Monday, April 7, 2008

Cognitive Mis-mapping and Technology (For Last Week's Reading)

This is a response to last week's articles, sorry it's late!

As I try to tie together all of my thoughts from the readings from last week (Gitelman, Ernst, Appadurai, Ramesh, etc.), one question that Ernst raises really stuck with me: "who is responsible for [...the...] documentation [of new media]?" Gitelman argues that the web's attempt to self-document itself with sites like the wayback machine is shaped like a mobius-strip. She also discusses several other "mis-histories" of the internet, but never addresses who should document it (if it is possible.) These ideas are further complicated by the dimension of communities addressed by the ethnography-like articles from the end of the week. Clearly the task of archiving and/or documenting new media is complicated by many variables. I actually believe that while the mobius-strip-like nature of self-referential documentation is strange for us to understand, it is necessary and will prove to be exactly what we need to solve the problem of our misunderstanding of archiving new media.

I think that what is needed are new media technologies which are self-referential and flexible such that a culture which approaches and understands the world differently can use technology in a way that makes sense to that culture rather than being forced to use protocols and technologies imposed on them by the inventors and owners of the media. This goes deeper than what Srinivasan did in creating online communities like Tribal Peace. The communities themselves would shape the technology so that they are not being restricted by someone else's protocols. Protocols and technologies would be able to self-document themselves so that they know how to interact with eachother and know how to write their own history. There exist version control systems which are often used in writing software which could be leveraged to record changes of technology so that every change is always recorded. Obviously this would result in vast amounts of information, but there would be no ambiguity in what existed at any point in time. Thus the writing of history shouldn't be done by any one person or community but the technology should be flexible enough to adapt to all cultures and to write its own memory.

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