Progression 1: Draft 1
Language – be it in the form of a piece of software, a book, a magazine, a newspaper, a song, a speech – has always been the focus of my life, and that thereof humanity’s. Even before I knew language, I babbled in an instinctive attempt at partaking in the infinite exchange of knowledge that language founds. Now that I’ve mastered the tool that is English, now that I understand the meaning of words, the people who use them, the kinds of phrases those people use, and the kinds of ideas those people think about, I can sort through vast mountains of information, and find information otherwise inaccessible. What I’m referring to is Google – but not in the way that most everybody uses it, and thinks of it.
Daniel Russell is a researcher at Google in “Information Retrieval and the Web”, his job is to literally “study the way people search and research“. What he has discovered is that in order to find the right information that flows from the human stream of consciousness into the sea that is the internet, we need to remember that there are people behind those ideas, those words – and that those humans from many different parts of the world use words of their social group to refer to universal ideas. Russell, as described in an article written by John Tedesco, spoke at an investigative reporter’s conference, and stumped the crowd – asking:
His answer boils down to questions of context – the little details that, together, form meaning. Tedesco says to “Think about how somebody else would write about the topic” – i.e. how they would use slang, the contents of their dictionary, the memes of their time, the kind of place they live in. John McWhorter exemplifies “Edward Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:””:
“The whole engagement lasted above twelve hours, till the graduate retreat of the Persians was changed into a disorderly flight, of which the shameful example was given by the principal leaders and the Surenas himself.”
That’s beautiful, but let’s face it, nobody talks that way. Or at least, they shouldn’t if they’re interested in reproducing. That — (Laughter) is not the way any human being speaks casually.
But really – what he’s referring to is the style of one social group, the style of one culture, their method of intergroup discrimination, their way of identifying themselves as themselves and nobody else, their haecceity itself – a far deeper phenomenon than history nerd vs casual speech.
For example – if you wanted to know why transmitting data serially (one-at-a-time) is faster than parallel (many-at-a-time), as I did on May 29th of this year – sociolinguistic context (as I’ll call it) can mean the difference between an in-depth academic review and amateur guessing.
This kind of fundamental relationship isn’t just limited to raw text search, however. Wikipedia, perhaps the best implementation of hypertext (as Ted Nelson intended)