Erik Benson on when a group becomes an individual
Ever think about the transportation of information in our world? Do societies have structures in place similar to the nervous system in our body?
With 9/11, how long did it take for 5% of the nation to know about it? How long before 50%? How long before 90%? 99%? 99.9%? How does that pattern compare with the information’s travel into the rest of the world.
it feels dehumanizing to think of people as information receptors and transmitters… but I also strongly believe that some force is making us organize ourselves to behave that way. Is it an evil force or a good force or a neutral force, and can we control it?
Erik has a long muse on the nature of information infrastructure, envokes biological metaphors for societal processes, ponders the purpose behind it, and worries over the fate of the individual.
Biological metaphors are effective tools in studying in complex systems, biology straddling several levels of complexity, and clearly demonstrating core concepts of stability,chaos,evolution,novelty,ecology,adaption,strategy. Information, detached from physical context, is extremely novel (though information is perhaps core to existential universal structure, in 2nd law entropic heatinformation sense) and thus, even though biology has evolved ever awe-inspiring means of propogation and preservation, we are just barely aware of the bizarre, convulted, complex systematics of ideas.
Yes, the global nervous infrastructure is real and emerging. Emerging just at the time of eminent environmental and social crisis. New methods of personally publishing, weblogs, are staged to significantly alter the topology of information transfer. Yes, World as a Blog was a crude attempt to model these new flows.
Erik’s introduction of quantitative measurement in media studies is right on. Besides simple awareness, and threshhold met distribution, is study of effect, understanding, and opinion. The force of individual/orgs voices in distributing information, the spin and selection of facts, the particular turns of phrase.
I was often shocked to see how some akward phrase from the Bush Administration was quickly highlighted by commentators, repeated and repeated in the media, until this phrase became situational reality. Is it possibly to quantify these effects? It would be of such great use to semi-automate, track and visualize not just information but perception. How exactly did 2/3 of Americans come to believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11? What threshhold of voices and political threat forced Bush to come out to dispell that claim?
In this space, there’s personal overlap between my present and future courses. The tools I’ll study in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems will have definite application in studying the nature of the Information Nervous System. And hopefully will result in tools for greater individual understanding. I’m deluged by the volume from my aggregator. Computationally understanding patterns, visualized in aggregator, identification of novelty and idea flow, are very much needed.