdly, get Ghostery. It's a bit more subtle, in that it removes all those background processes that goes on. And it shows them to you, telling you just how much gunk there is under the hood the website you're happening to watch right at that moment.

It's usually a lot more than one would think. Even I have a few of them going on, as you might discover.

Now, you might want to fiddle a bit with the settings in Ghostery. The most brutal setting turns off everything, including social media buttons, which might be a bit more than you really want. Fortunately, the settings are as visual as they are easily changed, so there's no pressure.

Just trust your eyes. And trust in your ability to help them along when they need a hand.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A taxonomy for human beings

If you study biology, you study life. And when asked about what you study, you will want to be more specific, so you might say you study a particular domain. If the question persists, you might even go into kingdoms, phyla, classes, orders, family, genera or even species - in that order.

When studying life, these things matter.

If you happen to be human, you study humans. And when asked about what you study, you will want to be more specific, so you might say you study a particular domain. - And so forth, in that order.

The first order of differentiation you do is this: do I want to have sex with this person or not? And depending on whether or not you want to, the rest of your interactions with this particular human are colored by it.

The second order of differentiation is if it's a boy or a girl.

After that, you add class, race, appearance, personality and all those other things that makes up the impression you have of the human in question. In more or less that order.

Humans are strange creatures, are they not?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fool's Day

Over the years, April Fool's Day has begun to get a new meaning to me. Sure, the jokes and gags are fun and all, but the general absurdness of the world has gotten to me a bit. The ambient strangeness of everyday life makes the more creative strangeness of this day of fools pale in comparison.

Which, of course, means that my everyday experience is that much more interesting to live in. But it also means that the effort required to up the strangeness is that much higher - you have to get really strange, otherwise it's just another news item.

Remember SOPA/PIPA? Wasn't that a strange thing to have actually happening in the world? How do you up that? "Oh, hai, we're your elected legislative representatives. We literally don't know anything about what the laws we pass does - in fact we don't know anything about the world in general - but we're gonna pass this internet law thing anyway. Because those nice men and women in corporate suits told us to do so."

And the constant weirdness that happens to occupiers everywhere - how do you up that? How do you get stranger than that?

And the mainstream media - well. How DO you up that? And do we really want to know?

We live in a strange world. And it is strange indeed when you look to April Fool's Day for some good, old, plain peace and quiet - in contrast to those really strange things that go about happening every day without anyone raising an eyebrow about them.

Let's enjoy today while it lasts. Tomorrow it's business as usual again.