This is what started it all...

Danny Yee (danny@MORIA.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Sat, 9 Apr 1994 15:27:00 +1000

The article which actually prompted my original comment about Derrida
was a piece by Marie Curnick (lecturer in Media Studies at the
University of Technology, Sydney) which I read in Arena Magazine (issue
10 Mar/Apr 1994), an Australian magazine devoted to 'left political,
social and cultural commentary'; it originally appeared in some general
arts conference. (Note that the audience in either case is fairly broad.)

The article starts of with a (reasonably sane) description of the history
of the Internet. It quickly goes off the deep end however, and here
is a representative paragraph. (The context doesn't help; if you don't
believe me I am prepared to type the whole article in.)

| 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.

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.

[ If anyone can tell me what a "speed ratio" is and what it has to do
with data processing, I'd love to know. Or what grounds anyone has for
thinking that information is defined any differently on the Internet to
elsewhere. Or what a "differential fragment" of DNA is. Or why a
purported truth of genetics implies anything about language use on the
Net. Or... It is possible that the last sentence of the paragraph would
make some sense if I had read enough Derrida, but if so it will have to
stand on its own, as the rest of the paragraph isn't helping it at all. ]

Now why is it that every time I see Derrida's name appear, it is on
something like this? Why is it that everytime deconstructionism is
combined with a subject I *do* know something about, the writer clearly
demonstrates that they don't know a thing about the areas where I do
have the competence to judge them?

And yes, I know people who don't really understand mathematics easily
(and often) misuse it. But *they get corrected* by people who do
understand it. If what I'm seeing is all produced by people who don't
really understand Derrida or deconstructionism, then why do all the
people who *do* understand it remain silent? Perhaps deconstructionist
theory really is wonderful and its just an accident that all attempts
to *apply* it are failures? :-)

Danny Yee.

P.S. This is an article that purports to be an introduction to the
Internet. It begins "The InterNet is a global network of networks. It
started with the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department
of Defense in 1969 with its four host computer systems at UCLA, UC Santa
Barbara, Stanford and the University of Utah, but it wasn't until 1976...".
It is *not* a piece of poetry, although phrases like "kinetic longitude"
make me wonder.