Short Trip (Alexander Perrin)

Link.

There is a hand-drawn tram simulator, beautifully drawn. You are in the role of some entity, appearing and not appearing human, and you walk him toward the waiting tram. He is — you are — not its passenger but its conductor, controlling the forward and backward movement of the tram. Along the tram route there are stops. At the first such station, you slow too late, having seen it not in time to ease in. This is no serious problem. You merely reverse the tram a few meters, slowly, back into the station, and pause, so the tram doors can open and waiting passengers step on. You do not pay much attention yet. The scenery is beautiful. You can hear birds chirping. Continue reading “Short Trip (Alexander Perrin)”

Effect Ideas and Close Encounters

Gabriel Duquette of Liposuction has raised a number of objections to my insertion of effect-ideas into his maps/chords dualism. Either effect-ideas are not real, he argues, or they are not significant. They are trivial in that they are wildly personal, unpredictable, and unengineerable. Read rather than written into texts, they are the creations of readers and audiences instead of artists and authors. It is akin to ruminating on a rock for hours at end, and then pretending the rock had instigated the conversation. Continue reading “Effect Ideas and Close Encounters”

A Possibility for Artistic “Meaning”

Interested in literary or artistic "meaning" as the sum of all infinite interrelationships between a work of art/literature and the equally infinite set of all data points which exist both inside the work and out in the world. These data points include, but are not limited to, the composition of society in its entirety, both at the time of the work's creation and every time before or since; the position of the artist/author within society during every moment of his lifetime and also before/since; all facts and biographies about audiences/readers both real and hypothetical; every included word's complete etymological history and complete history of usage (also, important in their negation, the histories of excluded words as well); and all physical facts about the universe. Continue reading “A Possibility for Artistic “Meaning””

Maps, Chords, and Effect Ideas

Gabe Duquette, writing at Liposuction, divides artistic fit into two categories: chords and maps.

Chords are elements combined in a way that is appealing, but not because the combination describes reality. Chords exploit the many evolved sweet spots of the senses. They can be comprised of “real” things but prioritize creation of an experience over transmission of knowledge. Chords can be consonant or dissonant — the sum of their parts can elicit pleasure or irritation, or even revulsion. Chocolate and peanut butter fit better than chocolate and ketchup. Continue reading “Maps, Chords, and Effect Ideas”

Return Maximization as Critical Mode

Interested in what I am possibly calling Utilitarian Criticism, or more likely Consequentialist Interpretation, or even more likely Return Maximization as a Critical Mode. This is the mode where the goodness or badness of a text/art object, for example, is largely irrelevant. Instead, modes of interpretation or ways of seeing are sought which maximize the audience's return on said text or art object. Utilitarian may be the wrong term because the obvious argument that critiquing (in the sense of evaluating) bad art likely has positive effects towards a culture producing more good art in the long run. Arguments over whether a sober or bright-side approach is better for a culture in sum (or where on the spectrum between approaches is a so-called sweet spot) makes for an interesting conversation but one outside the scope of this specific critical mode. So perhaps Return Maximization is the superior term. 

Especially coming out of 20th Century Meaning Wars in literature departments ("Should we rely on author intent, reader response, or formal elements in our interpretation of a text?") the Return Maximization approach interests me as an "out" where consequentialism replaces deontology in deciding critical or interpretative methods. If contextualizing information adds to a text's perceived richness or value, it is worthy of inclusion. Return Maximization implicitly rests on the belief that arguments about "correctness" or "truth" are only relevant with respect to human beings as an end, especially where human-defined concepts like "quality" and "meaning" are concerned. 

Excerpts from Alva Nöe’s Strange Tools

"Tools are useful only against the background of our needs and capacities. Let’s return to the doorknob. A simple bit of technology, yes, but one that presupposes a vast and remarkable social background. Doorknobs exist in the context of a whole form of life, a whole biology—the existence of doors, and buildings, and passages, the human body, the hand, and so on. A designer of doorknobs makes a simple artifact, but does so with an eye to its mesh with this larger cognitive and anthropological framework." (99) Continue reading “Excerpts from Alva Nöe’s Strange Tools”

The Areopagus

There is a hill on the Western slope of the Acropolis called the Areopagus, or Areopagus Hill. One would not know from the swooping doves and stretching olive orchards which adorn the area that it was until recently the site of recurring tragedy. The rocky outcropping above its rubbled ruins, which allows sublime views of a city at dusk, is composed entirely of a reddish marble; each day, thousands of visitors from the Parthenon tackle this outcropping. Continue reading “The Areopagus”

The Tiered World

“As do other shamanistic peoples throughout the world, the San [or “bushmen”] believe in a realm above and another below the surface of the world on which they live… Concepts of a tiered universe are, of course, not restricted to shamanistic religions. Heaven above, Hell below, and the level of anxious humanity in-between appear in one form or another across the globe. Why should this be so?

Continue reading “The Tiered World”

Found Writings from 4chan’s /lit/ (blog post)

What did it feel like to be alive and culturally enmeshed in the 2010s? What were our values, our hopes, our insecurities and terrors? Only a few days of /litare excerpted here, but even they give us a glimpse. April 25: And I thought, “This is the saddest thought I think I’ve ever had.”  November 22: “…the second we touch down on Mars, people are going to realise how unfulfilling it is. Oh look, we moved over there. Fantastic. A few billion more planets to visit […] before entropy devours us all huehuehue.”  Continue reading “Found Writings from 4chan’s /lit/ (blog post)”