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In the novel Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, he describes a vision of future internet discussion whereby anyone can take part in discussions in the general purpose forums, but to take part in the high powered influential forums, that get quoted around the breakfast table, you need to catch the eye of existing participants and get invited.  At the highest level, these forums are populated by Kings, Generals, rich men and great thinkers - not just people with influence, but people who set policy and speak on behalf of nations.  So not quite concentric circles or a hierarchy; threads can start in one forum then get picked up and discussed in higher forums, and of course people in lower forums can comment on and spectate the posts being made in higher forums; but fairly static, in that there is a set and obvious ordering of influence.

I was thinking about this today, and had a differing vision of how things might work.

Think of forums as being something more biological.  Slowly moving crystaline entities.  Some big, some small.  Some aged and tough, some short lived or fast changing.  Different species might correspond to different media types such as IRC, Wikis, web forums, Usenet channels, twitter, instant messangers, google wave, etc.  Each entity takes information in (in the form of the output from other entities read by forum members) and puts information out (in the form of documents reflecting consensus opinions, polls of members on questions, etc).

And so information circulates and changes, being given a different spin by each entity it passes through.  Some entities filtering bits out.  Some adding new information in.  But in general it is a dynamic thing, never stopping, ever circulating, like an ocean tide.  But not a tide of water.  Water is too slow and constant in volume for this metaphor.  Think rather of the information as being a tide of light.

Light has some useful properties for the purposes of our metaphor.  We already talk about truth being a pure white light, and about 'shading' the truth.  So we can think of an entity that has an inbuilt bias or blindness as a prism or filter that lets through only part of the truth.

Image: 220

And, similarly, an entity that combines 'shaded' information from multiple sources to build up a more complete and less biassed consensus picture could be thought of as recreating a white light:

Image: 221

So you're thinking now about a large (possibly infinite) sphere in which these entities live.  A dark void.  But filled with coloured beams of light flashing between the crystaline entities.  In a sense all entities could feed of the light from all others, if they spread evenly around the inside surface of this hollow sphere, but in practice they have preferences.  Some are parasites.  Some are predators.  Some have symbiotic relationships with each other.  Some compete with others to become the prime feed for a larger more important entity.  Entities can have motives, but we don't need to know what those are to lay them out in our mind - all we need to know is their proximity to each other.  Entities tend to be closer to the ones they feed upon.  Think of distance to food sources as being a cost, the total of which the entity wishes to minimise and so the entity slowly floats or crawls within the sphere creating regions of either similar colours (positive relationships) or sharply contrasting colours (the fighting edges where regions meet, such as two newspapers from different political wings that keep quoting and responding to each other's stories).

And here we hit a constraint of our metaphor.  The spectrum of visable light lends itself to placing biasses in a single dimension, like the left-right political spectrum.  But, even for politics, that's over simplistic (have two axes: one for social security vs social freedom, and one for economic security vs economic freedom, works far better); and the information discussed on the internet is not restricted to politics.  We could be pedantic and say there are an infinite number of individual wavelengths, and treat each wavelength as a different flavour.  But there's a fundamental drawback to this approach, so I want to go a different route.

The drawback is that not all information is truth.  Two political parties during an election may exchange far more information than a poet and her listener, while exchanging far less truth.  We could go all Terry Pratchett, and use 'dark light' to represent misinformation, with the ratio between the two representing how much truth the total exchange contains.  But I'd like to use a slightly more complex model:

Image: 219

The vertical axis is: Real vs Imaginary

The horizontal axis is: Delude vs Enlighten

The segments are: Truth, Myth, Lies and Spin

Truth :== Real & Enlightens
Myth :== Imaginary & Enlightens
Lies :== Imaginary & Deludes
Spin :== Real & Deludes

So we can use the base colours of the [Red-Green-Blue] system from our eyes, to denote Delusion vs Enlightenment, giving both lies and spin a muddy colour, while truth and myth enjoy sharper purer colour.  And use the mix, and the complexity of actual frequencies (and how far they are from the base colour) to denote real vs imaginary; with real being the white of black vs white, and the mythic being complex nuanced rainbow coloured.

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Last edited July 21, 2010 6:51 pm (viewing revision 6, which is the newest) (diff)