Daily Archives: October 8, 2009

Codifying Information and/or Knowledge

I was thinking about the codification of text after looking at the transliteracies paper in this week’s readings and Google’s novel logo of the day struck a chord:


There is something about our codification of thought as text that suits a print world but actually it’s a pretty inefficient medium in a lot of ways. Barcodes are one of several digital codifications that allow a lot of information to be stored in a small amount of much more visual space. As are QR codes (especially when they are the designer variety):



Though these look a little novel they are no more human readable than the actual storage of text, music, film, art, etc. used by computers since ultimately what look human and friendly to us on the screen are stored in mark up, and code, and machine language and, ultimately, 0’s and 1’s (geek joke: “There are 10 types of people in the world. Those that understand binary and those that don’t.”). I think I’m raising this for a few reasons:

  • How do you access and pass on information encoded/viewed/understood in such different ways when the presentation layer of Digital Culture changes so often in terms of technology as well as style. What is the legacy of digital cultural artifacts?
  • How does our own relationship to information change when we access the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) layer of what’s there only (or primarily) but we don’t understand fully the means of production, interpretation… it is not unlike being dependent on the translation of a novel in a foreign language.  Is more abstractly codified intellectual material even more exclusionary than scholarly formats we traditionally use? Or is the ability to have that material interpreted – maybe as text, voice, video, etc. – actually opening access to whatever you want to present?
  • What is made possible in terms of ways of sharing information between humans when we are able to outsource the method of storage from the method of interpretation – when you can exchange data on discs and RFID tags and (as above) simply through photographing an image on your phone – what new possibilities are opened up. I don’t think eBooks are the real innovations here necessarily because Moore’s Law means we will be able to carry ever more sophisticated mobile devices with us and swap intense multimedia experiences, memories, all sorts of things instantly and simply. It is not as daft at an “I know Kung Foo” Matrix moment but there is the possibility that you can make different and intense friendships quickly through accelerated ways of sharing your social data, you can find or weed out contacts more quickly… There is a lot of potential to codifying text as well as lots of risk.