Monday, November 2, 2009

With All This Information, Does Theory Even Matter Anymore?

Žižek tells me a story about a friend of his going to meet Noam Chomsky, the "most influential public intellectual" in America. "My friend told me Chomsky said something very sad. He said that today we don't need theory. All we need to do is tell people, empirically, what is going on. Here, I violently disagree: facts are facts, and they are precious, but they can work in this way or that. Facts alone are not enough. You have to change the ideological background."
From The New Statesman interview with Slavoj Zizek

Because of the amount of information out there available/accessable on the internet, what's important is no longer the information but the filtering systems we use to sort and understand it.

Our human filtering systems are our theories, how we choose to see the world. These we cannot help but process information and events through. Even before we consciously process a decision or opinion, the concept has become laden with associations and past-opinions held about it.

This is why it theory is important, contrary to Chomsky above (or Brian Eno here in Prospect Magazine). The vast "synergy of information" (Eno's term) does open innumerable possibilities, but the frame for us to process and view it though can't be made of the facts as well --you can't define something by using itself.

Two posts in two days! My god! 

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1 comment:

  1. If Chomsky said that, he really must be past it. But you got there first, I don't have to fulminate when you have done the critical jobb neatly. At first sight, "facts" sounds unarguable. We think of the fingerprint on the bloodstained knife at the murder scene: a building block of theory as to whodunnit.

    But except in special situations, facts are not like that. Nor is "information". It's that filtering, as you say, that identifies the piece of information in the first place. Reality isn't a vast array of pixels in the cosmic database of time and space. That, and every other way of seeing reality, is an interpretation, or to an academic, a theory.

    The Internet's information is a vast collection of the coprolites of human brain-activity: not life but the fossilized shit thereof. That's my theory.