Feedback Loops Leads

Time ago I quoted a digital journalist from a major newspaper in Spain, who was brave enough to acknowledge during a public conference, certain reverberation loops with the respective media “reading one other” as common practice. That is, to gather not just sources and tips from the competition but ... chunks of information for their daily “news".

If e-newspaper A published a certain headline, e-newspaper B immediately came up with a similar one, in a positive feedback escalade on content-treatment-generation-of information such that, in terms of information ... not much difference was being informed.

Steven Johnson presents great feedback loop cases in his 2001 book, Emergence, bringing forward a simplified version of the original Norbert Wiener works on Cybernetics (1949), as systems of amplification and systems of regulation and control, to explore amongst other ample fields...the context of cable distributed media and Internet.

From the chapter: "Listening to Feedback...", I particularly enjoyed his version of the Clinton-Gennifer Flowers story in the media, namely the way it made the headlines in times of transition between centralized top-to-bottom and distributed bottom-up emerging systems of televised news.

On ways in which we deal with the media, the message…and a lot more apply... In terms of systems, designs, rules, change and other "triggering" effects upon our so called “given official realities”. Lately, I have been wondering if reverberating track-backs amongst certain blogs, -exemplify some of the above- may end up with readings that, “dont make a difference”… in their reiteration accross systems. Then re-visiting Steven Johnsons's book ...I have second thoughts.

Then, as inspired by Johnson: Who knows what system changes may eventually take place even if at different levels…and times we cannot grasp. Talking of distributed intelligence, learning netiquette and other, systems which evolve in their own … “swarming” terms?

Steven Johnson on "Emergence" by David Sims and Rael Dornfest -- What do ant colonies, Sim City, and the neighborhoods of Florence have in common with emergent software development and intelligent networks? Steven Johnson talks with O'Reilly Network about the common threads of emergent systems.

A few chosen leads on reverberating circuits from Steven Johnson’s book a/m.

* A -so called media’s disposition, toward “feeding frenzies, where the coverage of a story naturally begets more coverage, leading to a kind of hall-of-mirrors environment where small incidents or allegations get amplified into Major Events.”, giving way to self-critical processes and major debates on cycle type waves basis.

* Emergent systems that “aren’t intrinsically good” such as construction frenzies in urban life, in relation to the pros and cons of centralized planning and the limits of the later.

* Threaded discussion boards and virtual community issues with diverse conversational skills. Indeed, relational modes and dealing with different points of view, exploring possible impacts on participation trends.

* Cases of quality thresholds through rankings and social referee networks in a context of digital world flexibility , self-organizing levels and different dimensions.

* Issues such as majority viewpoints getting amplified, with minority viewpoints getting silenced, as opposed to cases of extreme personalization …(is that possible? unless one there's only one person involved in the production-publishing-reading event?)… with the later as mind-narrowing experiences.

* Feedback routines responding to system design with rules that could well be re-visited….and much more. He brings forward pattern recognition across systems, in disparate fields and swarm logic, with no central office in command. While distinguishing mixes of top-to-bottom incentives dancing together with bottom-up growth in given enterprises … Multiple paths of inquiry here.

My favorite quote: “You never really know what lies on the other end of a phase transition until you press play and find out. ”. Thus, simulation games and virtual worlds, learning to recognize patterns and cycles outside given mental boxes, time frames, and scopes, in research and exploration can be …very serious ‘learning’ business. His comments regarding AI on the linked Interview may give us some tips.

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