Monday, September 26, 2005

Google, Wiki, Blog and Flarf: The New Idiom

Most of what I know about contemporary poetics and the current potential of the Internet, began by reading Tony Tost's "I Am Not the Pilot" very closely back in the spring of 2003. I've just spent the morning reading up on Google and Wikipedia (in fact, I've been reading about Google on Wikipedia, and looking Wikipedia up on Google.)

I am now convinced that we know nothing about human knowledge if we do not understand the workings of these new technologies. The new media. We know nothing about what a poem is, what it means to read, what a myth is, what it means to believe, what an idea is, what it means to think, etc. if we do not know how web pages are made (by humans and machines) and how they are related (personally and mechanically).

New projects like Google Print will inevitably succeed. Sources will inevitably be (in some sense) "open". Creativity will be manifest in the combination and recombination of what is available and "availability" will be a high-tech business of the first rank (is already).

Flarf has been exploring the materials of this new medium in its own way, but I believe our literary theory of Flarf has a long way to go. (I'm here talking mainly about myself.) My attempts to read "what is on the page" must take the "source code" seriously (though I will continue to insist that the classical anthropological assumptions about the writers of the sources must be abandoned and replaced with a technical understanding of the medium in which they "express themselves"--i.e., that which keeps them from doing so--i.e., the sense in which the medium is the message.) Also, concepts like "residual", "dominant" and "emergent" cannot be understood without a detailed understanding of the technologies that make texts available and unavailable (including points of contact with intellectual property issues) to readers. Historical or cultural awareness offers next to nothing when compared with savvy Googling.

"Erudite" will no longer mean "well read" but "super connected".

I generally assume that Michel Foucault's "archeological" approach to human knowledge is right. What I am trying to say is that it will soon be (if it isn't already) silly to study "the archive" without knowing how the "the library" (Google etc.) works, and I mean "works" in its mechanical details.

Finally, I believe that the only way to present the results of intellectual labour today is by way of the "luminous ideogram" or "perspicuous presentation", which will (we must presume) be read always by Googling its words and phrases.

4 comments:

Phil said...

It is amazing to really think about the windows that Google has opened for us (and its predecessors), as the world of information becomes further, and further indexed on that service.

Also, we can't overlook the nearly ubiquitous availability of high speed internet access that makes Googling and blogging all the more attractive and viable.

In fact, we can now "Google" ourselves at Google Blog Search.

The Goo-cultural revolution continues...

-Phil

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Jay said...
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Jay said...

'What I am trying to say is that it will soon be (if it isn't already) silly to study "the archive" without knowing how the "the library" (Google etc.) works, and I mean "works" in its mechanical details.'

One significant problem with this possibility, I think, is that as the mechanics become increasingly "intuitive" we'll know less and less about how they actually function -- for if "'availability' will be a high-tech business of the first rank" then we can be certain that the dominant search engines (etc.) of the future won't be open-source . . .

jane said...

I am halfway to all the way with you on this. And yet...

Isn't this a sort of technological determinism? As if technology sort of appeared -- via, um, intelligent design? -- and caused various changes (in form, media, understanding, etc) to just happpen?

Of course one could never think about, say, the waning of end-rhymes without thinking about the printing press. No argument there. But what about the forces that drove us tooward developing movable type? What about the forces that drove us toward Google -- forces which are not fundamentally technological, though they make much use of same. "[A] detailed understanding of the technologies" is great, and important. But it doesn't get us out of the jam of having to understand the social relations which summon forth such technolgies; that task retains its precedence in the progress of understanding.