We don’t store physical objects on our computers, only some representational extraction or picture of them , nor do we have, at least for the present I should add, anyway of getting our W2 thoughts unintermediated into our computers, or back again. We must always go through some inbetween of W3 representation; drawings, words, sound waves, whatever.
Our machines can swallow any W3 representation we can make – as the symbolic manifestation of an idea, but not as a corporal object. Ideas expressed in written language, or numbers, or some notational system such as that of music composition, can be passed on to our computers quite smoothly, since written language and other notational systems are already quantified to the equivalent of digitalization. But ideas as expressed in physical houses and bridges and paintings and music must be extracted and quantified first ( a process which of course preceded computers). Once that is accomplished, these expressions may be assimilated along with language and other notational systems into the digital realm. W3 becomes dW3, as the data of all media is digitalized; reduced to a serial representation of ones and zeros. The silicon wafers, magnetic filings, reflecting surfaces, and light years of copper and glass cables of the “world3” age become the hat rack for dW3.
But the process of transferring W3 into dW3 is not unproblematic. Remember W3 is already itself a code. If we see a beautiful landscape and wish to “immortalize” it, then we can paint it, photograph it, write or even sing about it. We express something about the landscape, and almost unfailingly we will apply style to these expressions – we will use the media of choice to personalize our perception of reality. And the media of choice, via it’s physical attributes will stylistically channel our efforts.
If one takes a snapshot in black and white today, it is rarely because colour is not available, but because we hope, by voluntarily removing colour, to dramatize the effect of the picture. If, when digitalizing our analogue b&w photos, we were forced to accept that they would be given back the colours we artfully removed, we would certainly be annoyed. The example is silly perhaps; we would expect the opposite if any thing – like turning a nice colour photo into a grainy b&w copy by sending it as a fax, but the point is that expression gained in the codification of W3 can be lost when transferring to dW3.1
When writing, we use the layout of text on the page to express meaning and certainly penmanship is a language of its own. To your child, who hasn’t picked up a thing off her floor for the last two weeks, you might write a note “Clean up your room!” There will no doubt be a great deal of determination in the way you layout your message, the size of your letters, the thickness of your pen strokes. When transferring W3 into dW3, there has always been a temptation to forgo these expressions of meaning through form and style, in order to save on bandwidth or storage space, or due to primitive technology. The precedent for this was of course the typewriter – though you could at least sign your letters. Though it might seem trivial to some, to others the inability of email to facilitate a handwritten signature is a serious deficiency.
Style can achieve a formal status in the codification of contracts, formulas and laws. There are many cases where the intent of a document can only be derived through the combined interpretation of words, formatting and layout. One of difficulties in transferring paper-based W3 into dW3, other than as digitalized photographic replicas, is the perceived loss of tacit intent expressed in text formatting and layout.
You would be forgiven for assuming that this problem is not insurmountable, but the difficulty is exacerbated when no formal laws govern or describe the methods of layout and style that have evolved though praxis. This is the case in Sweden, which still has no viable solution for giving legal status to dW3 encoded laws.
Once W3 becomes dW3, it gains entrance to the digital commonwealth. It can be stored in computers and transported over networks; but though this brings convenience, in many cases truly remarkable convenience, it is only the beginning of what we can do with dW3.
1Though some actually applaud this development: See http://www.ifla.org/documents/infopol/copyright/lanham1.htm
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