"Beyond Privacy" ProjectCommunicationsLab NotesLiving between the linesNotes

“Beyond Privacy” Project: The Mandatory Multiplication of Electromagnetic Information Loaves

 

Provisional book cover: Title : "Living Between The Lines: Information Society Through Our Personal Information" Mentions: "Beyond Privacy Project : An open work-in-progress"

This post is about the “Beyond Privacy” Project: LIVING BETWEEN THE LINES information society through our personal information.

As this is an open work-in-progress book drafting project,

please do not hesitate to comment!

Every input is precious to help improve it.

 

Utility vehicles

 

Information objects allow us to interact across time and space. This capability varies depending on the physical support. The difference becomes obvious between solid matter and electromagnetic waves.

How would it feel for you to pull out a banknote and burn it?

If a twinge of lost, the source is not the combustion of a fraction of a gram of matter. If pleasurable excitement, it does not result that much from the momentary flame.

The emotion comes mainly from the irreversible loss of information items. Not just any ones! The vaporized in smoke writing conveyed a unit of value that we could share with others.

The destroyed information allowed us to get from other persons a good or a service. Or to repay them a debt. Or to hand them an assistance. Or offer them a gift.

Also vanished is the ability to offer to ourselves a gift.

Hence the emotion produced. We have forever destroyed information items representing a fragment of power in the human world.
Cover of the Voyager probes' golden disk. A circular plate on which are engraved the instructions to play the disk and a map of the location of the solar system.

Support vehicle

No writing is more durable, nor goes farther than its physical support.

Consider the audiovisuals disks of the Voyager I and II space probes that are leaving our solar system at more than 55,000 kilometers / hour. Cultural Noah’s Arks of sort, these gold-plated copper disks transport 116 images of life on Earth as well as natural sounds, music and greetings in 55 languages. A collision being unlikely, this information should remain readable long after the disappearance of humans on Earth. They could even survive our planet that our Sun will engulf in seven-billion years.

Fragile paper or unalterable metal. It is the materiality of an information object that allows it to traverse as much time as space.

Time: if the support is enduring, the information is preserved in duration. It can then support human memory.

Material durability also allows accumulation, storage. Instances of such are libraries and archives as well as data centers and portable media players. The memory thus supported is not limited to that of the individual. Accumulations of information are the powerful foundations of the memory of groups, communities, societies and civilizations. Their histories, identities, consciences and decisions are largely grounded on such accumulation. Other chapters explain how.

Space: as long as the support is moveable, the information object allows transmission across distances. It then can support human communication.

However, portability often requires a compromise on durability. Commodity money made of precious metal is resistant. Even if the inscription “1 ounce” disappears, the ounce of gold still remains. But such material is heavy and bulky.

Paper money is much easier to carry. For a long time, paper money has been convertible directly into precious metal. Nevertheless, it mattered little that the inscription was “1 ounce” or “1 ton”. An as modest piece of paper would be required. In return, such support is more fragile to destruction and to counterfeiting.

Today, currencies are no longer guaranteed by metal. A dollar represents nothing more than the exchange value that financial markets and populations are willing to accredit it. Same with the euro, the yen or any other currency.

Carrier wave

Even compact and lightweight, paper and other solids have for long traveled at the speeds of walking, animal propulsion or boats. A few kilometers per hour only.

In the nineteenth century, communication accelerates in a spectacular way, thanks to a new support: electricity.

In the electric telegraph of Morse and Vail, information items are transmitted as sequences of long or short electromagnetic pulses.

With each slight electric shock, the emitting operator sets in motion the electrons of the conductive wire connecting to the receiving operator. Since these electrons jump from atom to atom in a chaotic fashion, their overall displacement is quite slow: a few or many centimeters per hour depending on the current’s strength. Yet, the acceleration of these electrons generates an electromagnetic pulse which, through a bare copper wire, races at around a billion kilometers per hour. Over 90% of the speed of light.

Soon, telegraph companies consider offering money transfer services. Then again, as much the electromagnetic wave is fast, as much it is ephemeral. So, how to avoid that the amount transferred disappear with the waves carrying it? By combining waves and solids. In practice, by adopting strict procedures to produce durable copies of the telegraphed information items.

Typically, a money transfer request was entered on a paper form. The original was retained by the company telegraphy. A paper copy of it served as a receipt to the sender. A second copy was forwarded to the operator. The latter also took notes on paper about all the required transmission operations. In particular, the confirmation that the message was correctly received by the receiving operator. Those notes were also kept by the company.

The receiving office applied similar procedures to record on paper the reception of the message, the opening of account and the contact with the recipient. The latter having provided proof of identity, the office handed the agreed amount of money in exchange for a paper receipt.

Finally, confirmation of the transfer’s completion took the reverse path, always with similar paper recording procedures. So at last, the sender learned that the recipient had received money payment, reimbursement, assistance or gift.

Joint supports

The idea that self-contained information can, as is, travel or be preserved is true only for solid supports such as metal or paper.

As with the telegraph, any use of electric, light or radio waves requires a complicated and repetitive information edifice of both solid and electromagnetic supports. Even if only for bridging the tiniest distance between two sub-components within a same digital device. Of necessity, the same signal or knowledge will have to be replicated in many places. This, for any digital operation.

As we will see, such multiplication has implications for our interpersonal interactions.



  1. Hélène Bergeron says:

    Allo Pierrot,

    En vrac, petits paragraphes à enlever :
    le pincement au coeur…
    À chaque décharge électrique…

    L’avant dernier paragraphe Comme pour… pourrait-il être moins techniques ?

    • Pierrot Péladeau says:

      Merci. Je prends bonne note.

      Je me rends compte que version anglaise du paragraphe « Si pincement au coeur… » est plus claire. En outre, il pourrait être possible de contracter et intégrer au paragraphe suivant.

      Quant à celui « À chaque décharge électrique… », s’il est essentiel dans la partie un du livre centrée sur la matérialité de l’information, il pourrait apparaitre moins technique.

      Est-ce possible de rendre l’avant-dernier paragraphe moins technique ? Probablement aussi. Ou si pas moins « technique », plus familier.

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