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||| Organism - An exercise in Object Orientation |||

Graeme Murrell

||| [part 1] ||| [part 2] |||
Communication paths: the virus model

Stepping back out from the page, I consider how word properties reveal communication paths. How has the meaning of 'is' changed in the above example? The first property, how it is spelled, remains unchanged. The second property, its symbolic nature, is difficult to pin down for such a word. To paraphrase Thomas Nagel, "we require more than an understanding of the word 'is'" 4 (or Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky debacle: "It depends what the meaning of 'is' is"). In order to understand how the meaning has changed, it is necessary to understand what has happened to the word now that it has moved its spatial position.

Consider the closed environment of a permutation. The words, in each case, are the same. In order for any word to move, another must move, or a few move at once, but the cast remains. Therefore, a word that changes its meaning must have done so with relation to those surrounding it. Meaning is shown to be inferential. The words affect each other, impinge on the role of other words within the narrative, and thereby change their meaning. Now change affect to infect: word as virus. This is a model for how written words, as individual entities, communicate with each other. Here is William Burroughs on the subject of permutations:
The permutated poems set the words spinning off on their own; echoing out as the words of a potent phrase are permutated into an expanding ripple of meanings which they did not seem to be capable of when they were struck and then stuck into that phrase. 5
Revisit permutations as transformations of the same phrase, which can utterly change the meaning of the phrase. This suggests that virus communication paths can be applied not only to the relationship between words, but between phrases. This is one of the aims of the cut-up technique. It is one of the defining characteristics of cut-up narratives that phrases repeat. However, unlike permutations, they repeat within the scope of a larger narrative. Sometimes a phrase will repeat word for word, other times it may be fractured, or subtly transformed. While the virus model indicates that a subtle transformation has been infected with different meaning, it does not strip that meaning of reference to a previous iteration. Maintaining the virus analogy, the person with flu is still a person. Here are repeating cut-up fragments from the first and last chapters of a novel by Robert T Miller:
None of it is real. The nurses, pushing geriatrics in bathchairs along pebbled paths, are devices with cameras for eyes.

None of it is real. The fabricated pebble paths are devices with a veneer for their sakes as well as mine. 6
The intention of such reiteration is to infect current meaning with that of a previous reference point. When the gap between occurrences stretches over a number of pages, spatial displacement is joined by displacement in time. Hence, communication paths stretch over time. The word virus utilises gang mentality in order to impose itself upon its surroundings and thereby infect them with the referential disease.

Here is G. Belyavin on viruses:
Viruses are obligatory cellular parasites and are thus wholly dependant upon the integrity of the cellular systems they parasitise for their survival in an active state. 7
Reconnect written with spoken word. The parasite utilises written virus paths in order to perpetuate itself in writing. Words infect other words, and they infect each other in such a way as to infer meaning. Also, each individual word is given meaning within the whole. The whole becomes another method of host infection. The most preferable scenario for written infection is linear narrative, and the parasite has effectively pushed it to the fore in pursuit of its survival. Writing is the front line. It is the key to survival across time. It is the key to linguistic reductionism, as the English language becomes dominant, which will make it much easier to perpetuate and understand itself

This suggests meta-narrative. Andrew Nikiforuk, in 'The Fourth Horseman', discusses history from the point of view of bacteria, and what he calls the Superorganism. This is conceived as something like a collective mind of bacteria, which create virus conditions as a protection mechanism in response to adverse conditions, usually unwittingly created by humans. The word parasite mirrors Nikiforuk's appeal to bacteriological collectivism:
Doctors started overprescribing penicillin in the 1940's. The primary bacteria under assault were staphylococci…the staphylococci put in a call to the great bacteriological gene pool where they located an enzyme among a community of soil bacteria that could digest the bacteria and render it harmless… This bacteriological exchange has been repeated across the globe for almost every antibiotic ever designed. 8
Or, to rephrase, this word exchange has been repeated for almost every narrative form ever designed.

Inside the written word looking out

I collectivise letters and give them a form that defines me. I have a shape.
The same letters define other words, and different letters define words with similar aims to myself.
I symbolise something, that is to say I am inferential.
Other words infer the same.
In isolation, this perceived inference is total, but give me some other words to relate to and I may change.
I can move through time and space, shifting meaning as a shapeshifter changes form.
I am an inferential chameleon.
However, I don't transform independently. I infect those around, while I willingly allow them to infect me.
Together we infer.
I am part of an organism that is
itself ever shifting,
responding to climate
and environment.
I am a word.

Organism: Cut-up

The system I intend to look at is that of words. The transformed iterations of the same purpose, or more correctly do bacteria and intention of word usage communicate. A dualism is immediately apparent here, is total, but give me some other words to relate to and I may change. I can use them? It can be a debate. These include linear narrative, that I intend to leave hanging, for my investigation is to infect them with the referential disease. Not into spoken word, but its written version. The purpose of the first printing presses. This is also the property that gives words the However, the written number of systems. Virus occupies a different behaviour. Consider word speaks of the word as virus, and makes a reasonable space and the Internet, but I don't want to muddy the waters. It is one of the defining characteristics of cut-up narratives that phrases repeat. However, unlike communication being difficult to assign to words themselves, is much more explicit in the media shifting meaning, utilising known linguistic parameters shapeshifter changes form. By stretching the reception usage of a language subject of words is to communicate.

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4. Thomas Nagel, 'What It Is Like To Be A Bat'

5. William Burroughs & Brion Gysin, 'The Third Mind'

6. Robert T Miller, 'Electric Dogs'

7. G. Belyavin, 'Virus Adaptability and Host Resistance', quoted in William S. Burroughs, 'Feedback from Watergate to the Garden of Eden'

8. Andrew Nikiforuk, 'The Fourth Horseman: a short history of epidemics, plagues and other scourges'


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