This is an email from a while back where I was proposing a collaborative project to someone. The project never bloomed between us.
A long while ago I told you I was thinking about a project that required as much conceptual design help as coding help (though it needs both). I’ve been occasionally making notes towards explaining that concept ever since. Here’s what I’ve got so far. Read through when you have a chance and let me know any thoughts or questions you might have. This is not a small project, and has no deadline.
It’s like a blog, only it isn’t.
It’s comprised of an ongoing aggregation of new material, but it isn’t sorted chronologically, and it isn’t sorted by category, and it isn’t unsorted.
It isn’t random.
It’s isn’t about a zeitgiest sort of gathering together of the random, either (which is what I think Jim’s [that’s Jim Andrews] dbCinema does).
It is about connections between things, and thus its shape should help identify those connections, but, without pre-determining those connections.
It’s like a Poincare map of what I know.
Content granules could be text, images, links, images, code, embedded video, just about anything. I can format them however the coded presentation needs, but I should be able to just drop them in a directory somewhere and have them be assimilated into the whole.
I want each visit to the place to be a unique presentation of the material, but, not a random presentation of the material. It should dance. It can compile nightly rather than change per load.
Much of it will be zen or aphoristic in nature–like for example, near my house they recently tore down a McDonald’s restaurant, and built a new one right next door to where it used to be. I don’t know what this
means. But I hope that it adds up to something when placed alongside, within, among, other points of observations this-myself has made/will make.
I don’t really want people to be able to direct their own way through the material, but, they should be able to control their pace of ingestion.
Things can overlap. Things should overlap. Things do overlap. Blend. Mix. Misinform each other.
Carolyn Forche has said that as a species, we may be losing the ability for sustained contemplation. For a long time that bothered me and I worked against it, trying to find ways to hold attentions long enough to initiate and sustain contemplation. Now I think that it’s a given, and there’s no need to fear it, instead, as an artist, I want to embrace it and see where it goes–because it IS the current and future reality. There is no putting the genie back in the bottle. So, what happens if we say things are moving too fast for contemplation, what does that mean for cognition? Cognition doesn’t stop, it adapts, it improvises, it overcomes. Meaning-making doesn’t cease because contemplation has become impossible. Meaning-making continues in new ways. I want to explore the limits of those ways, and I do not believe it is the readers job to make all the meaning.
What I love about your snow pieces recently is that they say, by consistent method of transformation, something about vision and atmosphere by using letterforms. I want the structure of this project to say something about how the meaning I take from the world translates into the meaning made from it by others. It’s not random, it’s not specified by me, it’s a transaction between more than just reader and writer, it’s an ongoing and fluid complex and variously-weighted interaction between us all.
I don’t know how these things I want to put in here are connected, but they are, and the way is not arbitrary. In a way it feels like I’m asking you to help find the meaning in my life’s observations. In a
way, I am. What I want to do is what a lot of artists want to do, I want to find a way to make the particulars of my experience function as metaphor for the experiences of others.
Maybe a thousand different random methods of organization–a random of randomness against which the pattern of experience could differentiate itself from the random. I don’t know. And that’s sort of the point.
This is really philosophical as much as programmatical.
How do you make meaning in your life? This is what a content presentation schema should emulate.
I don’t want people to be able to comment directly, like with the current blog paradigm, but, I would like for there to be a way that what’s built can be used by others in a way that is connective but a way that fosters creative connection rather than vapidity. You can comment by participating in a meaningful fashion only. By adding to the overall ball of meaning.
I’m picturing what one artist creates as a sphere that is expanding outward with each added data point. Another artist might wish to take something within that sphere as a departure point or connective tissue
to their own expanding sphere. The interface should allow this kind of appropriation, but, also require that they take more than they bargained for, more than they asked for, more than they wanted. To take any given unit of information, they should have to also take hunks of connective tissues and the units of information most immediately connected. Because information is like that. There are no facts in isolation, there are no meanings in isolation, there is always context, and we don’t control all of the context of the words we use. Thus, a user browsing their own sphere will come in contact with material they themselves may not have seen.
The world can be both non-random and meaningless.
I don’t intend for this to “work” with other existing blogging paradigms. In fact, I’d like for it to specifically NOT work with existing blogging paradigms. I would like for links TO it to be redirected away from it if they’re not OF it, not from others within the “closed” system. But, others should be able to freely and easily set up their own ball of interconnected data points.
Usernames are assigned numbers. Passwords are assigned, unbreakably huge and impossible to remember. I want to avoid the ability to personalize on any level OUTSIDE the actual content.
All for now, more as it develops inside my head.