Wednesday, 24 July 2013


In the Whitworth Gallery this lunchtime (catch it before it closes for a year of building work!) I was particularly struck by the wallpaper exhibition. The Whitworth is famous for its wallpaper  collection, but this time I found myself looking at it differently. Data redundancy is nowhere more explicit than wallpaper! Indeed, the connection between data redundancy and something 'not being there': after all, wallpaper is (by definition) background, not foreground. It's backgroundness appears dependent on the redundancy of its patterning.
What is in the 'mood' that wallpaper is intended to create? Is it some kind of frame within which things can happen? Is there some kind of expectation that is established? 

The things which are meaningful exist in front of the wallpaper, but the wallpaper might contribute to their meaningfulness. If meaning is expectation, and expectation is prolonged by redundancy, then wallpaper serves a prolonging function. I might even suggest that it has a kind of 'catalytic' effect on thought as expectations are entertained. 

Why are some places inspirational? Is that to do with their patterning? Libraries have this effect on me. There is much patterning in the never-ending stacks of books. But an individual book might catch my attention and become meaningful: I become full of expectation. Is the prolonging of that expectation served by the patterning and regularity of the other books?

Maybe the redundancy of wallpaper makes the making of redundancy more likely. It is the making of new redundancies that is fundamental to the kind of inner story-telling of intellectual life. Weak students struggle to create new redundancies, not to absorb new concepts. 

Computer interfaces are remarkably redundancy-free. Ironically, it is computer 'wallpaper' that is the most redundant part of them. I always preferred command lines to graphical windows. I now think it was for this reason: there is more redundancy in the command line: redundancy in the letters, redundancy in the typing, etc. I stare at this interface. Edit box. Text. There are buttons: submit, save, preview, close, compose, html. I look at 'tabs': Inbox, RStudio, Google, etc... Where is my mind? Where is my expectation? What is to maintain my expectation in the absence of any redundancy on the screen?

I keep saying these sentences to myself. And that one. That's where the redundancy is. In my head. But I have to hold on to it. The computer seems to always want to take the redundancy away and commit it to a single entity...

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