This is the second in a series of many reports. Each entry in the report represents a pattern.
Places for Secrets – Just as certain sorts of knowledge and information lend themselves to a desire by their holders to have their facts be kept hidden from some, certain places also lend themselves towards those that would seek to hide. Low light, obscure vantage points not in the typical lines of sight–these are ways to visibly hide. But a game of epistemological hide and seek is constantly occurring. What places have background noise that would cover a whispered conversation? A crowd that would make a meeting between two subjects seem less than intentional? Light that obscures the work of cameras, that would seek to record a person being in a place as time-stamped, cross-referenceable fact? Weather conditions might play a factor; places that are known to often be socked in by fog or made unpleasant by rain so that a potential spy would have no reason to loiter could be valuable. Any sort of sensory or epistemological interference natural to a place, whether affecting the senses, technological recording devices, or the media of recording itself. What could augment a place so that secrets could be hidden there? Dead drops for paper or other recording media. A single tree in the middle of a field could be a landmark, so that a thing could be hidden a set distance from it. Maybe even a library could be a place for secrets. Amongst a plethora of information, secrets could be hidden as if in plain sight.
by Flickr user Glasseyes View
If/Then – This linguistic and logical construction is known as an antecedent, and a consequent; in other words, from one proposition, logically proceeds another by way of their connection. This is also a form of hypothesis. If a condition forms, we posit that then we may expect a conclusion. It can be a description of causality, but–and this is a large caveat–only if the two things being described are coinciding in time. It is impossible for a causality to occur between two things not coincident in time. Because, time is resolutely causal.
Past/Future – Another pairing, because one denotes the other. Just as causality denotes a temporal coincidence between two things, any sort of temporal singularity, that is to say a moment, automatically implies an extension of similar moments preceding and proceeding from that moment. What is the past’s relationship with the future, outside of metaphysics, and the simple number line of physics’ fourth dimension? Does nostalgia for the past imply hope for the future? Which is more optimistic, and which is more pessimistic? Does positing a time-shift between a “now” and “then” make us less, or more beholden to any standard of truth? And is causality, like history, only written by the victors in the past tense, and like prayer, only proposed for the future by the victims? If we acknowledge trouble in our apprehension of the past and future, what does this mean for our perception of the present? Is there a present?
Live feed – The live feed is closely linked to technology. Telegrams gave way to telegraphs, which gave way to radio. The 24-hour cable news cycle is no different than radio, where the truth occurs as fast as information can be pushed to the announcer on camera/microphone. But the time of absorption has changed. There isn’t additional information to fill up that extra space, there is just a willingness to “clue in” those who are “only just tuning in”. The message repeats, not for mimetic purposes, but to constantly be current. Contrapose this to the live blog, that assembles like a timeline, so that anyone may log in and check the current development, and then re-create this currentness by rewinding as necessary. The consistency of these always-on feeds means that they don’t have to be always on. One can click on and off as they like, filter even. They can binge and purge their information’s currentness. But what is the point? What is the benefit of current? Current information is not always better. But the ability to have it there, is an ability. An epistemological ability to access time with a wide eye. Like a back-up for one’s data–the data that is epistemological awareness. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Apple coyly named their automatic data back-up system the “Time Machine”. Time travel through data is possible, but only to the referential data points of awareness that are of interest. And interest, is currently, taken with currentness. Call it time travel without moving.
Half-tone screen – When printing with a single color of ink, it is possible to create different tones by printing a pattern of dots of varying sizes, rather than a flat expanse of ink. This dot pattern, which blurs to the human eye at a normal distance, is called the screen. Dots of black on white paper make a gray. When two different dot patterns of two different ink are combined, the colors are perceptually blended, e.g. red dots and yellow dots appear to give a space the color of orange. This is called a half-tone screen. Most commercial printing combines four colors, cyan, yellow, magenta, and black, and from these can be created nearly any color of image, including photographic prints that are nearly impossible to distinguish from reality at the typical viewing distance. What is referred to by a customer as “full-color” printing, is most often known to the printing technician as “four-color” printing. One last detail to complete the possible metaphor: when ink is printed in a screen pattern, the ink will bleed into the paper a bit, increasing the size of the dot in a condition known as dot-gain, that is pre-calculated by the printer to make sure the dots end up being the correct size for the material being printed upon, so that the colors don’t end up shifting in tone. Now, this could be a metaphor–a pattern for thinking about the combination of ideas, data points, and reference values. For something involving the mix of two alternating concepts. But then, remember that everything that is printed, anything that you will read or look at and recognize a pattern or a symbol or a word, takes advantage of this same trick upon human visual perception. In every idea there is a bit of difference, and in any text there is the difference between white paper, and black text.
image by Trevor / cdsgraphic
National Epic Media – We propose that Fox News is as close to a national epic poem as we can get in this current era of fragmented culture and alternate viewpoints. According to Bakhtin, the past is the epic’s subject, the national tradition is the epic’s source, and what is epic is the distance between the world of that epic and that of reality. The epic, constrained by those things, cannot be changed by current conditions, and what is current can only be interpreted by the epic, and not the other way around. The position of the epic “is the environment of a man speaking about a past that is to him inaccessible, the reverent point of view of a descendant.” Even the law of the land is reinterpreted on a daily basis–but the national epic is viewed as immutable, and wielded as roughly as if it were so. But how does this happen? Does any nation with a significantly strong sense of self purposefully develop an epic media as some sort of literary ur-ground? Or does that past and national tradition solidify only with enough time gone by, enough tradition built up that the patterned strata of it can be referred to obliquely, and yet be nevertheless as foundational as it is inaccessibly vague? What are the motivations for a constant reference to such an epic media? Clearly, money is a primary. But epics developed before there was such money to be made, and if the form is similar, then oughtn’t the cause be as well?
Modernism – An epoch of art, of architecture, of literature, and less definitional but with no less certain utility, history. What is it about this genre or time period that deserves an “ism” suffix, as if it were less a style, and a belief? It isn’t the only genre to win such notation, and yet, it is a noun, and not an adjective. Such philosophies and ethos often have manifestos, but Modernism is applied only from historical perspective, even if we claim to be part of its age.
Image copyright by GaryReggae, under CC license
Modern – This is the adjectival version, describing the former period. But it is also a temporal adjective, meaning a certain sort of currentness. Is everything that is current also modern? Is everything that is modern also current? Post-modernism, an epoch with an even more oblique set of reference points than Modernism, somehow debilitates the adjectival effect of “modern”. After all, how modern can it be, if something is known to come after it? If the subject of modernity is in the past, then what does “current” mean?
Punk/Not-Punk – The inflection point in a spectrum between what is attractively, authentically agonistic, and what is not. Punk is a genre of many things, but it most often described by rebellion, against a certain “mainstream”, as it were. There may be money in Punk, there may not be. There is ego in it. It often finds its subject in the past. What is Punk against? Ronald Reagan? Disco? Alternative Rock? Victorian History? How defined must something be in its agonism for it to become a full-fledged expression of Punk? How watered down and mainstreamed must Punk be to become Not-Punk? The violation of cultural norms in the search for the authentic. The institution of norms for the violation of cultural norms. A noun, and an adjective.
Sub-Culture & Alt-Culture – If culture was a narrative, this would be the subversion and the alternative-generation presented to that narrative as counter-narrative. The antithesis, rather than the synthesis. It can be defined in a certain hegemonic separation. A neighborhood full of hip individuals, marked in their individuality by all dressing in a recognizably similar way. A trend is only a pattern, until it becomes a noun, rather than just an adjective. A subject, manifesting creativity, by manifesting imitation. Not for mimetic purposes. An authentic sub-culture cannot be altered by the present. It is locked in the past. It can only be corrupted, and de-authenticized. Like the waxing and waning of the moon, sub-cultures pass from authentic in full, to inauthentically dark.
Posted: May 3rd, 2011
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This is the first of several reports. You are on the list of recipients for reasons which the subject matter will surely make clear. However, this is not a closed list. Please feel free to forward to others, including whomever you think relevant; because most certainly, there will be many other names who are relevant I did not come up with when hastening to file this.
This is a first of several reports about several of the patterns, which we are grouping under the vague heading of Structuromancy. This term has the potential to confuse and possibly mislead, so this report will proceed as if it is nothing more than a pattern.
Here are the patterns of the first report.
Pattern – Also itself a pattern. That there are perceivable levels of order in the worldly phenomena is a given. We might simplify these orders in order to better understand them. These order are what we’re calling patterns. But the danger of this then lies apparent: if we seek to simplify, there is a chance we might exceed the need for doing so in our exuberance. Perhaps through the act of perceiving any sort of order at all, we have already over-simplified the activity. To see patterns where they do not exist is called apophenia, and is a real risk of the project. On the other hand, it would be no less foolish to assume a complete absence of patterns, in that certain rhythms of the natural world are quite reliable and generally permanent. And so we are stuck in a double-bind: how to sync the patterns that exist with the patterns that we chose to mentally perceive, in a harmony as accurate as possible? And then, there is another problematic potential: perhaps this harmony is impossible. This is the first pattern.
Stories – With a few patterns described in conjunction to each other, they begin to form a narrative. Connections between the patterns are made, holes filled in, and a story develops. But different people will arrange the patterns differently, and come up with completely different stories. What use is this narrativization, other than for each to justify their own favorite stories? Perhaps this is the pattern–stories, as a general narrativizing pattern, being nothing more than the total content and effect of the stories we each choose to tell. Rather than talking about them, we should be telling the next story, perhaps. And yet, that may be the safe option, avoiding the big picture of what exactly we think we are doing when we tell these stories. Fiction, in this way, might only be a crutch. But for what purpose? Whatever? Is it really so simple?
by Diane Arbus, via nosmojamos.blogspot.com
Doppelganger – Identity crisis. But not just those stories, either. This is an actual psychological condition, if that helps those of you who prefer your stories told through the guise of science. Mary Shelley and John Donne saw doppelgangers of their respective spouses, but so have people under the care of doctors. It’s called Capgras’ delusion: the belief that a close acquaintance is actually an identical impostor, the location of the real person unknown. It can be a symptom of schizophrenia, brain injury, or dementia. Many other problematic identity-related symptoms are also related to schizophrenia and brain injuries affecting specific regions of the brain. They call them “monothematic syndromes”. Almost as if it was a experimental essay by the brain, or a piece of music. Identity is a tenuous theme. What might the real surprise is how well most of us do at maintaining a consistent narrative.
The Authentic – It’s what many people are looking for; but if it is so important, why is it so difficult to find? From Plato, to Heidegger, and beyond. But beyond what? If the search for the authentic is so crucial to existentialism and our perception, then where could the inauthentic come from? Is there a true form of the inauthentic, or is it all just Othering and out-groups, the ongoing fiction of Truth? This pattern is staggeringly irritating. It takes up time, it distracts from other patterns. It mutates and malforms our appreciation for other patterns, and this report is tempted to reject it entirely. And yet, it exists as such, and so we cannot ignore it.
Broadcasting – At least recently, information encoded into electromagnetic waves, transmitted through the air. The gift of knowledge, in a less than material state, through techniques of physics. Antenna science. The equations of wavelength and frequency. Combined with the serious amounts of money that were to be made in the media arts. The historical need for media of record. The figureheads, the masses. The potential of the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, transmuted for the age of regulated spectrum assignment and widespread adoption of receiver appliances. Channels. But with the rise of conduits, the cables, and the possibility of interactivity, this pattern is compromised. Or at least certain aspects of this pattern are problematized. Which ones? That would most likely be another pattern. Many of them.
Demolition – Not preserving, but completely wiping away. Condemning, and bringing in the heavy machinery to carry out the sentence. Different than deconstruction, in which the materials are saved and recycled in an orderly fashion. But there is always a careful plan for how the demolition will be conducted. These things are true if it is indeed a building to which the pattern refers. The tallest building ever demolished was the Singer Building in New York City, at forty-seven stories. There are many buildings taller than that still standing. For now.
via Flickr user torley
Decay – The wearing away of a existing pattern can be its own pattern. Erosion, for example. Building decay, urban decay, organic decay, orbital decay, radioactive decay, tooth decay, electronic decay, information decay. Psychology uses the word to theorize activities of memory, as well. These are unplanned. Perhaps. Depending to what extent one is willing to extend the pattern of “planned”.
Places that Tell Stories – “Setting”, is what the time and place of a story are called. But there are also times and places that tell stories. Public squares, monuments, museums. On this spot, at this time in history, something occurred that relates to the story we’ll tell about it. History, as relates to places on the ground, and structures on the ground. There are fictional places that tell stories–rather, places that tell fictional stories. New York City, Paris, St. Petersburg: one might call these and other places literary. But those aren’t real stories in the same way that history is real. If history is real. If history is remembered, so that it can be told. Does it matter if history is true or not? Maybe it only matters if the story isn’t told, because the place that would have reminded us to tell that story is built over, buried, demolished, decayed. This pattern has to do with “sites”. Patterns that are strewn over the earth in our minds appreciation of the earth and its patterns. Strata, going down into the earth, symbolizing the passage of time and the accumulation of memory.
Places to Tell Stories about Other Places or Things – Or the story that is told in a certain place might relate to something completely unrelated to the place. It could simply be a place that is conducive to story telling, in the general sense. Like a bar, or a theater, or any place with a place to sit or stand, and isn’t too loud for people to be able to talk or to read. If the story is told to other people, and isn’t only told to the self. It could be stimulated by conversation, by memory of the story triggered by stimuli in the place. Or just something in the air. What is “place”, anyway? In what sense must there be an identifiable place, in order to say that it is a place in which to tell a story? Where else would stories be told, if not in places? Is this an important question? The pattern isn’t clear. Sometimes a story only makes sense if it is juxtaposed to the story that came just before it.
by Daniele Tamagni http://www.trolleybooks.com/bookSingle.php?bookId=118
The Street – The street is the place in between places where people walk. They also drive there, I suppose. But that’s hardly it. The street is one of the most important patterns, such that it is. The street is where “things happen”. Naturally, things happen elsewhere. But the street is where there is a sense of the real, the unplanned, the authentic. No hype in the street. The street is where things find their uses, and where they happen to each other. For what this is worth. There are many different kinds of streets, different designs, patterns of intersection, widths of sidewalk, weather conditions, zoning structures, and commonly accepted uses for the street. There is much to concern ourselves with, regarding the street. But that will make itself present in further reports.
The Book – I’m writing it. This report is the beginning of the process. Or, one of the beginnings. There are so many patterns, and there must be a pattern for knowing which to include, and which to ignore. Should I still to philosophical patterns? Technological? Architectural? It’s important to acknowledge: this project is very much inspired by A Pattern Language. Also by The Arcades Project. Also by Moby Dick. Also by Oblique Strategies. Also by A Thousand Plateaus. Also by the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. Also by every Oxford Annotated edition that I’ve ever read. Also by Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia. Also by several websites, well-read and under-read, who will all eventually receive their due. The reports won’t be the same as the book, and they might not cohere with each other. These are only what we can say of the patterns currently. Now. But there will be a book in the future.
Structuromancy – It’s important to have a title. The title itself is less important. The suffix “mancy” refers to divination, or the discovering of secrets by supernatural means. There are various methods of doing so, and the suffix is applied to many materials. Here we apply it to the structures of the world: the world and its patterns. There is really nothing super-natural about it–but we ought to make a distinction between the world and our conception of it. Even though we, ourselves, and all of our thoughts are part of the natural world, there is still some attempt through our thought processes to sanction and manipulate a higher order to this nature. “Super-structure” is also a word, with a prefix. The pattern suggests some connection, but it also suggests that it may be no more than a coincidence.
And furthermore, it would behoove us to suggest the likely possibility of our methods and results being entirely and utterly debunked.
Posted: April 10th, 2011
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