Lost in space
A screaming migraine for two days.
Upon surfacing this evening, I started to read The Production of Space by Henri Lefebvre. I hadn’t thought about just how hazy the concept of space is until I started to read Weinberger’s book, with it’s opposition of “map space” vs. the spatial concepts of the Internet. Then of course, I found a connection when I started to read Michael Herr’s Dispatches.
The book begins with the image of an old map of Vietnam, and observations about how inaccurate it is. I think that’s part of the fundamental character of spatial maps, they are always inaccurate and fail to represent what we really think of when we think of space. Oh, and the time thing is in there too. The entire book takes place in the time it takes to draw a breath and release it, in a fictive space of memory.
Lefebvre sorts out many ways of thinking of space, largely mental abstractions and proposes that one method of approach is dividing it into physical space, mental space, and social space, the divisions that any real “science of space” must deal with. Then he goes on to demonstrate the separation between theories of mental space and social space, and the wide rift that exists between them. I think that’s a big problem with the approach to spatial metaphors for the web: is it in our heads? Or, is it a developing social space?
There’s not an easy answer to that one and the two types of space seem deeply at odds with each other. I do think that there are individuals separate from the social construction of “selves,” which distances me from Weinberger’s view right out of the gate. There’s something about the public/private interface that complicates everything, when you try to reach for any sort of unified theory.
There was a great example of that in my rhetorical theory class on Tuesday. Jason, a student that I’ve spent a lot of time with, asked a question that we ended up spending hours on. He’s a minister, currently enrolled simultaneously in the Rhetoric program and a seminary. While I wouldn’t call him “open minded” I certainly find him to be congenial, intelligent, and a fun person to talk to. Encountering Rogerian theories of argument, Jason found this aspect of modern rhetorical theory a problem. Rogerian argument, unlike the attack/defend stance of classical rhetoric works to seek compromises by evaluating the core values between speaker and audience. Both sides are expected to give, in order to reach workable compromise. Jason wondered just where the line is. How much can you compromise your personal values to reach accommodation?
It went something like this. Jason said “I believe in capitol T truth, so how can I compromise on what I feel I know to be true, in talking to others?” This triggered an impassioned plea from another student, a pagan who has felt oppressed by the preaching of all the militant Christians in her life, for Jason to leave his truth at the door when entering into conversations. I found myself taking the middle ground, as an agnostic, telling her that in all my conversations with Jason I know that what he considers to be true will always be his opinion, not a proclamation of fact. Jason isn’t a deity, and doesn’t claim to be one. He just believes, and asking him to leave his belief at the door just isn’t an option. I think it’s up to the hearer to judge for themselves. Living in Arkansas, if I didn’t talk to people because they had religious convictions of one sort or another, there wouldn’t be many people left!
There are always oppositions to be dealt with. Thinking about it, my concept of my web pages as a mental space will always be separate and at odds with moving through the web as a social space. Theories that approach the web from the social side often leave me cold. When theory becomes too social, I suppose I always want to pull it back into myself. I know my space much better than anyone else’s.
That’s what I created a web space for. For me, mostly, and only as a second thought, a place where people might visit and get to know me. I suppose I’ll always be a bit of a cowboy about that.