Saturday, October 10, 2009

Of Printed and Internet Information

Picture from Wikipedia: François Rabelais (c. 1494 – April 9, 1553) a French satirist

I find the New eWorld of ‘enformation’ exiting, promising and half-full of rubbish, but, then, so is the 'old world', too. Think of the old encyclopaedias, as useful as nun’s – well, be that as it may, but one’d rather dig rubbish in seconds from internet than in hours or days from obsolete printed sources.

And what splendid rubbish there is to excavate from internet (or one could even say ‘unearth’ since the New eWorld information certainly is not any more of earthly appearance): rubbish with almost live and equally rubbish commentary – some of it my own – and some nuggets of gold like whispers, vissible but hidden, to be prospected out with the help of prior knowledge or, lacking that, by pure intuition or plain guesswork.

The information on internet is as democratic as it possibly will ever be, with viewpoints of many rather than just some one old fart, what’s-his-face, that sage, who probably died eons ago (or before I was borne, anyway) and was, to some extent, as ignorant as a schoolkid without internet would be today – if such an oddity would still exist – and was buried with his own, real, now unknown, prejudices, preconceptions and one-sidedness, and wisdom, even sageness, too, admittedly, but that we can easily ignore since we and not he are still well and breathing.

'All the world's wisdom’, fully augmented by the 'Wisdom of Crowds', is just there, under your fingertips, available in seconds or even milliseconds, without ever going to library, to one’s bookshelves or without picking up a newspaper with that peculiar whiff of promise, paper and ink. Insta-knowledge. Available without reading for a long, satisfying time fully expecting to concentrate on something satisfyingly demanding, on a flickering surface without feeling of the dry, gentle touch of the bearable weightiness of being, well, civilisation really. All that has become secondary to requirement due to old media's slow and cumbersome nature that flouts the need for instant gratification but still signals an alluring invitation.

The real and savvy media guys probably think that the notion of 'wisdom of crowds' is true. The truest and most telling form of that wisdom is surely the internet and the more focused form still, and, one could say, the actual living proof, is, of course, the Wikipedia, without which nobody with an internet connection can live any more. The (very old) cliché of 'what did we do before' is epitomised in Wikipedia (through the wisdom of crowds).

Abundance of available information may feel like a problem.

But think of all the factual and fictional books, essays, reports, studies, theses, notes, rules, regulations, laws and directives that you have never read, intended or wanted to read or have never known of not-having read, because they are not, never have been and would never be available to you. With internet – assuming all that is available is put on it – you have a manyfold chance to find it (whatever this ‘it’ were), far better than you ever had with just the printed media or, even more transiently, with radio or TV, where the information, once transmitted, was lost forever, doing speed of light towards other Worlds forever undiscovered and firmly lost somewhere among the stars, where it will benefit no one and will forever be not-seen and not-heard again, ever.

Unless it was recorded on another medium, which probably would be obsolete in a few years' time and then forgotten, or perhaps forgotten even before its obsoleteness.

I read somewhere that 90 % of recorded material is never listened to or watched after recording (this information was from somewhere in Internet, so it may or may not be accurate with an acceptable tolerance or at all). Although, being lost in space may be a more glorious and favourable end for a source of information than being burned, pulped, rotted, eaten or soiled otherwise as happens to printed information, and, to large extent or even mostly, before it was ever used by those whom it reached or was destined to.

So, all in all, I think it is a good thing, this new medium of information, or perhaps a mastodon-size thing, or a sperm whale of things, or a colossus of things. Or even, Heaven help us, a Gargantua of things.

And it may be prudent to remember well the kind of appetite Gargantua had and his creation, too, the Abbey of Thélème, and the Abbey's motto : Fay ce que vouldras (‘Do what thou wilt’). And remember also that there was a Gargantua v. 2.0, his son, Pantagruel. And in the Abbey of Thélème life was grand, like this:
By this liberty they entered into a very laudable emulation to do all of them what they saw did please one. If any of the gallants or ladies should say, Let us drink, they would all drink. If any one of them said, Let us play, they all played. If one said, Let us go a-walking into the fields they went all. If it were to go a-hawking or a-hunting, the ladies mounted upon dainty well-paced nags, seated in a stately palfrey saddle, carried on their lovely fists, miniardly begloved every one of them, either a sparrowhawk or a laneret or a marlin, and the young gallants carried the other kinds of hawks. So nobly were they taught, that there was neither he nor she amongst them but could read, write, sing, play upon several musical instruments, speak five or six several languages, and compose in them all very quaintly, both in verse and prose. Never were seen so valiant knights, so noble and worthy, so dexterous and skilful both on foot and a-horse-back, more brisk and lively, more nimble and quick, or better handling all manner of weapons than were there. Never were seen ladies so proper and handsome, so miniard and dainty, less froward, or more ready with their hand and with their needle in every honest and free action belonging to that sex, than were there.

Ah, does that not sound so familiar, like wisdom of crowds or perhaps even the Internet, isn't it. Grand life v.2.0 already in the 16th century! Or at least that's what was addressed to us all, the Humanity, by that old, long-dead and buried fart, a Frenchman of all things, François Rabelais, possibly a sage, whom almost all of us have already forgotten.

Let's, in the end and for the Glory of New eWorld, borrow a verse from the inscription on the gate to the Abbey of Thélème (or from Wikipedia, whatever):
"Grace, honour, praise, delight,
Here sojourn day and night.
Sound bodies lined
With a good mind,
Do here pursue with might
Grace, honour, praise, delight."

Written in this blog by a true Lover of Books


marja-leena said...

How good to see your words in this form of the New eWorld, Hanhensulka! And in English too, so that I feel a little more comfortable, though I'm ashamed to admit that my first language is not as strong as the second. I'm amused and delighted as always by your wonderful long sentences and gentle humour, in the manner of the 16th century well-to-do. I hope we shall be seeing more of your thoughts at this newly restored blog?

Hanhensulka said...

Thank you Marja-Leena, great to find a Reader after such a long period of futility. I'll try to do better in the future! 'My level best' like they say it in Kenya.