this site’s themes

I’ve picked some major themes in order to focus my writing, somewhat related to communications theory. This keeps my site rather constrained, and should give any potential contributors an idea of what sort of pieces I’d like to publish alongside mine.

The questions I’m trying to answer: how can we more effectively communicate with one another? What always astonishes me is how content people are with flawed communications sytems. For a simple example, think of the the telephone system before caller ID. How could anyone possibly use that? Our Internet communications era is still in the age of the “Model T”. Great prototypes, they move people around, but there’s still a terrific amount ahead. What I do is ask questions, do analysis, and then try to build software modules to support it.

Through the themes below, These themes cut across various realms (Media, Politics, Commerce). I have broken them into subthemes to further classify some of the essays. (Note that Drupal’s hierarchy at left does not aggregate all pieces from the sub themes, which is too bad. I’ll have to look into fixing it.)


Here I look at communications systems and standards. I am concerned with the use of language, and the development of systems which support them. In Lexicon I write about some of contemporary jargon– for example, analyzing the words “blog” and its spinoff “k-log”, and also discuss the etymology of my own word, “civ”. I also am interested in the language of visual design. I’m a devotee of Edward Tufte, and have written some reports here about good website layout.

I also found myself writing a number of pieces on what I would have filed under “civility”, but that would have overlapped with the website title. Instead I call it familiarity— by considering that there are some things which we want to be familiar with, like our fellow usernames on the Internet, and some things we don’t want, like Janet Jackson’s striptease malfunction.


Malcolm Gladwell wrote a popular book about social networks a few years back called The Tipping Point, and this near-coincided with the rise of social networking tools on the Internet, such as Friendster (where you can find my profile). Other guiding themes stem from Jeremy Rifkin’s The Age Of Access (where, as the U.S. implores, “all of life is be a paid-for experience”). While Rifkin’s critical focus is on the decline of ownership, I instead celebrate the new markets of access for things that can’t be owned, such as other people’s time. So here I’ve starting writing about how this is reflected in fundraising and advertising. I also discuss security and trust as a part of this theme.


Lastly I believe that people should be communicating towards constructive ends. I agree much with Deborah Tannen’s assessment that we have an argument culture, and this poisons our civic discourse. What people forget is the fundamental concept of reciprocity, as described by Amy Gutmann, which provides for accomodation of minority viewpoints. These are useful thoeries, but consensus is elusive to the online world and many familiar offline settings as well. Other things I’m looking into is a way to see how objectively measure how strong or weak various ideas are.