Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Information

James Gleick's new book (pictured above) is a fascinating meditation on 'information' as the defining quality of the modern era. I am not quite a third through the book and he is covering a lot of material on communication and language I am familiar with from other sources but with a sharper focus on what it is making of us.

A section on telegraphy quotes Scientific American from 1880: "the time is close at hand when the scattered members of civilized communities will be as closely united, so far as instant telephonic communication is concerned, as the various members of the body now are by the nervous system." Gleick follows the quote with: "Considering how speculative the analogy was, it turned out well. Nerves really do transmit messages, and the telegraph and the telephone did begin to turn human society, for the first time, into something like a coherent organism." (p126)

Technology participating in the creation of analogies/metaphors, using the particular which, in turn, become analogies/metaphors for the general. In some sense it seems to enhance a holistic world view. In this sense technology doesn't make the world a smaller place, but a larger one. All of a sudden our realm of concern is extended far beyond the village or countryside and we have the pressure/need to be involved in something much larger than our forebears had need to consider.