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Category: looping

A Note for Karoli on the Production of Value

High heel

Karoli Kuns and I exchanged some comments about a recent NewsGang Live where the idea of “value” was discussed. In particular, how one might decide to purchase a pair of shoes. The conversation on the show swirled around the functional and exchange value of shoes. Let’s assume we all buy shoes that fit. Sometimes we buy shoes that are comfortable. We assign value to shoes, or almost anything, based on a number of factors.

For an interesting angle on the production of value, we can turn to Jean Baudrillard. He wrote that there are four ways of an object obtaining value. The four value-making processes are as follows:

The first is the functional value of an object; its instrumental purpose. A pen, for instance, writes; and a refrigerator cools. Marx’s “use-value” is very similar to this first type of value.

The second is the exchange value of an object; its economic value. One pen may be worth three pencils; and one refrigerator may be worth the salary earned by three months of work.

The third is the symbolic value of an object; a value that a subject assigns to an object in relation to another subject. A pen might symbolize a student’s school graduation gift or a commencement speaker’s gift; or a diamond may be a symbol of publicly declared marital love.

The last is the sign value of an object; its value within a system of objects. A particular pen may, whilst having no functional benefit, signify prestige relative to another pen; a diamond ring may have no function at all, but may suggest particular social values, such as taste or class.

Take a pair of shoes and assign a percentage of the total price to each the categories of value. The largest number will probably be next to the sign value. The shoes may have a value within the fashion system of shoes; within the fashion magazine system; within the designer system; and most importantly shoes have a signaling value within our social group. All of these things play in to the price we’re willing to pay.

Now think about the role of a social graph through Tw*tter as a method of signaling value. Compare it to using Search. PageRank uses citation as a method of deriving the value of a link. Citations are painstakingly extracted from spidered and indexed web data. Think about a real-time market where value is established through citations (gestures) across overlapping rings of social graphs. Sign value is largely produced as a social process. The key is: the gesture market needs sufficient volume and market makers.

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Tracking Voices: Attack, Sustain, Decay

Radar read out

In trying to understand something like “Track,” I find that as a new angle is uncovered I need to make note of it before it slips back into the aether. Part of understanding is explaining something to yourself, and then trying to explain it to someone else. It’s turning a shard of a mental image into a story. Understanding the signal-to-noise ratio in that transmission is one measure of success. Sometimes a transmission can carry the payload of a dense and ambiguous metaphor— something that is neither signal nor noise.

Noise is something we can’t or don’t want to understand. Signal is communication for which we already have a framework for understanding. Ambiguity is a different kind of payload in a signal. Sometimes it’s important to drive toward clarity, other times it’s important to let something remain in an ambiguous state and allow for the meaning of play and play of meaning to unfold. The usefulness of track is something largely undiscovered. The tools we use to track the idea of Track are both primitive and highly sophisticated. We talk to each other; we listen; and then we talk to each other some more.

Measuring the decay of sound

The small piece of the picture that came into focus for me today was the distinction between “who” and “what.” Distinguishing “track” and “search” seems to have some conceptual value. Search is more associated with what; track is more associated with who. Either can be used for the purposes of the other, but there’s some value in making this distinction.

There’s a sense in which track can be used to understand the current presence status of a person on the Network. We use a status indicator on IM to indicate to our personal network of reciprocal connections our level of availability. Tracking a person or a topic keyword tells you who is currently speaking on the Network. Who, not what. Speaking, through microblogging (tweeting), is a form of indicating your presence and availability.

An essential component of track is its basis in the real-time stream. One way we make conversation is through making sounds– and sounds have a physics. Finding the presence of speakers must occur within the context of the sound envelopetrack must do its work in the period starting at the end of the sustain and finishing at the end of the decay.

The decrease in amplitude when a vibrating force has been removed is called decay. The actual time it takes for a sound to diminish to silence is the decay time. How gradual this sound decays is its rate of decay.

Once the sound envelope has completed its decay, the presence of the speaker can no longer be assured.

A directed social graph, or affinity group, can be followed to understand current presence status. Track can also be used for that purpose, and additionally to discover new speakers on the subject of one’s affinity. Condensing value out of that stream returns us to the beginning. A story emerges, a melody emerges– from the attack, sustain and decay– of the voices in the stream. A thousand flowers bloom in an eternal golden braid.

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Relying Party: Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

The recent Internet Identity Workshop ended on a high note with many of the participants saying it was one of the best identity events in years. While there many moments of discovery, I had a vaguely uncomfortable feeling about the discussion. In that respect, my feeling was not in sync with the general mood.

I had the opportunity to chat with Kevin Marks, David Recordon and Steve Gillmor about the state of the “Open Stack” and the overall roadmap for OpenID. You can view the conversation on TechCrunchIT. Kevin does a great job of advocating for the Agile / Extreme Programming approach to engineering an open standards approach to “identity.” His approach advocates building the smallest useful piece in an open standard that can inter-operate with the other parts of the open stack. Kevin uses the elegant phrase: “the pieces become composable.” A software engineering project can use the parts that make sense for the task at hand.

While building the “smallest useful piece” allows one to focus on a “do-able task” within the large primordial soup of identity, it does need to unfold within a general roadmap to really be considered “useful.” Recordon offered the observation that no company wants to reveal its product roadmaps. I imagine steps that don’t betray direction.

Becoming an OpenID provider doesn’t really change the status quo. It gives millions of users an OpenID, but not many of them know what that means. Smaller websites becoming relying parties doesn’t change the balance of power. Is the destination a world wide web where I can use my Microsoft credentials to log in to Google? Will we arrive at a place where any credential set can be offered up at any website for the purpose of user authentication. Many small websites are becoming relying parties, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Users rejected the idea of a single platform providing an identity model for the entire Network. Reviewing the goals and objectives of Hailstorm, it shows a strong resonance with today’s Identity community.

“HailStorm” is designed to place individuals at the center of their computing experience and take control over the technology in their lives and better protect the privacy of their personal information. “HailStorm” services will allow unprecedented collaboration and integration between the users’ devices, their software and their personal data. With “HailStorm”, users will have even greater and more specific control over what people, businesses and technologies have access to their personal information.

“HailStorm” technologies help simplify the way people use technology. Instead of concentrating around a specific device, application, service or network, “HailStorm” services are oriented around people. They give users control of their own data and information, protecting personal information and requiring the consent of the individual with respect to who can access the information, what they can do with it and how long they have that permission to do so.

There’s a sense in which the Open Standards Identity Stack is trying to recreate Mark Lucovsky and Bob Muglia’s vision with composable parts. At the time, no one could parse the language coming out of Microsoft. The concepts couldn’t bridge the gap in trust, and perhaps it was the wrong architecture in which to build that vision. Perhaps Live Mesh will fair better than Hailstorm, this time Microsoft is more in tune with the ocean in which it swims and has embraced the ideas of Open Standards and composable parts within the Network.

The current Identity movement thrives on the ambiguity of the concept. There’s a lot of room to move and therefore a lot of terrain to discover. The more I think about Identity, the more the concept of Difference forces its way into the conversation. Perhaps we call it entropy, change or time; but Differance is at the core of what we call life. And even Identity has Difference hidden within its shadows. The depth of identity does not reside with the proposition A = A; but rather in the idea that A is A. “A” is the “A” that flows through the real-time stream and is utterly changed and somehow still the same.

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The Suspension of Time and Construction of the Double

I recently saw San Francisco Opera’s production of Erich Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt. The title means ‘The Dead City’ and refers to the city of Bruges. Ostensibly the story is of a man who is obsessed with his dead wife to the point that it threatens his sanity. The production was excellent and is highly recommended.

The protagonist, Paul, moves to Bruges– but basically moves outside of time and space. Because of his loss, he employs his force of will to suspend the passage of time. He reverses time and keeps it idling in the moments of his idyll. Time stops and he constructs and altar to the past. But an altar and icons are not sufficient for a living relationship. A double must be produced to stand in for the lost one, to bring the past into the present.

Die Tote Stadt is often linked to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo. In Hitch’s story a secret love is lost and recreated piece by piece. Time is suspended so that the hero, Scottie, can return to the path not taken and experience the love he repressed. He thinks he is a puppetmaster, but in this story of multiple levels, he’s also a puppet being controlled the the simple mechanism of his fear of heights.

One story, Die Tote Stadt, ends with the hero walking away from the dead city and returning to sanity and life. The other ends with the hero killing the object of his obsession through a misunderstanding of the story he occupies. Because Scottie has suspended the passage of time, to live in a story outside of time, he doesn’t perceive the story going on around him.

There are other examples of the construction of a double to fill an emptiness. In My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins constructs a lady suitable to be his companion. The construction of the double starts with an older man finding a younger woman with a physical resemblance. The young woman’s life and identity must be erased in favor of the object of his obsession. His story must replace hers, an event that can never truly happen.

It’s a powerful pattern often played out in both fiction and real life. Presidential candidate John McCain is deeply enmeshed in this drama. He has suspended time, retreated to the past, looks forward to a nostalgic future and has attempted to construct a double to stand by his side in a story unfolding outside of time. What McCain doesn’t seem to understand is that while he plays out his nostalgic dream, he is a character in a drama unfolding in real time. In a post-modern twist, Henry Higgins learns to speak Cockney slang so he can become the suitable consort of Eliza Doolittle. While his story will end soon, he has enabled her future. Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets…