Media, Information & Me
Gregory Bateson calls information a difference that makes a difference. What makes a difference? Anything I can get my mind on! All the world is a source of learning, as long as I mind. The reflection of the sunlight on the water may lead one to enlightenment it is said in Tibetan Tantrism.
I need information like a bird needs the air to fly. But my needs are dressed in different questions:
basic questions-with-one-answer, the stuff-that-has-many-answers and needs the best one, the stuff-of-life-that-has-no-answer.
In dealing with questions-with-one-answer I can hunt for the answer and I'll know when I'm there. When the question is there the hunt is on. No question, no hunt. In finding the answer I may use anything: thoughts (is the mind a medium ?), books, magazines or people.
With the stuff-that-has-many-answers the game is different: there is a best answer, but you don't know where it is. To get the best answer I have to be 'in the know', soaring like an eagle over the field. The eagle's flight lets me spot my target. Spanning a field of knowledge requires breadth and depth. Magazines, bookstores, conversations, and seminars I attend help me to develop breadth of knowledge, extending above and beyond the known. The depth I get from books and conversations, differentiating the known into ever richer sources of distinction. Lectures I have to give force me to integrate these, interweaving breadth and depth into conceptual structures that turn into stepping stones.
The stuff-of-life-that-has-no-answer concerns life itself and the answer is my living. Being human I am free to choose: either I may live the answer while looking the other way or I may mind it. I like to mind the answer. I go visit philosophers of different cultures on the pages of their writings. The subject is me, the goal is human living. Information defines me defining information. This age is first where one may read the wise like Confucius or Lao Tze, the Indian sages, ancient African stories, Jewish and Islamic sources by just picking up their books. The world's cultural heritage is accessible. As a classicist once remarked: I work together with many people. Many of which are dead of course... It's mind turning to mind, time collapsing.
The specific, the general and the movement between them is what keeps my mind going: like the waves are the expression of the sea. As information is the difference that makes the difference, distinction is the source of life. I create distinction, it is not there all by itself. As a human being I imbue these with meaning and with that I shape life.
A medium is there when I see the distinctions it carries for me. Anything that carries distinction carries life with it. My media are anything that carries differences: the day, the night, the flower, the rainbow, a book. a magazine, a conversation, a look: they all spell life.
Media, information and me are like Life. As they say: life is putting your finger in the pie: in which we are the pie, the finger and the putting.
(bio corrected in 2020: changed "computer-supported corporate work" —> "computer supported cooperative work" Because this is the term Bert must have meant when he gave our editor a quick phrase for this)