MetaMimetics - HyperMnemonics
From With Towards

There is in the book On the Origin of Objects by Brian Cantwell Smith a passage that fascinates me.

World-directedness takes many forms. [...] subjects (their experiences, representations, documents, intentions, thoughts, etc.) point or are directed towards the transcendent-but-immanent world that surrounds them. A symmetrically realist account per se supplies two of the requiste ingredients in this pointing: (i) the fact that subjects are in an enveloping world, which gives them a place to point from; and (ii) the fact that they are made of that same enveloping world, which gives them the wherewithal to point with. What a theory of intentionality needs to add is the far-from-obvious third ingredient: (iii) a way for subjects to orient towards that enveloping world, the world of which they are constituted and in which they live.

What fascinates me is the way in which "from" is paired with "in" and "with" is paired with "made" and that "towards" remains unpaired.

The trio of prepositions reminds me of the experience of modeling content or a way of writing in/with structured forms such as those offered by the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines. Marking from.... marking with... marking towards. In a very fundamental fashion, writing is about how to segment and how to align. Pick a point. From that point there stem a before and an after. Pick another point and observe that part of one point's after is part of another point's before and observe a between that emerges with its own before and its own after.

Place a mark in a given space and with the given mark, place another mark [erasing is a type of marking] or stop.

Now I see "towards" in Smith's phrase "orient towards" could be read sous rature. Peeking out of those italics is the phrase "a way for subjects to orient [...] that enveloping world" which gives a hint of agency to acts of world-directed intentionality. And so I read again carefully and note a progression from the indefinite "an enveloping" towards a singularly demonstrative "that" through an attestation of "the same enveloping". This rereading helps me better understand the medial position of the "with" between the "in" and the "towards". It helps me comprehend that the connectedness of the made in and of the world might pass through an orientation for the world. Indeed the apperception of being in and of the world might depend upon the declaration of the thatness of the world. (Note, I am not arguing that the world depends upon either the apperception or the declaration.)

What fascinates me is the involutive relation to the actual. It is a relation that is not tautological. I am here because here I am. Contrast this with absolute circular assurance of the I-am-that-I-am.

Smith does not extensively treat the ontological status of the hypothetical, the counterfactual, the fictional. Yet the trio of ingredients in the theory of intentionality he sketches can offer a topological insight into the relations between the actual and possible worlds. And allows us to nuance his assertion that

You can hardly cook for dinner something that is fictional [...]

with the indication that with every cook hovers a hallucinatory body.

You cannot eat a story but a story can within limits alleviate the pangs of hunger. You cannot drink a sonorous sequence but within limits a sonorous sequence can quench thirst. You cannot but imagine and that is different from and not the same as the list of things you can do with fictional things that is offered by Smith: "refer to it, wonder about it, or entertain it in a hypothetical". To be fair, one can hardly imagine without reference, wonder or entertainment.

In, with, towards the virtual...
In, with, towards the textual...
In, with, towards the interactive...

A story can eat you.


After participating in an exchange through the Text Encoding Initiative discussion list, I have decided that

<label ana="category">user</label>

is now to be encoded using

<index ana="category" level1="user"/>

. Although the Document Type Definition (DTD) allows for the use of the element <label> outside of a list setting, the Guidelines and the examples offered in the guidelines restrict its use.

It is a situation that reminds me that in some legal traditions both code and customn contribute to the construction of law. The letter of the law. A history of its interpretation.

In other contexts I have resisted reading examples set forth by a given text as prescriptive [See my interchange with Nick Monfort in the comments to a blog entry by Matt Kirschenbaum on Douglas R. Hofstadter's MU/MI game from Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid]. Examples can be read as displaying what could be and not necessarily what should be. As one reads from the rule to the example, one is sensitive to the fidelity of the example, how it fits the rule. When one reads from the example to the rule, one is inclined, perhaps, to reach an understanding of the example as restricting the application of the rule. The clever sort of folk are likely to be opportunistic in their reading and shuttle between modes of approach to rule-example or example-rule pairings.

Clever or not. What intrigues me is that the subject positions involved in the reading of such pairings (hypertext in nuce) figure a governance structure that recall executive, legislative and the adjudicative functions. To act, to judge and to guide judgment and action. To deprecate.

Accessions to Calendarise

Blog entries are often time stamped and dated. It is assumed by many readers that the displayed time stamp corresponds to event of composition. However the resourceful author could be publishing from a store of pre-written texts. As well, time stamps can be fudged for a variety of purposes.

In modeling a blog with XML markup conforming to the Text Encoding Inititative Guidelines, I have opted for accession numbers (e.g. <num type="accession">111<num>). Accession numbers are used by museums and libraries for additions to the collections. I like the idea that a blog is a window on a collection. Accession numbers can indicate to a user that any given exhibit represents only a portion of the collection. Accession numbers can be used to calculate the distance between entries.

Of course, one can develop a content model that encodes a date and time format with every entry. Thus, permitting the user to retrieve all the entries bearing a 03:00 hours time stamp and comparing them with those that bear a 15:00 hours time stamp. Or gather and compare all the Monday entries. But there is not really a way of indicating in a such a succession of dates and times a suppressed entry (an entry written but not accessible to the user from the current display -- an entry that may make its way into the public record later [or never]).

There is a term in accounting that means to divide some fiscal activity into equal units of time, usually months, within a year. The term is "to calendarize." One can calendarize payments. Some blog authors calendarize their writing either by not publishing more than one entry a day or not skipping a day in a chain of publication. Some blog authors reserve specific days of the week for certain types of writing ( a bit of Friday verse, a Wednesday film review, a Saturday recipe). Some blog authors contract among themselves to write/draw upon a given topic on a given day.

If accounting is to telling, could collecting be to accessing? In a sense blogging is a redistributive activity. By playing with the partitions, the user, be they writer, reader or viewer, affect the nature of redistributive activity.

Consider time capsule blogging. Archival: combing the records (and those search engine caches) to read/view that Author X was blogging about Topic Z before blogging about Topic W. Future-oriented: sealing an entry with encryption and tying release to a calendar date or to some other conditions. Imagine that a requiste number of accessions attained in a friend's blog triggers the release of encomia and a treasure map (both encoded in TEI of course). Gives new expression to the phrase "blogging on borrowed time."

Counting to Five

Counting to five. Counting five. Nuance.

If I recall correctly as a child I learnt how to count on the fingers of one hand close to the same time that I learnt how to trace the outline of a hand. Two different ways of counting. A discontinuous numbering associated with the tips of the fingers and the thumb. A route through the peaks and valleys giving the numbering a durative character. When is one one? When two has begun?

Years later I find myself enjoying the sweep of second hands and the cycle of hours portrayed in round clock face. Years later I find myself playing with the pulse of the time separator and the chimes to punctuate my time at a keyboard, my sessions in front of a screen. Sometimes I find myself controlling a cursor with a rhythmic movement of the mouse: feeding a beat back to myself as I deliberate. Other times I feed on the click of the keys. Or, for a pause, foreground for myself the staple sound of the fan motor.

And now I return to the hand. I compare ways of counting up to five. Begin with thumb and wind through the fingers. Begin with index finger and save the thumb for last. What is counting down from five like. It feels different. Counting down in American Sign Language (ASL) is a stretch treat for a tendon that runs along the ridge the middle finger: five digits spread out, thumb in and four fingers out, thumb back out and two fingers out, thumb in and the index and middle finger out, the index alone. That wonderful distinction between the three fingers representing the letter form "W" and the thumb with two fingers representing the number or the numeral "3".

There are many lessons here for how memory works. I've lost count.

Formalist Feedback

Kari Kraus's blog entry under a rubric which highlights the term pixel driving launched me on a meditation that gave me the notion of exploring the mimetic and mnemonic through hyperspace and metadiscourse. Kari's blog is called accidentals and substantives. A search string with Kari's name plus the term "pixel driving" will turn up a path to the November 2003 entry in question.

In the spirit of paying attention to detail, Kari's pixel and accidental musings inspired me to develop a content model that allows play with a single character. A hyphen taken as a minus sign leads one to contemplate the possibility of a plus.

For the technically-inclined: here is the XML conforming to the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines:

<c id="dash" exclude="plus">-</c>
<c exclude="dash" id="plus">+</c>

The XSLT files that handles the output to HTML use a modular approach. A top-level xsl:include element is used to select the template generating the output of one or the other character in a given version. Both templates could be called in a given XSLT file to generate, for example, a header and footer which differ only by a dash or a plus, or a header with both versions one above the other (a plus followed by a dash or a dash followed by a plus) or a square formed by some combo (+, -) and (-,+). A giddy multiplication of a Cartesian take on a Johari Window.

Suffice it for now to mention that the exclude attribute in TEI takes a value that is of type IDREF. A value of type IDREF references a value of type ID. Values of attributes of type ID are unique in a given document instance.

Now I find myself asking how it is that humans create unique identifiers on the fly to help with memory work. The third house on the block before the fire last May... I find myself asking what sequencing might have to do before, after and across in reading and authoring blogs. The URL to Kari's blog is

:: ADDENDUM :: To read Kari's pixel-driving entry, access a copy using the following URL

Beginning with Beta

test entry para

There is an unfolding about.

Scholar-at-large tackles TEI and blogging