Civilization and its mis/mal/dis/contents

“Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate.” Remember that one? It was repurpased from computer manuals by students during late 60s protests (in Canada, I think) and became a tagline for the student protest movement.

We are not information. And yet we produce and consume information in overwhelming quantities. Systems theory teaches that one of the functions of a system is information selection. Humans and systems use and select different kinds of information. Humans permit ambiguities; systems not. The ambiguities we deal with often relate to persons, their motives, personalities, relations, etc. That type of information, called “meaning” in the social sciences, is of a different kind than information-data insofar as it involves understanding reached between persons. Computers don’t have to understand each other in order to function properly.

We’re laying down the basics of next generation web and internet protocols. The handling of persons is not the same as the handling of information. It’s not necessary to clear up ambiguities among people to make communication technologies efficient. It’ll be a challenge, though an interesting one, to see how we design web 2.0 and other social software and related protocols to handle persons. Not everything is Googleable.

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