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I Think I'm Turning Into Tocqueville, I Really Think So - De File
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I Think I'm Turning Into Tocqueville, I Really Think So
I've been experimenting, fitfully, with other "delivery systems" for my words over the past month. Getting a new phone and an unlimited data plan to match has radically changed the way I relate to the internet. I'm not sure I'm happy about that, though. Or, rather, I'm not sure that I like what this reorientation of my approach has done to my reading. My sense is that phone-based communication, which puts word count at a premium, is doing the same thing to social networking that tighter word counts at newspapers and magazines did for journalism. It often feels to me like reducing missives below a certain threshold evacuates them of substance to such a degree that the world would be better off without them. Mind you, I have rationalized the virtues of economy. I can see the appeal of OULIPO-style constraints on my own writing and those of people who share my conviction that prose should strive for effects, like poetry, that can't be wholly retranslated into factual data. But I struggle to live up to that standard in my own micro-communications and get the sense, further, that a lot of the people who favor that mode of exchange aren't even trying to write creatively within those constraints. And that saddens me, both because I miss the sort of extended Live Journal entries from which I could extract nuance even in the absence of good writing and because I fret that I'm becoming the sort of elitist I have historically submitted to withering critique. Still, I wonder whether the latest round of "democratization" in the domain of new media, in which word counts make it hard for all but the most adept stylists to publish consistently captivating material, isn't propelling us into a future where aesthetic judgments become harder and harder to sustain.

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tommix From: tommix Date: January 3rd, 2009 09:49 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Long live excess

I vote for La Part maudite. Fuck OULIPO.

Couldn't excess and limitation overlap, alla punk?

Your phone could have a solar anus.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 4th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: Long live excess

Give me a bigger word count or give me death!

(And my phone came with a proprietary solar anus, the sort that tastes of chromium steel and blackberries.)
chefxh From: chefxh Date: January 3rd, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
the sort of extended Live Journal entries from which I could extract nuance even in the absence of good writing

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 4th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Don't you miss those? The rambly, oddly formatted sort that go on for several screens? They are an endangered species in my region of Live Journal. Even more scare than memes.
From: babyiwasshot Date: January 4th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I have a hair-brained theory† that relates to this.

I believe the clarity of anglo-american non-fiction prose vis-á-vis continental non-fiction prose derives from its economy and its dependence upon format/formula; moreover, given this dependence upon formula/convention, anglo-american writing is more generic (i.e. "like a genre")....

†NOTE: this piece is an example of something from which you can "extract nuance even in the absence of good writing" haha. My "nuances": the slash(/), the parenthetical interruption, etc.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 4th, 2009 04:55 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I can see that. It's certainly shorter. A newspaper article in French or German always take up more space.
From: babyiwasshot Date: January 5th, 2009 01:24 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The whole cultural element of continetal writing is interesting, too. The fact that Deleuze & Guattari's Capitalism and Schizophrenia was a bestseller in France presumbaly indicates that a great deal of people in that country understood it, which I take as evidence of better public education system because I, as an american, can't penetrate it unassisted (yet).....or, rather, perhaps it indicates the manner in which continental countries emphasize humanities education over math and the sciences.....overall, I just feel dumber as a consequence of my public schooling and my situation in anglo-american culture. It's tough (perhaps even impossible, to an extent) to teach oneself this stuff.
From: babyiwasshot Date: January 4th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The more that I think about this--on account of the fact that many people have tried to get me to submit to the mandates of the Anglo-American style bible--the more that I conclude that apprehension of the message (content) is all that matters, be the writing terse or verbose.

Further, it's strange that clarity is often associated with economy in writing, whereas in formal logic it is associated with "verbosity" and hyper-definition.

E.g. (taken from a basic textbook on sentential logic):

the class of symbolic sentences can be exhaustively characterized as follows:

(1) Sentence letters, that is, capital letters 'P' through 'Z' with or without numerical subscripts are symbolic sentences.
(2) The result of prefixing the negation sign '˜' to a symbolic sentence is a symbolic sentence...

People who subscribe to Strunk & White might criticize #2, for instance, for it's redundancy ("negation sign" and "˜" are the same; therefore, eliminate one of 'em), and yet formal logic requires "exhaustive" definition....

Hence why, in my own writing, I often use the "slash" (/), the parenthetical, etc. I'm hyper-defining....I figure that if one states the same thing in two different ways, for instance, clarity is augmented, as it increases the reader's chances of latching onto the meaning. The reader may not understand the idea as it is expressed in sentence 1, but he/she may understand it as it is expressed in sentence 2; the fact that 1&2 express the same thing may be redundant, yet how "detrimental" is that redundancy if it enables the reader to apprehend the message

I dunno; these are the arguments I use to justify my own verbosity......
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 4th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Redundancy has a lot to be said for it. That applies to the propositional content of utterances as well as the shades of nuance that complement and supplement that content. Indeed, one of the reasons why I like longer writing is that it usually comes with multiple statements of the same point, which I can then play off against each other in order to derive meaning that the speaker might not have intended consciously.
From: e4q Date: January 4th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
free glitter text and family website at FamilyLobby.com
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 4th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Ooh, intriguing. But I can't read the words!
From: e4q Date: January 4th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

turning japanese

cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: January 4th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: turning japanese

Ah, that makes sense. I had suspected that it was "haiku", but it displayed in a fractured way for some reason. I like the ambiguity, though! And I like your new LJ icon, too.
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