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Authorship, Authority and Authenticity

2016-03-21 in Uncategorized

I think many people place a great deal of trust in print. Pages of printed text, published between a hardcover binding, with impressive dustcovers screaming out exclusive elucidation to be had for the mere inconvenience of a small price to pay for the luxury great revelations and fantastic knowledge.

While some might say this seems far-fetched, I myself am often prodded to publish my writing. Why should I?

I know no one who would pay for it. I think most of my readers are not so attached to pulp brain dumps. They are more inclined to simply register my point of view and then move on. The so-called “rest of the world” — those with a fetish for tomes of printed words — are far less inclined to follow my reasoning, abstractions, descriptions of immaterial nature, philosophy, and similar assorted amusements. The vast majority desire a plot, a story line, good storytellers capable of awesome storytelling.

I can’t — or perhaps simply refuse to — get from here to there. My world is a static zero-sum game. There is little action, almost no surprise, the narrative is as dead as a doornail.

Even worse: I expect you to think. You are supposed to come up with ideas, make plans, engage in collaborative efforts. It’s all a huge PAIN.

Why bother?

The real world is usually not a very big page-turner. Reality is what avid readers attempt to escape… rather than embrace. Our eco-system is dirt cheap and mundane, not awe-inspiring.

Yet in my humble opinion this is a rather limited world-view. From my perspective, both the future as well as the past are fictional stories that need to be „filled in“ with concrete details. We are moving through time and space, we see various intersections up ahead, we can steer this way or that way. We can close in and move together or we can go our own ways and drift apart… – to a degree.

Anyone who thinks they are self-made is only deluding themselves. You are the product of your own choices, decisions and circumstances (and also the choices, decisions and circumstances of all other things and beings). Each and every one of us are embedded in our very own context – every now and then our contexts may overlap a little. We can sieze the day every day, and every day we act upon our glimpses of opportunities we turn tomorrow’s possibilities into today’s realities. Every moment, we create our own lives from the pallette of fictions at our immediate disposal. We are constantly reaching out to grab them and bring them into the present.

We can either keep our stories to ourselves or we can share them with each other. In our authenticity, we enable ourselves and others to grow and we thereby also become co-participants of shared experiences, we engage in collaborative storytelling, we help each other to build the real world together and we also help each other realize the dreams and goals we envision for ourselves and others alike.

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by nmw

Top Level Domains + Domain Name Meanings

2015-03-02 in Uncategorized

Recently, a colleague of mine wanted to look up the meaning of a neologism, and decided to check urbandictionary.com. You could wonder why he didn’t choose to check oed.com — after all, the OED is internationally recognized as the standard English dictionary print publication. However, you may also know that there are indeed very many dictionaries available (especially online)… and any online dictionary is more or less just as easy to reach as any other online dictionary (the main difference being how easy it is to remember the domain name, how many letters are in the name, how easy or difficult it is to type, etc. — but nothing like that anyone would have to get up, walk over to a bookshelf, select the correct volume, pull it down, open it up, page through it or anything that people who still remember doing so time and time again back in the era of paper might still be able to recall from memory). Personally, I usually use dictionary.com — but more on that in a moment.

The short and simple answer is that different dictionaries document different vocabularies, different jargons, different linguistic communities, different languages. Although most people would not see a significant difference between oed.com and dictionary.com, only a very few people would miss the difference between either of these and urbandictionary.com… and in particular: each of these three websites have different procedures put in place for how the different user communities who use each website can interact with the site. The different methods applied lead to different lexicons, different descriptions, different designs, different functions and in general different user experiences. For example: it is not at all uncommon for an urbandictionary.com user to contribute a description (rather than merely “consuming” a description provided by the professional editors of the site).

Now I wish to make a huge quantum leap… — switching from English to German, and also switching from a standard language lexicon to a general, more encyclopedic format.

Kleines Hand-Lexikon: Wissenswertes von A - Z

Kleines Hand-Lexikon: Wissenswertes von A – Z

The image above is the cover of a paperback book — a pocket lexicon — that purports to contain information about anything worthy of note from A to Z. I have a copy of this quirky book on one of many shelves of paper books (I actually collect such crap 😉 ). The reason why I include it here is to point out that this is yet another “information resource” that is also quite similar (in certain ways) to the dictionaries described above.

ergo: There is no such thing as the English language. There is perhaps one English language described by oed.com, another English language described by urbandictionary.com, yet another English language described by dictionary.com, there are probably hundreds if not even thousands or millions of English languages. Let me take a step back and select one particular instance: commercial English.

The global language of commerce is, indeed, commercial English. The lexicon of commercial English is documented in the commercial top level domain (TLD): COM (also known as “dot com”). One might even go so far as to say that COM is its own language — one which transcends English — and one that also includes elements from other “natural” languages (e.g. Spanish, French, German, etc.). The string “dictionary” is registered under COM as an “English” element — this site describes the English vocabulary (that is the meaning of the word “dictionary”). For more about the “COM language” and other generic top level domain languages, see Generic Community Languages.

From the above discussion, you might glean that top level domains designate languages. Moving forward, we can also distinguish two different types of languages: Languages that are closely held (proprietary top level domains) vs. languages that are widely held (generic top level domains). One must not think that proprietary top level domains are inherently worse than generic top level domains (nor are they inherently better) — they are simply inherently different. While a quirky encyclopedia (such as the example above) may be rather idiosyncratic in nature, there are many examples of closely held languages that are very useful — think of (e.g.): The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association; The Medical Subject Headings (MESH — the National Library of Medicine’s controlled vocabulary used for indexing articles); Stock ticker symbols at various stock exchanges worldwide; industrial codes and classification systems; public / government data and statistics, etc. In each case, there is some “closely held” organization that provides what is referred to in the jargon of information science as “authority control”.

Ever since the Enlightenment, the Reformation and the rise of the so-called “Scientific Method” in early modern times, more and more authorities have been established. Whereas in the Middle Ages, the Pope of the Catholic Church was the sole ultimate authority regarding each and every issue, today — especially in matters of science, industry, commerce and many other spheres — a wide variety of institutions have developed to establish the meaning and significance of concepts that have become regular “tools of the trade” in each of these numerous segments of social interaction. We are now so far removed from a “one-size fits-all” world, that the notion that anyone could find one answer to each and every question at one information resource seems absurdly naive.

One example of a proprietary top level domain is “NYC”. Just today, I have included an update about considerations regarding authority control in that controlled language: http://nooblogs.com/activity/p/5175

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