Here’s some information about information about information. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It’s meta information… like in the title and it’s EVERYWHERE. It’s a trip when you think about it. This entry was written for 52’s blog by Brian Belefant whose link to more info is included in the body. Thanks Brian!
A picture used to be worth 1,000 words. But thatʼs no longer enough. When I import a picture into Aperture, I can append it with 52 meta tags –– words that describe everything from the focal length I shot it at to its copyright.
This may seem fairly benign, but when youʼre sitting in the Newark Airport for five hours waiting to make a connecting flight –– as I am –– you have lots of time to explore implications.
My first notion is to think of it in economic terms. What used to be worth 1,000 words is now worth 1,052. Thatʼs a five percent rate of inflation, or deflation, depending on whether youʼre talking about the pictures or the words.
Words about pictures is only one thing, though. I write a blog (www.60secdirector.blogspot.com). Recently, I had a slightly uneasy feeling when I found out that people were blogging about my blog.
Sure, itʼs flattering. But some of the blogs that blogged about my blog have larger readerships than I do. Isnʼt that weird?
And then thereʼs the part about the information itself. My blog provides information –– itʼs bite-sized lessons on directing for aspiring filmmakers. But when someone blogs about my blog, theyʼre providing information about information.
And what about twittering, googling, facebooking, linking, tagging, and all those other verbs that didnʼt even exist 15 years ago, but now have infected our language to the point that theyʼre better understood than concepts that many would argue contribute more to our body of knowledge? Can you distinguish between “continuous” and “continual”? I canʼt. I used to know the difference. Now I have to look it up. But I can tell you how a blog is different from a tweet. Does that mean information about information supplanting information itself?
(Okay, bad example. “Continuous” and “continual” are words about information. But you get my point.)
Wandering around the terminal for the fifteenth time, I pass Starbucks. They have nine different words to describe coffee mixed with milk. And Iʼm not even talking about sizes or the adjectives you can apply to fine-tune your purchase, like “wet”, “dry”, “no-foam”, and “extra-hot.”
Outside Hudson News, thereʼs a huge poster for ʻLuckyʼ. An ad for a magazine dedicated to shopping. Or to put it another way, an ad for a collection of ads and information, much of which, Iʼm sure, refers to other information –– books, other magazines, movies.
If you buy the magazine, they put it in a plastic bag with pictures of magazine covers on it, presumably to advertise their availability to the other passengers waiting five hours to make a connection. Hudson News recruits you to disseminate information about information about information.
Inside Hudson News, my eye is drawn to a particular book. ʻPreciousʼ. Based on the movie ʻPreciousʼ, which was based on the book ʻPushʼ.
A book based on a movie based on a book? They should make a movie about that. And if it does well, they can turn it into a book. And so on.
A couple more hours of introspection and I realize that all of this is inevitable. The information age is, after all, about information. And now that there’s so much of it, someone has to devise ways to make sense of it all. More important, to make money off of it.
Speaking of money, remember back in 1971 when Nixon took the US dollar off the gold standard? Okay, me neither. But it was big news back then. Suddenly, a dollar wasn’t a proxy for a specified amount of a certain metal; a dollar was worth, well, whatever you could buy for it. Dollars went from being currency to information –– a representation of our consensus about objectsʼ and servicesʼ relative worth.
Thatʼs pretty analogous to the situation weʼre in now with information about information. If information is gold, then information about information is dollars, yen, pounds, pesos, and all the other pieces of paper that represent agreement not only about the relative values of commodities, but about each other.
I donʼt know if that blows your mind, but it blows mine. Especially when you extend the analogy to the explosion of options, derivatives, credit default swaps, tranches, and myriad other ways that money has been parsed since it stopped being money.
As they finally start boarding my flight, I realize that weʼre standing on the shore of a vast, unexplored continent of information about information and Iʼd be lying to you if I told you that a five-hour layover in Newark gave me the insight to see what itʼs going to look like once we get past the beach. All I know is that change is coming. And once it comes, there aint no going back.
And then I think, you know what? Someday, someone a couple of generations younger than me might find himself with five hours to kill while waiting to board a “flight” over the continent of meta-information. And maybe heʼll realize that once again, the landscape with which heʼs familiar –– the land he can comfortably soar over, recognizing the patterns that seem so perfectly obvious from 30,000 feet up –– is about to be supplanted by an entirely new paradigm of understanding.
Maybe heʼll think back to us and think, “How charming they seem now, those early pioneers who forged into the unknown and tried to make sense of it.”
Put that in your blog. Just, you know, please be sure to spell my name right.