“Deleuze’s target in Difference and Repetition is the subordination of difference to identity. Normally, difference is conceived of as an empirical relation between two terms each of which have a prior identity of their own (â€śx is different from yâ€?). In Deleuze, this primacy is inverted: identity persists, but it is now a secondary principle produced by a prior relation between differentials (dx rather than not-x). Difference is no longer an empirical relation but becomes a transcendental principle that constitutes the sufficient reason of empirical diversity as such (for example, it is the electric potential difference in a cloud that constitutes the sufficient reason of the phenomenon of lightning). In Deleuze’s ontology, the different is related to the different through difference itself, without any mediation by an identity.”
“Every concept originates through our equating what is unequal. No leaf ever wholly equals another, and the concept “leaf” is formed through an arbitrary abstraction from these individual differences, through forgetting the distinctions; and now it gives rise to the idea that in nature there might be something besides the leaves which would be “leaf”â€”some kind of original form after which all leaves have been woven, marked, copied, colored, curled, and painted, but by unskilled hands, so that no copy turned out to be a correct, reliable, and faithful image of the original form.”
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Every sign by itself seems dead. What gives it life?â€”In use it is alive. Is life breathed into it there?â€”Or is the use its life?
Reverse is the movement of Tao.
Yielding is the action of Tao.
Ten thousand things in the universe are created from being.
Being is created from non-being.
On a television program last night, one of the characters was looking at a painting by Constable. He was concentrating particularly on the cloudsâ€” as he wanted to learn to paint clouds in the manner of Constable. He turned to the police detective, who was there to question him, and said: “that’s what those clouds looked like on that day.”
This clumsy living that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done,
reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks.
And to die, which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on
and cling to every day,
is like the swan,
when he nervously lets himself down into the water,
which receives him gaily
and which flows joyfully under
and after him, wave after wave,
while the swan,
unmoving and marvelously calm,
is pleased to be carried,
each moment more fully grown,
more like a king, further and further on.
Imagining the future in literature in some way creates a space for technology to advance. It’s not so much the mechanics of the technology, but a vision of what we desire the technology to accomplish. The production of desire precedes the will to create a technology. Pushing technology to the edges of its capability reveals the gap between what is possible and what is desired. From portable teleputers to rocket ships, we imagine our future states of desire. Bridging that gap is the business of new technology.
Books like ‘1984‘ and films like ‘2001‘ have been exceeded by the calendar, but the quality of their vision remains relevant. An interesting kind of disturbance happens when one of these literary visions begins to synchronize and emerge through contemporary society. The recent resurrection of Philip K. Dick is related to the ways in which his dystopian visions of the future are beginning to manifest in our daily life. The commercial, legal and political decisions that confront us as the Network becomes more developed stare at us from the pages of Dick’s novels. These decisions are akin to the moral issues created by the reorganization of society caused by the industrial revolution.
This train of thought was engendered by a recent reading of Dick’s novel ‘Ubik.’ In this novel, Dick lays out a world where ‘Pre-Cogs‘ can predict what will happen next. And to some extent, that knowledge creates the possibility of influencing what will happen next. We do this today with propensity modeling and choice architecture.
Our “search” engines tell us that if only they knew a little more about us, had access to a personal profile (identity), in addition to the complete record of our search history, they could use that context to provide more “relevant” results. In Dick’s world of “Ubik,” this process of propensity modeling is enhanced by the use of people with telepathic powers; a kind of joining of search technology and pre-cogs through a mechanical turk service.
Ubik also extends the concept of micropayments to its extreme. Every aspect of living has been “monetized” through the micropayments infrastructure. Opening the front door to your apartment requires the payment of five cents. Using the sink in the bathroom will cost you fifty cents. And the door and the sink know all about your payment history and if your credit is any good.
Things taken to their extreme create the desire for a balancing force, and in Ubik, this takes the form of the “prudence organization:”
“Ads over TV and in the homeopapes by the various anti-psi prudence establishments had shrilly squawked their harangues of late. Defend your privacy, the ads yammered on the hour, from all media. Is a stranger tuning in on you? Are you really alone? Are your actions being predicted by someone you never met? Terminate anxiety; contacting your nearest prudence organization will tell you if in fact you are the victim of unauthorized intrusions, and then, on your instructions, nullify these intrusionsâ€” at a moderate cost to you.”
- from Ubik, by Philip K. Dick
The inferential extension of a person’s trajectory and velocity allows for the sale of road signs on the path not yet traveled. (Except in Vermont where billboards aren’t allowed.) This power is currently held by a small number of corporate citizens of the Network. But as all new technology tends to travel the path from the leading edge to commodity, it will be dispersed to players of all shapes and sizes. One can easily imagine the regulations that will result from its abuse.
The business of removing the target from our backs started in a simple way with the national do not call list. However, the refinement of the targeting of an individual person’s desires based on harvesting real-time attention and gesture data on the Network continues at a ferocious pace. The anti-targeting forces are few and far between. The Attention Trust and the Gesture Bank imagined that we could take ownership of, and eventually barter, using that data. These ideas, and to some extent, the idea of vendor relationship management, attempt to turn the equation around. The individual captures their own value, or their micro-community’s value, and ultimately has the responsibility for determining what will happen with it. The option of complete invisibility or anonymity on the Network seems only to be practiced by black hat hackers.
The razor and the blade have taken on largely metaphorical meanings in the era of “Free.” Products and services are bundles of threads, some free, some advertising supported and others with a variable or fixed price. The razor itself is free or low cost, and the consumer pays for disposable blades which subsidizes the cost of the handle. Cellular phones use this pricing model. Chris Anderson posits that this model will become dominant, with a digital component naturally tending toward a price of zero.
If we take a moment, and lookâ€”not at the metaphor, but at actual razors and blades, we’ll learn a great deal about how the “Free” business model will develop. The Holy Grail of the shaving world is the “close shave.” And, of course, the close shave imbues the shaver with extraordinary attractiveness and social power. It becomes the almost unattainable object of desire. The companies that make shaving equipment have brought together the world’s best scientists and storytellers to create a compelling narrative. The road to a closer shave can only be achieved through multiple blades and high-level engineering. The five-blade razor has emerged as the pinnacle of shaving science.
The simple razor and blade have been transformed into a technology experience beyond the understanding of the average Joe looking to rid himself of five o’clock shadow. Along side the production of the physical product is the production of desire. The act of shaving requires ever greater efforts, continual progressâ€” we’ll pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of the close shave.
The world of shavers has been tightly wrapped in the dream narrative of the progress of shaving and its technology. It turns out the “Free” part of the product is not the critical factor, it’s the production of desire. The essential ingredient is the creation of a strong narrative beyond which the consumer cannot see or imagine.
Every extreme engenders a backlash, and the five-bladed razor may have tipped the scales. Step outside the dream of the technology of the “close shave” for a moment and consider a double-edged single razor blade that performs better than the latest five-bladed technology. Could “one” be superior to “five?”
Of course, we need our dreams, our goals, our destinationsâ€” the humble razor and blade provide an excellent example not just of the economics of a business model, but of how the production of desire influences the engineering of the product. “Free” is the taste, the invitation to the dream.
After the Goldrush: The Album, CMX, Cocktail and Networked Music
I first became aware of Nancy Sinatra when her song “These Boots Were Made For Walkin’” climbed up the charts in the 60s. The song was written by Lee Hazelwood, and I had the sense that it was a kind of novelty rather than being representative of a body of work. The song was released in February of 1966, and featured a back-up band known as the “wrecking crew“â€” they were made up of first call session players in Los Angeles.
Ms. Sinatra caught my attention again recently with her editorial in the New York Times regarding the inequity of payments for songs played on the radio. Composers and publishers receive payment each time a song is played, but performers get nothing. The presumption is that the performing artists receive promotion when their songs are played and that serves as their compensation. Ms. Sinatra notes that the practice of mentioning the title and artist of a song just played is no longer common practice. And she reveals that ten years ago Clear Channel was asking $24k per title, to mention a song’s meta-data. A radio mention is meant to serve as a kind of link to a commerce service point.
Just as the telecom industry is coming to terms with the fact that voice is indistinguishable from any other kind of bits traveling through the series of tubes, the radio/music business is learning that there’s no such thing as a ‘sound only’ Network. Recorded music needs an extensible interface, sound is only one of the channels. Video, text, images and commerce are some of the channels that need to be included in the digital bundle. When you ‘right-click’ on a tune, what options will you see? If you look closely, you can see the distinction between the player and the thing played is beginning to disappear.
The music industry has responded to this opening with the CMX file format. As currently defined the format will allow playback and viewing of multiple media types, transactional capabilities have not been mentioned. Apple has rejected CMX in favor of its own format called Cocktail. Early rumors are that the Cocktail format will be playable on a new generation iTunes player, although it may also work as standalone software with an incorporated runtime.
Rolling up the various media files associated with a music release into a single new format will create a new container that can be sold to the music buying masses. If all goes according the plans of the record labels, the public will be thrilled to restock their music libraries with new containers of the same music. After all, the public has done it a number of times before. Presumably, the new format will also feature stronger DRM as an attempt to re-establish the old sales model. The most intriguing part of Apple’s Cocktail format is the rumored integration of a social media layer into iTunes.
Some think the record business was destroyed by the MP3 file format. Because an MP3 is simple to digitally copy, the theory is that sales suffered as the listening audience simply distributed free copies of music over the Network. While there’s a grain of truth to this, ventures like the iTunes music store could not have been successful if it were the dominant behavior pattern. The real threat to the music industry was the return of the single and the rise of the playlist.
The record album became the standard unit of sale for music some time after the Beatles managed to fill their offerings with hits from the first track to the last. Once the public stopped buying singles and started buying albums, the goldrush was on for the record companies. The album also served as a kind of filter, bands that couldn’t sustain a level of quality over an entire record didn’t last long. The album became a canvas, a programmed static playlist of music that eventually lead, for better or worse, to the concept album.
The high cost of recording music combined with the album format resulted in a batch production mode for musicâ€”also known as the recording session. Batch mode production is closely related to the kind of production done in factories. A special environment is created, set away from ordinary life. Real life is what you return to when you’ve finished your shift working in the factory. With the cost of recorded music production plummeting, the batch mode becomes less and less necessary. Real-time production occurs in-line with real life, the process might look more like the basement of Big Pink instead of the specialized and fully-equipped recording studio.
A bundle of static files wrapped up in a new format is an attempt to get some additional mileage out of the album format. There’s a sense in which this is a duplication of the shrink-wrapped software model. The music industry should look to the recent strategic shifts made by the king of shrink-wrapped software: Microsoft. Microsoft has shifted to a software + services model that includes the full interoperability and the integration of public social media streams. Some of their product will be free, some ad supported and others will be fully paid. And just as the batch mode of software production has been deprecated in favor of real-time, in-line code updates over the Network, music (and all digital media) will eventually move toward this new model.
The battle that Nancy Sinatra is waging on behalf of the performer will not be won in the landscape of radio. That playing field is receding, becoming a small piece of the puzzle, rather than whole ballgame. The new canvas for the digital performer and recording artist is starting to emerge and the examples provided by Microsoft, Google and Apple will lead the way.
Algorithmic Trading and the Streaming Data Complex: A Little Bird Told Me
While the shouting over whether Twitter has any value is largely overâ€” there’s still some question as to what that value is. The search for a single qualitative value to which Twitter can be reduced is, of course, futile. It would be like trying to identify the single value of ink/paper, email, telephones or http.
When looking for meaning and value, there are a number of routes we might take. The denizens of Forrester, Gartner and Red Monk might take one direction; the host of burlesque performers and vaudevillians hanging out shingles as ‘social media’ experts may take another. Generally the process involves modeling what a business might do with ‘social meda’ (Twitter). The Profit/Loss in these models generally operates in the realm of public relations, marketing, good will and social capital. There is some argument for Twitter as a customer service channel, but while it’s optimal as a hailing frequency, it’s inadequate as a customer solution medium. This soft approach has some chance of success during a bull market, and a better than even chance during a financial bubble. While some, like Umair Haque, argue that these soft social revenue streams ultimately must provide a context for hard revenue streams, at the moment the stock market doesn’t agree. Positive sentiment on Twitter doesn’t translate into more demand for an equity. Adoption is currently limited to businesses that either can afford the luxury, or have replaced existing marketing and public relations modes with the Twitter channel.
On the hard revenue stream side of the ledger, we might look at how algorithmic stock traders are beginning to use Twitter. In trading, the asymmetry of the dispersion of news is a trading opportunity. We’ve seen how flash traders can create algorithms that determine the market’s direction from real-time data before the rest of the trading fraternity can even open their eyes.
Wall Street & Technology Magazine’s Melanie Rodier is reporting that algos at hedge funds are starting to consume data flow from Twitter to gauge the direction of sentiment toward an event or stock. The compact size and real-time nature of the tweet makes its ingestion and analysis particularly attractive. StreamBase Systems, a vendor of a complex event processing (CEP) platform, has announced a Twitter adapter that allows its applications to both consume and publish tweets. The designated (tracked) twitter streams are spliced with market data, financial ratios, newswire information and other data streams to build a more fully dimensional picture of a particular stock (company). Waiting for news to be collected, digested and emitted by Reuters can add too much latency to the news/information release pattern.
Just as reading the early reports from a newswire requires an understanding of context, history and the politics of news construction and distribution; reading a tracked Twitter stream as a part of a data complex requires a particular interpretive skill set. If the old adage ‘buy on the rumor, sell on the news’ has some truth to it, Twitter has just added a deep data layer to the ‘buy’ side of that equation.
It’s a behavior pattern that has emerged in a number of realms and many are taking note. Michael Kimmelman, of the NY Times, noticed it while he sat and sketched in the Louvre. The visitors to the museum weren’t actually engaging with the art work. They either walked blindly through the galleries or were primarily focused on their personal digital machinery. Rather than directly experience the work in front of them, they seemed to be under the impression that paintings and sculptures can be collected in a digital camera for viewing at a later, more convenient time.
There was a time when people making the grand tour of Europe’s cultural treasures would prepare themselves by learning to make pencil sketches. Their sketching and painting were not primitive modes of recording imagesâ€” they were, and are, modes of seeing and understanding (in the sense of making connections). We are not allowed to touch paintings in a museum; we can’t take our fingers and trace the shapes to feel their relationship to the entire composition. We can, however, accomplish this touching through seeing with a pencil and a sketch pad.
As we wander the world and only act as digital sample (sound/vision) collectors, we are not present in real time. We act today for the future time when we can look back on the present. As McLuhan said, we live our lives in the “rear view mirror.” We mechanically collect the digital artifacts of what might have been our own experience. We exclude ourselves from the real-time moment in favor of standing apart and playing the role of the recording machine operator at the service of the great digital archive (the Simulation).
The tragedy is that many miss the real experience because they’re busy collecting, and then they never even go back to reflect on what was collected. They don’t even bother to look in ‘the rear view mirror.’ They miss the sound and its echo, the image and its afterimage. They’re caught in the shadow between the motion and the act, losing all contact with our life in real time as mortals on this earth.
It started during a conversation over dinner. Gaspare’s has a classic jukebox, and looking at it, it suddenly struck me that word “juke” was simultaneously very familiar and completely foreign to me. While the mechanical jukebox was a common enough feature of my childhood, it was already beginning to feel nostalgic. I was aware that the word “juke” came from the earlier phrase “juke joint.” Like all high value network nodes, the juke joint was located at the crossroads:
Classic juke joints found, for example, at rural crossroads, catered to the rural work force that began to emerge after Emancipation. Plantations workers and sharecroppers needed a place to relax and socialize following a hard week, particularly since they were barred from most white establishments by Jim Crow laws. Set up on the outskirts of town, often in ramshackle buildings or private houses, juke joints offered food, drink, dancing and gambling for weary workers. Owners made extra money selling groceries or moonshine to patrons, or providing cheap room and board.
But the juke joint put me no closer to the word “juke.” My sense was that it was meant to describe a style of popular dance. But digging a little deeper, this definition of the word’s origin emerged:
Gullah, the English-based Creole language spoken by people of African ancestry off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, retains a number of words from the West African languages brought over by slaves. One such word is juke, â€śbad, wicked, disorderly,â€? the probable source of the English word juke. Used originally in Florida and then chiefly in the Southeastern states, juke (also appearing in the compound juke joint) was an African-American word meaning a roadside drinking establishment that offers cheap drinks, food, and music for dancing and often doubles as a brothel. â€śTo jukeâ€? is to dance, particularly at a juke joint or to the music of a jukebox whose name, no longer regional and having lost the connotation of sleaziness, contains the same word.
The hidden payload in the word “juke” is its connection to the “bad, wicked and disorderly.” Transgression is built into the cultural practice of the juke joint. This connected to Levon Helm’s description of the Midnight Ramble.
The story of the word “juke” is also a technology story. Juke joints began with live music and dancing. The mechanical juke box replaced live music and its real-time interaction. The musician as messenger was replaced with her recorded output. The juke box attempted to put all the commercial qualities of the juke joint into a machine, while excluding the wickedness of its origin.
The mechanical juke box provided access to the popular music of the day.Â The users of the juke box assembled their own popularity charts by playing their favorites in the society of their cohort. The mass production and consumption of vinyl records and stereo equipment diluted the power of the juke box. The term “juke box” was preserved to describe the function of CD Players that could be loaded with hundreds of CDs, making the music on them readily accessible.
The original juke box became an object of nostalgia. We think of it as a cultural artifact of the 1950s. Its technology reached a terminal point, but its image was symbolically preserved.Â John Lennon’s jukebox became an item of great interest. Through it we gain an understanding of his formative influences, his taste and what music moved him. Curiosity about the contents of Lennon’s jukebox is the equivalent of today asking about the music loaded on the iPod of a public figure. We make a game of interpreting the tea leaves of the playlists.
While the word “juke” has dropped away, the iPod has become our equivalent of the juke box. The social aspect of the juke joint has been submerged almost entirely. The iPod is a personal jukebox, loaded with only the music I like. The exposing and networking of playlists begins to recover some of the social aspects of the juke box, but none of the real-time interactivity of the juke joint.
The juke joint, the barrelhouse and the midnight ramble all had the quality of providing a refuge for disorder within the forces of order. Their location was the crossroads at the edge of town. The Network has the same relationship to space as television. Every point of interface is one click away. The edge of town can very easily become the focal point of a family’s living room. While the Network provides the basis for the retrieval of a real-time interaction with the musician, we still don’t understand how to manage the “juke” that might appear at any moment.
A ‘real’ transaction must be captured in ink. It must be written down in the form of a contract (or treaty). Then both of the parties must abide by it. The signature seals the oath and represents an authentication of the intentions of the parties. The wet-ink signature serves both as an affirmation of personal identity and a binding agent of the identity to the logical propositions in the document. If we stop for a moment and take a look at our lives, we’ll see that these agreements are rapidly moving from static ‘ink on paper’ documents kept in filing cabinets to dynamic service contracts on the Network.
Imagine the physicality of the myriad of written agreement to which you’re subjectâ€” where do they exist? Can you see a series of manila folders containing your documents in filing cabinets, in offices, in buildings, in some number of cities far away? In many cases, the documents conveying the wet-ink signatures have been scanned, and the originals destroyed. To the extent that agreements and transaction records can be represented electronically and digitally they will be. This is a matter of the economics of storage and retrieval rather than the power of networked electronic information.
We see ourselves as a unified whole. I am ‘me,’ wherever I am. Wavy Gravy put it this way:
Always remember, wherever you go there you are, so be here now…
However, more and more, the authorized version of our selves is located in a series of databases networked within the Cloud. That data authorizes us to vote, work, travel, purchase, sell, own property and so on. As our social streams are tied to transactional data items, a much higher definition electronic picture of our ‘identities’ begins to come into focus. These words: vote, work, purchase, ownâ€” these activities are our main connectors to our society, our economy and the possibility of a private life. There’s a sense in which our personal identity can be reduced to the set of transactional verbs we’re authorized to use within the Network.
The locus of our authorized identity is shifting to this virtual data constellation. Because we’d like to be whoever we are, wherever we go. We’d like the dots connected and the right bits of data to travel between the stars of the constellation. There are some, like Tim Berners-Lee for example, who imagine a future where authorized software agents will act on behalf of an individual (and their constellation of data) to interact with other sets of structured data distributed around the rest of the Network. These service contracts will be binding for ourselves and our software agents. What is imagined is not just an extension and augmentation of our nervous system to electronic media, but an extension of our will.
We imagine ourselves at the center of this complex set of threads spinning out into and connecting within the Network. Some of the threads are at our command, othersâ€”by virtue of various contracts, command us. Imagine if the binding was broken, if you became separated from the digital representation of yourself, which entity would have more authorityâ€” which would be considered more ‘real?’ Which has more authority over your identity, your physical body or its electronic representation? Can we really say, on balance, that more of the Network will be at our command when the artifacts of authorization reside within the Network, rather than on our person. This movement of the locus of identity is not a choice we will make, it’s a slow change in the ecology of our environment, an adaptive moment.