The Civil War was the first “modern war.” Abraham Lincoln became president of a divided nation during a period of both technological and social revolution. Among the many modern marvels was the telegraph, which Lincoln used to stay connected to the forces in the field in almost real time. No leader in history had ever possessed such a powerful tool. As a result Lincoln had to learn for himself how to use the power of electronic messages. Without precedent to guide him, Lincoln developed his own model of electronic communications — an approach that echoes today in our use of email.
I found this story (and the image) on Lifehacker the other day and since it is an Illinois kind of story, I had to include it here. The subject line quote is from a note sent by Lincoln to Mary Todd on April 28, 1864. Mrs. Lincoln and Tad were in New York and Tad was concerned about his pets.
Reporters Without Borders compiled a questionnaire with 52 criteria for assessing the state of press freedom in each country. It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment).
It registers the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for such violations. It also takes account of the legal situation affecting the news media (such as penalties for press offences, the existence of a state monopoly in certain areas and the existence of a regulatory body) and the behaviour of the authorities towards the state-owned news media and the foreign press. It also takes account of the main obstacles to the free flow of information on the Internet.
The report from Reporters sans Frontieres isn’t surprising in many ways. It notes that freedom of the press is “threatened most in East Asia (with North Korea at the bottom of the entire list at 167th place, followed by Burma 165th, China 162nd, Vietnam 161st and Laos 153rd) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia 159th, Iran 158th, Syria 155th, Iraq 148th).”
As a creative exercise in history and language, let me plagiarize what the New York Times said about President Clinton in 1998:
Has the Defense Secretary read too much French literary theory? Is he our first postmodernist, poststructuralist, deconstructionist leader, averring that objectivity is impossible, meaning self-contradictory, and reality socially constructed through language?
No. Mr. Rumsfeld has long realized that language does have a systematic though complex relation to reality. His semantic arguments, if ultimately unsuccessful, have shown an acute understanding of the logic and psychology of language.
The world is analog; language is digital. A tape measure shows that people’s heights vary continuously, but when we talk about them, we face a choice between ”tall” and ”short.” People who describe themselves as ”middle-aged,” ”gray” and ”wise” cannot pinpoint the instant they became so. Words are anchored to endpoints, but the continuum between them may be up for grabs.
A tag cloud (or weighted list in visual design) can be used as a visual depiction of content tags used on a website. Often, more frequently used tags are depicted in a larger font or otherwise emphasized, while the displayed order is generally alphabetical. Thus both finding a tag by alphabet and by popularity is possible. Selecting a single tag within a tag cloud will generally lead to a collection of items that are associated with that tag.
Tag generating software is slightly different than tags as traditionally defined. As Wikipedia notes, the original Tag Cloud on the photo sharing site Flikr cleverly represented community interests. Each of the tags is a link to a page of relevant images. The larger the font, the more people there are who share the tag and, presumably, the interests.
Tag generating software, on the other hand, is a way of representing the key terms in a particular text. The larger the word the more often it occurs. Tag Clouds become a quick way to begin the analysis of a text by visually representing its most common terms. Like my example above, it need not have links at all.
The Cloud Tag was generated from my health plan’s page on “Member Rights and Responsibilities.” I think the rhetorical strategies of the text become remarkably obvious. This could be useful for writing as well as analysis.
Here‘s an interesting two-part article on Tag Clouds, by Joe Lamantia. Among other things, Lamantia argues that Clouds are not this year’s “Mullet” but a useful navigation aid likely to become more common. Who else misses the mullet?
I generated my Tag Cloud at Tag Crowd. Tag Crowd’s page also offers the .htm code. And you can try out a Cloud of your own by pasting any text into the box below and pushing the button. Your Cloud will appear below.
This version creates links that look up words in OneLook Dictionary Search. The Graph It button creates a frequency list and a bar graph. Thanks to Karen Schwalm and friends at Glendale Community College for the code.
This site currently contains more than 50,000 searchable text pages and 40,000 images of both publications and handwritten manuscripts. There is also the most comprehensive Darwin bibliography ever published and the largest manuscript catalogue ever assembled. More than 150 ancillary texts are also included, ranging from secondary reference works to contemporary reviews, obituaries, published descriptions of Darwin’s Beagle specimens and important related works for understanding Darwin’s context.
Itâ€™s been a banner year for those of us who dreamed of wearing Star Trek pajamas and Beatle Boots and zooming around the universe. On the transporter front, some Dutch scientists recently figured out how to do something that is, well, pretty much like beaming matter from one place to the other.
On the cloaking front, first introduced by the Klingon, of course, another team has demonstrated the principal of invisibility, although not yet in a visible light range. Thereâ€™s bad news on the universal translator front, however. Moreover, itâ€™s related to a setback in our quest to build Data.