Benedikt reading

I have to admit defeat. I’ve gotten perhaps twenty pages into the Benedikt article, “Cyberspace: Some Proposals,” and I’m utterly lost. I’m going to share some of my notes from this essay to let you know exactly where and when (and how) he lost me:

“Using decidedly low-altitude mathmatics, we will look at these [the rules and principles of cyberspace] in relation to the rules and principles of natural, physical space, and under five, essentially topological rubrics: dimensionality, continuity, curvature, density, and limits” (132).

I have to admit, he’s really starting to lose me here. He starts talking about the seven principles of physical space and cyberspace, and from what I can gather, he proposes to examine how the rules and principles of cyberspace are based on the rules and principles of physical space. I think.

“Now, any N-dimensional state of behaviour of a system can be represented in what I would like henceforth to call a data space of point-objects having n spatiotemporally locating, or extrinsic dimensions, and m intrinstic dimensions, so called because they are coded into the intrinsic character of the point-object. In sum: N=n+m” (135).

Yup. I’m lost.

Okay. Let’s see if I can make heads or tails of this.

An intrinsic quality of an object or system is something that is inherent in the object and not affected by its position in space or time, such as its weight, size, colour, etc. An extrinsic quality is what pinpoints that object or system in time and space, such as… it’s age, perhaps? Its geographic location, such as “on the desk” or “next to a tree”? Its GPS coordinates? Age. Time. Place. Okay.

And in order to understand and fully measure an object/system, we must take into consideration all the qualities, both intrinsic and extrinsic.

I think.

“Any two objects in the same data space can be said to be identical if they have the same values on the same, matching intrinsic dimensions; similar, if they have different values on the same, matching intrinsic dimensions; and different if they do not have the same same intrinsic dimensions” (136).

So… two objects are identical if they’re identical, similar if they’re similar, and different if they’re different. Okay. I can handle that.

I’m guessing that because he’s dealing with intrinsic dimensions, that extrinsic dimentions don’t affect the similarity or difference of an object. A laptop, for example, if it is identical intrinsically (i.e. in size, shape, colour, function, appearance, etc.), it can be said to be identical even if its extrinsic dimensions don’t match exactly (its age and its location). In fact, it would be literally impossible for two objects to share exact extrinsic dimensions, as then they would have to occupy the exact same space at the exact same time. Physically impossible.

I think I’m getting this. This is the Principle of Exclusion.

“The Principle of Maximal Exlcusion (PME) advises the following: Given any N-dimensional state of a phenomenon, and all the values—actual and possible—on those N dimesnions, choose as extrinsic dimensions—as “space and time”—that set of (two, three, or four) dimensions that will minimize the number of violations of the Principle of Exclusion” (139).

I’m lost again. I’ll try to make sense of this.


Nope. Still don’t get it.

So I understand the Principle of Exclusion, but his explanation of the Principle of Maximal Exclusion utterly escapes me.

Does anyone understand it? Can you enlighten me if you do? I’ve been banging my head against this for too long.

— Sarah


3 responses to “Benedikt reading

  1. Ah, finally that math degree is coming in handy! If this is a widespread issue of confusion, I can go over it in more detail in my presentation. But in brief:
    You’ve got the basic idea: Benedickt wants to set it up so that no two objects occupy the same space. In real life, that means not occupying the exact same spatial coordinates. All the Principle of Maximal Exclusion means is that, knowing all the candidates for dimensions ahead of time, you choose your extrinsic dimensions to be whatever minimizes the chance of overlap.

    Barebones example: let’s say you want to make a cyberspace that contains nothing but movies for objects. So there’s a number of different ways to organize your collection: DVD title, director, lead actor, etc. Let’s say the collection includes Edward Scissorhands and Corpse Bride. In that case, if you chose ONLY director and lead actor as the extrinsic dimensions, then those two movies would occupy the same space. The PME states that you choose a set of dimensions so that this never ever happens.

    So that’s how you choose the extrinsic dimensions. The Principle of Maximal Object Identity supplies a basis for the intrinsic.
    Hypothetically, there’s an infinite amount of possible intrinsic dimensions: you could list every single actor, what image appears at 1:00 into the film, whether the film contains nudity. But the PMOI states that you make this choice, first and foremost, based on the inversion of the principle as the PME: choose a set of intrinsic dimensions so that it minimizes the chance that you’ll get an object that shares no intrinsic dimension with any other object.
    I said brief, didn’t I? Well, let’s try again:
    The PME says that we should do whatever we can to avoid two objects occupying the same place at once.
    The PMOI says we should do what we can to avoid two identical objects existing.
    Any other questions I’ll be happy to address at the presentation proper. Sarah, I hope that answers your question, and if my presentation comes up five minutes short, I am now going to spend one of those minutes glaring in your direction for tricking me into giving up my material here.
    (Just kidding. I’m glad you posted; it gives me a sense of where everyone’s at on these readings.)

  2. Ok, this is what I get for not reading over my post.
    When I say “The PMOI says we should do what we can to avoid two identical objects existing” what I MEANT to say is that “The PMOI says we should do what we can to make sure that, once we’ve put them in separate spaces, we should try to make the objects have as much in common as possible.” Which is sort of the exact opposite of what I originally said. In a lot of ways, this rule is a matter of convenience; the intrinsic elements of an object in cyberspace would be represented by something like colour, and clearly, the fewer colours you have to deal with, the easier it’s going to be for you.

    I realize this confusion is not a step in the direction of clarity, but I hope the clarification makes sense.


  3. Yes, actually, that helps a great deal. Thanks, Michael!

    That analogy of the photograph confused the heck out of me, but this makes sense now.

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