Those aren’t turtles…they’re bits!

Peirce’s triadic model enables a better understanding of communication as more than just sender and receiver. There are endless signs that can be used to communicate meaning, and when we fix them to an artifact we extend cognition. When we started to use digital mediums as the space to express ourselves we treated them as we had other spaces, and Otto’s notebook (from Clark’s example) became Otto’s computer system. However, a notebook would never refresh to show new information, or link the information you want to other information you might be interested in. With Otto’s computer system, it’s all about association, building webs of interest, from one idea. Otto might search for directions to the MOMA, then save those directions, then his computer prompts him to look at other museums, he saves those directions too. If Otto remembers that his goal is to get to the MOMA he’ll be fine, but if he builds his associative trail too far, he might forget where he was going.

This endless search for new signs, creates information overload, and it’s a real problem right now. There’s a palpable, sometimes dark energy out there, that I think a lot of people are feeling. It’s at its most powerful on the internet, where the sheer volume of information out there to be consumed is swallowing discourse. Not too long ago we had a fixed set of information, you’d get your daily paper and you’d be limited to the facts on it. Now, we still represent this information in the same way, but it’s no longer fixed. Wegner differs from Turing/Von Neumann in his assertion that there is greater richness to computation, as evidenced that machines can’t handle the passage of time during the act of computation. We have this same problem where as we are trying to digest new information, and we can’t account for what’s developing.

Possibly one of the issues in bridging legacy media like the newspaper to a digital medium is that we’re trying to pour old wine into new bottles. There’s a space that needs to be allocated to communicate news, science, and culture, but maybe that space needs to be represented differently. These sites as they are designed now do not reflect the way they are being consumed, which is minute to minute, second by second. Murray makes the point that there is a better option, for instance GUI helped to design a better desktop, and not by creating a layout that looks like a physical desk. We might need to change the mediums on which we receive information, otherwise we may be bogged looking at one story and seeing it propped on the back of another, on the back of another, on the back of another, and we’ll be searching without understanding. Only it won’t be turtles all the way down, it will be turtles made of bits.