Monday, September 26, 2005

More pattern recognition

Maybe there's a pattern here. I'm reading William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. He references "apophenia" (see the 8/30/05 post below), a term which, I like to think, I came across on my own, by as much accident as web crawling and googling can be. Not that it matters -- inspired by, learning from, borrowing, building on the borrowed, cross pollination. A quote from Marshall McLuhan in "Media and Cultural Change" (in Essential McLuhan, edited by Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone, 1995, BasicBooks): "If the business of the teacher is to save the student's time..." How development is done.

For example, Gibson (publish date 2/03): "Homo sapiens are about pattern recognition, [Parkaboy, one of the characters] says." Ray Kurzweil, quoted in Steven Gibson's Emergence (publish date 8/02): "Humans are far more skilled at recognizing patterns than in thinking through logical combinations... Indeed, pattern recognition comprises the bulk of our neural circuitry."

No surprise -- themes? memes? circulating. Cultural echoes. Resonance. The "quality of the time" expressing itself.

On a separate track (but really, how separate can it be?) I am also reading David Abram's remarkable The Spell of the Sensuous (more on this in a future post I hope). In one section he discusses the impact of the phonetic alphabet on consciousness -- references to McLuhan's Gutenberg Galaxy among others. So me digging out the book referenced above, and then coming across this (bear with me through the extended quote):

[Harold Innis] changed his procedure from working with a 'point of view' to that of generating insights by the method of 'interface,' as it is named in chemistry. 'Interface' refers to the interaction of substances in a kind of mutual irritation. In art and poetry this is precisely the technique of 'symbolism' (Greek 'symballein' -- to throw together) with its paratactic procedure of juxtaposing without connectives. This interplay of aspects [as is likelier to happen in conversation or dialogue -- jd] can generate insights or discovery. By contrast, a point of view is merely a way of looking at something. But an insight is the sudden awareness of a complex process of interaction.

Following an interesting observation that the process of transferring data, information, knowledge to computer tape -- he was writing this in the early 1960s -- required people to look at the knowledge structurally -- to understand the form of the knowledge: "This has led to the discovery of the basic difference between classified knowledge and pattern recognition."

And then McLuhan quotes from Kenneth Sayre's 1963 Modelling the Mind:

Classification is a process, something that takes up one's time, which one might do reluctantly, unwillingly or enthusiastically, which can be done with more or less success, done very well or very poorly. Recognition, in sharp contrast, is not time-consuming. A person may spend a long while looking before recognition occurs, but when it occurs, it is "instantaneous." When recognition occurs, it is not an act which would be said to be performed either reluctantly or enthusiastically, compliantly or under protest. Moreover, the notion of recognition being unsuccessful, or having been done very poorly, seems to make no sense at all.



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