Monday, July 25, 2005

Cut and Paste Culture

Biked only from 9 to 11 yesterday morning, 28 miles, a little faster than usual -- which I would say indicates that I am normally dragging the 3rd hour when I bike 3 hrs. Got back before the heat got too brutal. High tomorrow is supposed to be 98. No biking last weekend, rain from here to Owensboro.

Finished Dan Simmons' "Olympos" yesterday. He writes so well. I think I read in the preface to Lattimer's translation of "The Iliad" (or in TOOCITBOTBM) that the stock descriptions of the characters in Homer were normally used to fill out the line of iambic pentameter. Hence, "the fleet-footed mankiller Achilles" or "Hera of the white arms". Simmons is all over that.

Re our title, "Ilium/Olympos" does wind up being, "consciousness is a quantum standing wave" (glad that the cyborgs in the story raspberry that), so all fictional creation creates alternative universes. So, feel free to reuse other characters! Wired had an article on cut and paste culture, sampling, etc. But, if it's all just memes breeding in our heads, I find it much more appealing when a new life form is created, rather than a chimera of other pieces. Like in Simmons "Hyperion", the Shrike, who Simmons created earlier in a short story, became a new thing -- yes, I'm sure derived from many other things, but still representing a new synthesis.

Maybe it's the volume of culture currently being emitted that forces and encourages cut & paste. Seems like that puts us in a positive feedback loop -- sampling the samplers.

I guess it's like the "build vs. buy" decision in developing software. It's been supplemented by a 3rd option, google for the code you need -- more a flavor of "build" than "buy"? Still, commercial software isn't culture. It is creativity targeted to meet a business need / use cases.

So, maybe the cut & paste stuff is culture, but I think that it ain't art, except in the cases where someone comes up with a whole new way to do it. I think that's what my oldest daughter the artist would say anyway.

This makes me think of a short story by Bruce Sterling where AI does everything and all humans are artists. Cut & paste certainly makes that future easier. I remember my kids taking great pains to make up playlists of songs for various occasions, making sure they had just the right songs in just the right order for the desired mood. Same thing for photo albums or collages. Definitely a lot of creativity going on there, but not something I would ever think of doing -- I set my iTunes smart playlists on Shuffle so I can play "name that tune". And, it totally escapes me why anyone would agonize over making sure they have exactly the right ring tones on their cell phone. Definitely a generational thing, the dumbass (me) is definitely an old man, Dorian Gray musical interests aside ;->

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