The Intellectual Wilderness There is nothing more useless than doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.

2019.06.12 15:53

Free Expression: Personal Sites > Social Media

Filed under: Computing,Society — Tags: , , , , — zxq9 @ 15:53

As major social media platforms morph into comic parodies of their former selves people who want to express original ideas will continue to seek alternatives that avoid the warring robot hordes and put them back in charge of regulating their own expression. Over the next few years I find it possible (though maybe not likely) that the biggest changes in online expression could be a return to personal sites and blogs. This is a viable alternative considering the latitude of expression possible, both in form and content, and the ready availability of interlinked comment and discussion systems.

There are some annoyances and responsibilities inherited with managing one’s own site, but to those for whom expression is paramount and “follower” count is not a primary goal personal sites provide everything but a captive audience — and finding an audience today, now that Google’s monopoly on search seems to be breaking in at least some communities, is not anywhere near as hard as it once was.

Until a distributed alternative to gated-community style social media comes along that is low-friction enough to find gain mindshare among non-tech types (something I would love to create, but currently lack the time) it seems likely that some combination of personal sites, aggregate sites (group-run news/op-ed blogs), blogs, non-YouTube video shares, and alternative social media sites will be the home of most censor-averse communities.

It will be interesting to see how things turn out.

2018.05.12 15:13

Language is deeper than mere communication

Filed under: Society — Tags: , , , , , , , , — zxq9 @ 15:13

I visited a behavioral psychologist friend’s home in the U.S. about a year ago. While there I got a call from someone back home. We had been speaking English but of course my phone call was in Japanese. He mentioned to me that very often when a person who speaks several languages associates a language strongly with a specific culture, place and social group that person actually changes when they switch languages for more than about a sentence. He mentioned this because he watched me closely while I was on the phone and found the Jekyll/Hyde thing interesting to observe first hand.

The whole idea seemed very odd to me at the time, but he insisted that inside of us are a bunch of different flavors of our own psyche, or several semi-conflicted psyches all cohabiting — and our external personality is a sort of amalgamated manifestation of psychological combinations we find appropriate for a given situation. Or something like this. I’m not a psychologist, so this is probably a horrible mangling of an idea he explained quite succinctly to someone (me) that doesn’t grok the first thing about this.

He went on to explain that (again, bad paraphrasing) language is the gateway to many thought processes, because at very high levels of consciousness we abstract complex ideas behind words, even in our own heads most of the time, and that unspoken context and meaning carries a lot of weight as well — but that since we cannot “hear” this context in the monologues of our mind, we just don’t give it much conscious consideration. So basically, switching languages also switches the context of your thinking to some degree, and context is how you pick which flavors of your psyche are appropriate to manifest at a given moment, and so on. So switching languages also makes you sort of switch programs in your head.

Anyway, he’s an expert, so I take this into consideration, and that was that. Fascinating idea, isn’t it?

I just realized today something interesting when a friend (who doesn’t speak Japanese) asked me “what is takoyaki” and I realized that, explained in proper English, it doesn’t sound very good. “Sort of like hushpuppies or donut-holes with pickled ginger in the batter and octopus pieces inside” is a rather unsatisfying explanation. It only gets worse if you explain what 鰹節 is (and people think how it is prepared looks like carpentry — which is only funny because it is true).

But! If I explain using a few loan words, it is great: “Like a hushpuppy with beni-shoga and tako inside!” See? No trouble.

「タコ」 and 「イカ」 sound delicious. “Octopus” and “squid” not so much. That’s probably why Americans order “fried calamari” instead of saying “fried squid” — scores way lower on the Captain Nemo’s Dinner Horror Scale.

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