October 26, 2003
Language drift and cultural volatility

It's a shame I don't keep a tagline archive here on classy.dk But I don't. I was unhappy with the self important 'Claus and Effect' joke, and decided that a better (and now self deprecating) tagline for this particular pollution of url space was the new one "The tragedy of the commons". The idea of the reference is both to point to an important problem that is on my mind (in a strange reverted way, since the main threat to the commons these days is the false claims of the Intellectual Property Mafia) and to say that a world where everyone gets to speak all the time has its own problems in drowning out any central focus of discussion. The benefits outweigh the disadvantages, but the problems are real.
The inspiration for adopting the phrase was a notice of a search engine referral for my site for the term 'Crackulating', that I learned of from a youth ministry teen lingo resource. There is however also the much richer urbandictionary.com. Much richer in that they also found room for my new tagline The tragedy of the commons. Which hardly qualifies as particularly urban. The dictionary is user edited which explains why the reach is broader. The user editing also helps as an illustration on the lameness of average knowledge of net users, and how this breeds urban legends like there was no tomorrow. Take for example the term All your base - a reference to the particularly bad english language texts in an old computer game. The correct explanation of the term is given - along side an impressive list of incorrect explanations. You get to vote on the quality of explanations, so the right one floats to the top, but the range of explanation gives one an idea of the enourmous drift there is in colloquial English, and of course the same thing applies to all other languages.
When it comes to definitions of amusing terms, that is less of a problem, but one tends to feel that this complete lack of historical sensibility goes deeper than langugae drift and cultural drift. I don't think I'm being "older, hence slower" or turning my beck on the future in any way, when I say that it is a weakness of online culture that nothing is ever fixed or corrected or allowed to stay true, or condensed and solidified and accepted as The Best Current Opinion on some matter.
It's as if the online culture never turns off to dream and reconsider. That makes for a volatile culture and the volatility and incessant storytelling going on is easily abused by those that actually have an agenda or idea they need to sell for some period of time. It's been said better by others, notably in a brilliant talk by Douglas Rushkoff at reboot.

Posted by Claus at October 26, 2003 06:43 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments (post your own)

whoa, a math test, just to post!

you said: "It's been said better by others..."

Unquestionably. Still, the post has a great title and alludes to a relevant observation.

In the markets, some note that excessive volatility leads to a trend change (that would be a reversal of drift).


Posted by: c on October 14, 2007 5:14 PM
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