From Odes to Nodes [Book Excerpt]

“Sing, O muse, of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans”, rhythmically went the first line of  the Iliad, imprinted in the minds and hearts of generations of rhapsodes. It was the dactylic hexameter (the rhythmic scheme) of the poem and the poetic workings (the rhetorical power ) of the narrative that  served as mnemonic aid, allowing one to recite from memory from all the epic poem’s 16 000 verses.

It was not until 6th century BC  that the Homeric epic got written down and started to live its live outside the memory of the people, inside a papyrus and thousands of centuries later, in print. Today, we will find the Homeric epic stored as data bits in the billions of transistors, part of the memory chips of servers, racked somewhere around the world, serving millions of users around the Globe. Not only the text of the epic is connected and networked from the inside – as connected data bits on a memory chip, but it is also budding with connections, linking data, people, things and thoughts. Everyone with a computer logged on the Internet has access to it via the Web.

From the odes and the rhythm of the hexameter as a mnemonic technique holding the collective memory in peculiar ways, specific of the orality culture of early Antiquity, all the way to humming noise of the servers, all around the globe, holding mind-boggling number of information bits and serving as memory containers it is knowledge and experience  that we seek to communicate,  record, preserve, and transfer in the best possible way.

Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.

cit.  Vannevar Bush, As We May Think

Today we remember and record using all conceivable means, mostly digital. And odes are somewhat left behind. Although odes in a way have remained in our practices for collective memories (think storytelling), next to them, another… Click To Tweet

Today we remember and record using all conceivable means, mostly digital. And odes are somewhat left behind. Although odes in a way have remained in our practices for collective memories (think storytelling),  next to them, another powerful ”techne” serves us as an external memory. It is the”techne” of nodes.

 

TOWARDS A POETIC PERSPECTIVE OF NODES

In computer science, a node is a device or a data point in a interconnected structure. The concept works on many levels – the Internet, the Web, a database and can be generally defined as a point of intersection/connection within a network. The layers of different nodes constructing various networks of devices and information (e.g. the Internet, the Web) re very well depicted here:

ref. slide 8 in From Knowledge Bases to Knowledge Infrastructures for Intelligent Systems by Mathieu d’Aquin at: https://www.slideshare.net/mdaquin/from-knowledge-bases-to-knowledge-infrastructures-for-intelligent-systems

As a concept, the node existed long before it came to mean an element in a mathematical construct (the graph),  and later lend itself to computer science and be used to denote a type of a data object (in a graph structure).

A radiant node or cluster … from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing,

wrote Ezra Pound, yet for another time showing how it is all connected and even the idea of a space of linked objects has been there, in the minds of those enquiring within upon everything, waiting to become an inseparable part of text and thought.

Many many years after the first message,  reading “lo”, was sent across the ARPANET’s first node  (ARPANET was the technical foundation of the Internet,  we have highly interconnected data architectures, the most rich and elaborate ones built of linked nodes. With an increasing number of connected nodes (think on macro level: servers on micro level: data pieces), writing we are spinning the fibers of language into rich digital patterns (and servers across the World).

With an increasing number of connected nodes (think on macro level: servers on micro level: data pieces), writing we are spinning the fibers of language into rich digital patterns (and servers across the World). Click To Tweet

The latter forming the so called Graph Structures.

Knowledge, the Graph and the New Writing Order

to be continued …

This was an excerpt (a third draft, finally!) of an essay called From Odes to Nodes, part of my book The Brave New Text.

This post first appeared at: www.teodorapetkova.com/poiesis-of-relationships/from-odes-to-nodes-book-excerpt/

From Odes to Nodes [Book Excerpt]

by Teodora Petkova time to read: 3 min
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