Ktismatics

30 July 2012

Blog Bog

Filed under: Psychology, Reflections — ktismatics @ 6:21 pm

There ought to be something I’d want to write about the latest book I finished reading: Understanding Consciousness (2009) by Max Bermans Velmans. The book is interesting and stimulating even if it’s not as provocative as, say, Metzinger’s Being No One. It covers a field of study with which I’m reasonably familiar. If I were to write about it I might achieve greater clarity as to what I think about the book and about consciousness.

It’s been nearly a month since I wrote my last post. I’ve thought about quitting before, often because I felt like the blog was a distraction from other activities to which I felt that I needed to make a more wholehearted commitment. Tomorrow I expect to finish drafting another long (>50K words) installment in my ongoing fictional project, so maybe not writing blog posts has kept me focused. It doesn’t feel that way though, and it certainly wasn’t through the self-discipline of not blogging that I’ve been able to wrap up the fiction piece.

Lately I feel indifferent with respect to the blog.

I’d read maybe half a dozen blog posts total before I started Ktismatics. Eventually I found myself peripherally associated with various “theory blogs.” My blogging has gone through some phases coinciding with my changing interests: Biblical studies, movies, psychology, philosophy, science, fiction. Usually I’ve been more interested in the discussions stimulated by my posts than by the posts themselves. For me those online conversations have proven entertaining, irritating, stimulating, distracting. I’ve learned a lot from my own blog.

Lately, though, I’m not that all that interested in initiating conversations.

I’ve done some commenting on other blogs — more commenting, in fact, than I’d done in the past two or three years. While I’ve been able to respond to others’ initiative in putting forward a topic, I find that those bloggers’ interests in their own topics seem to wane quickly, sometimes fizzling out even before I do.

In short, I think that many of the other bloggers too are experiencing indifference.

It’s not like I’ve just caught on to something that’s been going on for some time now. People who used to blog have moved on to Facebook, to Twitter, to Tumblr, to silence. Of course blogging has always had a strong nerd element, but now blogging has become a kind of retro hipster endeavor, a form of nostalgia.

Let me finish drafting my book tomorrow, then get started on editing it. Today I renewed Velmans’ book, which gives me another three weeks. Maybe something bloggable will inspire me before my memory of the book degrades substantially.

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14 Comments »

  1. Writing something out can be a way of getting it out and clarifying it. I fill notebooks with observations which I will never look at again. A blog can, for me, be an inbetween rough work jotter where I refuse to get involved in endless revision. Part of style is boldness of line that is firm and confident not tentative. Only when the meaning becomes muddied by parallel processing or taking both sides of the road at once should there be adjustment.

    You can’t keep up with hipsters, those sanctified bishops of the church of cool. Teach me to care and not to care, teach me to wear twill.

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 31 July 2012 @ 2:30 am

  2. You called him Max ‘Bermans’ in your first sentence, though you got it right in your last.

    I’d never heard of Metzinger before. I don’t know if he had made a splash before the first edition of Velmans’ book, but I don’t recall the name; and I’ve only just started the new edition – got interrupted a couple of months ago, mean to pick up again soon.

    I had a look at your previous posts on Metzinger’s book ‘the Ego Tunnel’, and the Amazon reviews of that and ‘Being No-one’. They look utterly fascinating, but a long slog, and a lot of work. I’m not sure I have enough background to take them on.

    One thing I’m pretty sure you could say about Velmans’ book is that just about anyone with a decent basic education and a bit of an interest should be able to follow it and enjoy it, and feel they have at least got a picture of the main areas of exploration in consciousness studies.

    I noticed in one of the reviews of Metzinger’s books a remark on Daniel Dennett’s ‘Consciousness Explained’ which made the observation I have often seen on this book that it precisely didn’t leave one feeling that consciousness had been explained. I gave up on it because it was about as readable as a telephone directory. I’ve read other things by Dennett which were very engaging, but in this one whatever gifts he has for story-telling get swamped by detail. Velmans can tell a story, hold the attention, and left me feeling if he hadn’t explained consciousness he’d at least explained the attempts to explain it.

    And now some of these reviewers go so far as to claim that Metzinger has indeed explained consciousness. I hope that proves more substantial than I feel the Higgs-Boson will turn out to be.

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    Comment by lafayettesennacherib — 31 July 2012 @ 3:34 am

  3. Now see, this is a provocative stimulus array you’ve laid out here, Michael — a round of buckshot scattered across a variety of targets. What do I think about style as something self-consciously cultivated versus something recognized by others? About the bold, the firm, and the confident — are they supremely indifferent to others’ opinions, or have they crafted a pose — a style — designed to attract others’ admiration? About whether I’d rather be bold or right? About the acute awareness of someone looking over my shoulder when I write a blog post, a venue in which the lag between writing and reading is reduced to the vanishing point? About whether clarity for me comes more from the writing or the discussion? About twill? About how self-professed indifference to cool is virtually emblematic of hipsterism?

    Now I feel like I’ve got to compartmentalize this burgeoning self-reflexivity for *one more day* so I can finish drafting the book without becoming overly self-conscious about my authordom.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 31 July 2012 @ 9:09 am

  4. Thanks for the error spotting, Laf — I fixed that first sentence. I’ve not read Metzinger’s Being No One, but I found The Ego Tunnel to be highly engaging and accessible to the non-specialist. There isn’t a vast divide between Metzinger’ view of consciousness and Velmans’ when it comes to what Velmans likes to call the third-person account. Clearly Velmans regards first-person subjectivity and phenomenology as important — after all, for Velmans consciousness just is subjectivity, is first-personhood. Metzinger in contrast wants to dismiss subjectivity altogether as epiphenomenon, as illusion. In this regard I side with Velmans. I think that both V and M understate the function of consciousness. As I said, maybe later I’ll get back to Velmans, which for me will require going back over portions of it.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 31 July 2012 @ 9:20 am

  5. John:
    Even if you retire your stuff will remain in the virtual akashic record. I think that the blog form can carry serious work and that it might be a forum where ideas could be brought out of the airless room of private speculation for consideration, ideas that could not breach the closed circle of academia. That isn’t to say that those ideas will be in their final state, rather a work in progress. For philosophy in any case being right lacks criteria, all one can hope for is to be interesting and to open up new areas of discussion. Metzinger in a formal way is one of those people, the little bits that I’ve read. The concept of the transparency of the cerebral data, the seeing through in both senses is an interesting one and not far from certain forms of realism. Must read more.

    Your work on the novel is going apace. Good luck

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    Comment by ombhurbhuva — 31 July 2012 @ 12:50 pm

  6. I’d not realized that we were contributing to the virtual akashic record — I like it.

    “I am a courier,” he said.

    … and that is THE END of the first draft — I believe it will be Indian food for my celebratory supper tonight.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 31 July 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  7. I just had another unsatisfying conversation on someone else’s blog. I thought things were going fairly well until the host asserted that from his standpoint the conversation had “failed.” It’s another piece of evidence supporting my view that I’m not presently in tune with the blogosphere.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 4 August 2012 @ 4:31 pm

  8. “While I’ve been able to respond to others’ initiative in putting forward a topic, I find that those bloggers’ interests in their own topics seem to wane quickly, sometimes fizzling out even before I do.”

    That description seems to fit me pretty well. But though it seems like my interest fizzled, it has more to do with my inability to manage work, fiction writing, family “crises” and blogging. I also have a problem with doing the sort of casual (for lack of a better word) blogging that my available time seems to dictate. I feel like I need to get things just right, and I don’t feel like it’s “right” for me to blog about things if I haven’t read and analyzed all of the relevant literature, etc. Which would be fine if I were retired or a graduate student, but doesn’t work so well when I’m doing contract work to pay the bills. And those feelings were somewhat heightened by the (relative) attention my blogging was getting because of the Deacon controversy.

    The sad thing is, I’m still extremely interested in the Deacon (physicalism, complexity, emergence, mind) conversation. I feel like you and I were actually pushing things forward, and that the discussion was helping to clarify my thoughts. So I really do apologize for fizzling.

    Maybe I need to find a way to make it more casual. But I don’t know if the public nature of blogging supports that, for me, especially when it’s possible for things to go the way they did on Dead Voles with the Deacon posts. I’m really skittish about getting something wrong and sounding like a moron.

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    Comment by Asher Kay — 8 August 2012 @ 10:35 am

  9. Oh I was just whining. I’d just finished writing something so I had too time on my hands and residual psychic angst to channel. In general I think that the blogs are less active than they used to be, but maybe the action has shifted to newer axes and nodes that I don’t feel like seeking out and cultivating. And as you can see, I haven’t retired from blogging yet.

    The Deacon discussion on your post at DV was remarkable and in my experience unprecedented. It was like you’d conjured the gods from Olympus to stage a throw-down in your living room. I too find that big posts and big discussions demand a lot of time and energy, and if you’ve got other important things on your mind you can do these big posts only intermittently. When commenting on someone else’s blog I feel less obligation to stay on topic and to do my homework. But I still feel the pressure to be right, maybe even more so than back here at home if the blog I’m visiting is a place where I don’t comment very frequently and where I don’t know the other commenters. I assume that commenters at Ktismatics know/tolerate my limitations. Plus I can go back and edit my stupidities if I realize them in time.

    I’m glad I read Deacon. You may have noticed that I invoked his constraint-propagation idea toward the end of the thread on the current post about Consciousness-Of. It’s a post that illustrates something about my blogging style: I tossed out something sketchy about a book I’d read, then started filling in the details and thinking more carefully about the content once someone came along to discuss it. Affect-wise, there is some sort of psychic energy circuit at work that links my passion/interest with others’ calling. If the circuit gets activated I put in the time and effort and emotion; if not, not.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 August 2012 @ 12:44 pm

  10. I think I need to get back to the place where you are. I was there once, and tossing stuff out was working for me. But Kvond’s bit about rigorousness in one of the threads really hit a nerve. Tossing stuff out there can be hugely valuable and invigorating, and it can take you in directions you didn’t expect. But I guess at the root of it, I’ve got these big questions that I want serious, specific answers to, and if I had total financial independence I’d probably be trying to write books about them. And I’d probably view blogging differently — more of a place to play and generate new sparks. At the moment, it just feels like a pale substitute for what I’d *like* to be doing. Having Olympians drop into one’s living room has a way of bringing that message home.

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    Comment by Asher Kay — 8 August 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  11. I can see what you mean about the pale substitute. You’d rather be set up in Deacon’s lab doing the work, discussing it with colleagues, writing papers, climbing the foothills of Olympus. Maybe that’s why the blog as a midlevel plateau has eroded: serious work goes on full-time elsewhere, while informal conversation among workers at disparate sites can happen on Twitter or email. Blogs are for hobbyists and wannabes and washouts. I’m feeling better about myself already…

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 August 2012 @ 1:39 pm

  12. Blogs are for hobbyists and wannabes and washouts. I’m feeling better about myself already…

    Are you not actually whining again? I never can figure out the seriousness with which people take bleugs. Just so they don’t fool with mine in any way that gives me displeasure, although they are sometimes allowed to disagree and be horrible.

    You all talk as if a bleug were something ‘specific’, or importantly specific, and when you say that ‘others have gone on to Twitter’, etc., they just did that most of the time because of their clique bullshit nature, and couldn’t write bleugs.

    But then, I don’t write a bleug like some research paper, and even during the worst part of the recent depression, I could usually do bleug posts. I wrote about Toni’s sodomy book the week I got back from that fat bitch’s torture, which helped me have a delayed reaction (sometimes it’s important to take inevitable misery and chop it up into digestible servings and that’s going to be necessary if you don’t really get into psychotic breaks (which I’ve never quite done.) But then again I’m considered frivolous by most of the types I got involved with on the net, and fortunately don’t give a shit what they think. I sometimes like other people’s posts and comments, but I almost always prefer to reread my own! Oh dear, that’s a terrible admission, but I even realized that you don’t have to ‘wait’ to take the first steps toward Virtual Reality Sex last night too–the basic idea is already out there, and what was wrong with it was that you leave THIS body and go out and enter some fantasy one and play with some fantasy others. No. You bring all that fantasy into this body, you buy it like new clothes, although it’s still extremely expensive. The CPC scene I went through was a good start now that I’ve gotten through the worst–but when we were first introduced to VR sex, it still always sounded like vicarious living, and you had to end up paying big money for immersing yourself too much as with RPG games, just like you’d have to pay the usual pusher too much for illicit drugs.

    I think it has to do with the way I make a difference between perfection and perfectionism, the latter which is often minute, too twee and cute, and can be the classical ‘anal’. Perfection isn’t the same at all, except that what used to be the perfectionism would just probably take care of itself (clean floors, etc., instead of filthy ones). But perfection could also be, for example, calm in the midst of a huge stinking mess, whereas perfectionism would just go into hysterics. Not that I don’t go back and forth with these, but remember those old rich people the daughter in ‘Point Omega’ looked after that were always spilling things? I start doing that when I get into perfectionism.

    To wit, there was some further polishing that went into that piece of drudge writing that continued seemingly effortlessly today. It bears no description at all, not being of interest to anyone immediately outside what it is. But I was thinking about aspects of it all night, and woke up at 2 a.m. and thought about one aspect of it for 5 hours until I finally figured out that I didn’t want the ‘professional’ to look at it, that that would be too dreadful, and not pleasantly laid-back.

    But then everybody has their ways of doing things. One can see you got into a better mood, though, if you referred to this post as a ‘whine’, because it you managed ‘I am a courier’, why the fuck would you care if the bleugs seemed paralyzed. I imagine it’s because you really like conversation on your bleug, and think it’s not really an ‘important bleug’ without conversation, but that greatest of all geniuses, k-punk, proved otherwise long ago, even if for the wrong reasons. Although he may also have been the one who stopped Power, Fox and all sorts of others from bleuging and ‘moving onto Twitter’ as you call it. Sometimes, generosity goes too far. Twitter is hard to see as much of anything at all. At least Facebook is Orwellian and horrible, but you drum up business that way.

    Of course, this is partially inspired by talk of ‘immortality’ in certain parts of black holes, something like that. How would you know it’s immortal. Did somebody say it was? How would they know, since they’re not. In that case, God exists, and he is those pieces of black hole, which may be Eternal Asshole. Also, the lafayette said something about ‘heat death’, but that might be immortal for the heat, mightn’t it? Doesn’t sound any dumber to be curious about than all these other maybes and maybe nots. I don’t see that ‘heat death’ means death for anything except everything but heat. Living heat then thrives.

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    Comment by Patrick J. Mullins — 8 August 2012 @ 2:16 pm

  13. Yeah. I’d like to be a Deacon or an Edelman’s programming bitch, essentially. Or I’d like to be writing a big tome that translates Deacon’s ideas into the realm of philosophy so that a proper discussion could actually occur there.

    But… I am definitely *not* saying that blogs are for hobbyists or washouts. I’m saying that *I*, personally, use them as a sort of weak surrogate for what I’d like to be doing if I had the time, money and freedom. It’s a result of how I’m seeing and using it, not of how it is — and certainly not how it is for everyone.

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    Comment by Asher Kay — 8 August 2012 @ 2:35 pm

  14. “if you managed ‘I am a courier’, why the fuck would you care if the bleugs seemed paralyzed. I imagine it’s because you really like conversation on your bleug,”

    That’s right on both counts. I do see the blog as a sort of hobby, and I do like the conversation. When writing the fiction it’s just me and the text; on the blog discussions I enjoy the written give-and-take. It’s also a stimulus to thinking about things I might otherwise ignore, limbering me up. It’s clear that blogs serve different purposes for different bloggers. I don’t “do” Twitter so I can’t say what really goes on there, other than chitchat among cliques. I’ve no intention of signing up now though, or of setting up a Facebook presence. And I am in a better mood. Black hole = Eternal Asshole = LOL.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 8 August 2012 @ 2:57 pm


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