Joho the Blog » history of information

July 5, 2012

The origins of information

“You can ring me here tonight from Finland. If you’ve got the film, just say the deal’s come off.”

“And if not?”

“Say the deal’s off.”

“It sounds rather alike,” Avery objected. “If the line’s bad, I mean. ‘Off’ and ‘Come off’.”

Then say they’re not interested. Say something negative. You know what I mean.”

— John le Caré The Looking Glass War (Pan Books, London, 1965), p. 34.

As Paul Edwards explains in his wonderful The Closed World, information theory grew in part out of work done during WWII to develop a vocabulary of words sufficiently distinctive that they could be differentiated over the uproar of battle. The demand for discernible difference (= information) has led us to to see language as code, to denature qualities, and to count that which gets in the way of clarity as noise.

I’m not kicking. I’m just reminding us that information had an origin and a purpose.

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November 11, 2009

ethanz blogs, well, me

I’ve been honored with one of Ethan Zuckerman’s incredible liveblog postings. I gave a 45 min talk at the Berkman Center yesterday. I spoke quickly, waved my hands a lot, and spewed. [Rough draft here.] Even so, Ethan was able to commit an amazing act of streaming journalism, with very few places where I would even quibble with his summary and analysis.

He posted it immediately after I spoke, which I can attest to because if you read it you would never think that it was an unedited draft. It’s too thoughtful and well-written for that. This is Ethan writing on the fly, not merely typing or transcribing. Amazing.

independent of all that, I am very fortunate to be able to call Ethan a close friend.

[Later that day: Here’s the video of the webcast.]

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