Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Music, Information and "technological prejudice"

I've had a strange experience in my attempts to multitask and be in three places at once (In these days of scarce resource, such measures become necessary).

I was hoping to give a presentation at my University's research conference on my work on metagames, information and music. Unfortunately, on the day of the conference I found myself in Turkey talking to Turkish teachers  about the iTEC project, and trying to coordinate a testing session for iTEC in Bolton. So my talk became a video.

Videos are much more difficult to create than powerpoint talks. And I thought very carefully about how I was going to present what are pretty complex ideas. They are, I think, ideas that merit some attention because they deal with information as experience, rather than information as abstraction. So I sent a colleague who was also presenting in the same session to show the video.

Of course, one is always at the mercy of session chairs. But I haven't yet come across one who says "I'm not watching a video. I'm going to get an early lunch!" I think at the very least this shows a lack of awareness of the effort it takes to produce the thing - a kind of technological prejudice. Given that my presentation was about decision, it is an interesting decision!

Our abstractions of information (including those surrounding academic practice) lead us to certain expectations which in turn blind us to the constraining effects of the information we're not directly aware of (or don't want to think about). The experience of sitting in a room listening to an argument is a convivial experience whether or not there is a real person there doing the talking. To suppose that only valid information is conveyed in the presence of the talking person is clearly nonsense. But we don't really have a theoretical apparatus to explain the experience of sitting in a room with other people listening to an argument. That's the gap I am trying to address in my work.

There's something here about marking certain types of informative practice as valid, and others not. To admit other things as equally valid sources of "information" which we might consider invalid is to poke absences within ourselves which we would rather not be poked. The stick that Wikipedia still comes in for is a good example. These are the result of personal 'taboos' of academics - the things we bracketed-out from our experience because we found a way to exist by leaving them alone. And yet, we have forgotten that any way of life is ultimately framed by the things that we don't think about.

Considering music as 'information' is about as close as we get to saying "there's no such thing as information". Really, I think information is simply 'absence', or constraint (following Terry Deacon). Wiener thought that information was an ontological category of its own. But the ontological category is not Wiener's 'negentropy': it's 'neg'.

And perhaps the conference chair's desire for an early lunch was the most informative thing that could have occurred!

For those interested, the video is available here:


dkernohan said...

Ooh - looking forward to watching. I agree that people don't realise how much more effort doing a video is... And I'm wondering about including "video" as a separate submission category for conferences I am involved in organising.

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