This is what started it all...

Mon, 11 Apr 1994 12:25:00 PDT

Yee quotes the following as an example of an obscure argument. I am not sure
I agree with Yee.
He quotes:

| On the InterNet all movements are speed ratios for the processing,
| storage and transmission of data. Every channel carrying information
| also produces noise and non-sense. Information is defined not by meaning
| but by the difference between meaning and non-meaning. Its kinetic
| longitude is defined by ratios of information to noise. This recognition
| of the importance of noise and non-sense in information systems is
| crucial. It has, for example, brought about a complete rethinking of the
| nature of genes in the biological sciences. Rather than thinking of
| human genes as being continuously joined like beads on a string of DNA,
| they are now conceived of as made up of differential fragments which
| alternate with 'junk' or non-sense along a DNA strand or channel. When a
| gene is 'expressed', that is when it is useful (making a specific
| protein to help a bodily function), its fragments have to be spliced
| together. This is done by clipping out the non-sense or junk.
| Therefore, language on the Net, which is also a system of information
| channels or strands, needs to be conceived of as 'writing' in Derrida's
| sense, that is, as a system of inscribed differences emerging as a
| selection from a reservoir of non-sense, etching its differences on the
| surface of bodies and returning to the murmur of the source.

Yee then writes:

"Would any of the defenders of obscurity care to tell me what useful
purpose this paragraph serves? I personally think it is a load of garbage
that serves only to demonstrate the author's complete lack of knowledge
about the Internet and about biology, her dishonesty in attempting to
use jargon from said areas to intimidate her audience (most of whom
wouldn't know any better) and her inability to think coherently."

I am no defender of obscurity, but I would have to take exception with Yee's
comment. The author is constructing an interesting analogy between how
information is structured on the Internet, how information is structured in
DNA and supposedly how Derrida views writing (for the latter I plead
ignorance). I read the paragraph as roughly saying that if one were
observing the internet (not the users of the internet, but the internet
itself) one finds movement of bytes; for movement of bytes a parameter
of concern is how many and how rapidly can bytes be handled; that the signal
in a channel contains (non-contiguous) packets of information interspersed
with "noise" (non-sense); that the "size" of a packet of information can be
measured in terms of kinetics with the non-sense (noise) portion used as a
yardstick. I understand the paragraph to go to say that this is analogous to
DNA where a gene is now no longer perceived of as a continuous segment of
DNA, (in contrast to when it was thought that all of the DNA represented
coding of proteins and each protein corresponded to a single, contiguous
segment of DNA) but as fragments in non-contiguous locations. Further, (as I
recall reading recently) only about 5% of the DNA is thought to be involved
in proteins responsible for what we refer to as traits; i.e, the bulk of the
DNA intersperesed among these fragments is "nonsense" at least with respect
to these proteins. Thus with DNA, as with transmissions in the internet,
what seems to be critical is how these disconnected fragements, interspersed
with "noise" [obviously it isn't noise in the sense of
random signals, but "noise" in contrast to the packets (internet) or
fragments of DNA for traits] are "reconnected" when those packets/fragments
are being invoked [received at the destination for the internet, used to
produce a protein for the DNA]. I take it that the reference to Derrida is
that writing, even though it is in the form of words making up sentences,
etc., is of a similar nature in that the information content is broken up and
dispersed in the collection of words and is put back together at the time of
reading; i.e., one can't link idea A to words 568 through 986; idea B to
words 987 to 1065, etc. but that idea A might be in words 568- 590, in part,
in words 1020 - 1040, in part, etc. and the stuff in between, while non-sense
(from the view point of ideas A, B, etc.,) is inextribably part of what makes
writing, writing.

I may be totally wrong in my reading of this paragraph; if so, then Yee's
claim is supported.

D. Read