Popology 13: NYC in 1901

Popology seeks to model popular culture as hit counts in media space.Media space-bandwidth-is finite. The network is as big as it is: It can handle what it can handle, and that's all it can handle. There were as many daily newspapers in New York City in 1901 as there were, and that's all there were.Barko the Wonder Popbot is an imaginary analytical tool capable of collecting and collating perfect popological data. We dispatch Barko to the past and instruct him to collect and collate every daily newspaper published in New York in 1901. Barko gathers copies of every daily newspaper published in New York in 1901 and creates for us a concordance: a list of every word that appeared in any of the newspapers for every day of 1901, and how many times it occurred. We discard all data in the concordance except for proper nouns.We are left with a list containing all the proper nouns that appeared in all newspapers in New York for every day of the year 1901, and how many times each occurred. We necessarily also possess a list of all proper nouns that appeared in all daily newspapers in New York for each week of 1901, each month of 1901 and a list of all proper nouns that appeared in daily newspapers and their frequency for the whole of 1901. Popology asserts that it is self-evidently true that such a concordance plotted over time is a meaningful description of popular culture in New York City in 1901.A concordance of proper nouns from all daily newspapers published in New York City in 1901 is a referent hit-count.If we can imagine performing this analysis on "all daily newspaper in New York City in 1901," we can imagine performing a similar analysis on any medium in any location over any period-for example, all planetary media since the beginning of time.The popological description of culture does not supplant any existing description. It is not that this description is "right," and other descriptions are "wrong." The model is one description among many. The advantage of the popological model is that it yields simple numerical solutions subject to standard mathematical manipulation. The model permits quantifiable assertions about cultural rates of change. It irresistibly suggests a strictly defined metric of cultural significance.Popology asserts: That which is "significant" is that which signifies.

Comments

Bad_Brad 16 years, 10 months ago

Language in its pure form is nothing more than signifiers signifying signifieds.

leslie 16 years, 10 months ago

This popology business makes my head hurt, but I was wondering if you've read Day by Kenneth Goldsmith. Nice review in November Art in America, and I thought of you.

I also envy your vocabulary. I secretly hope you are thumbing through a thesaurus with every sentence, but I suspect you are not.

Bad_Brad 16 years, 10 months ago

... which leads us all to the question:

How many signifieds would a signifier signify if a signifier could signify signifieds?

Patrick Quinn 16 years, 10 months ago

BB: I think I agree with you--anyway it can surely be argued that the way popology treats language implies that the model assumes language to consist first of signifiers referring to signifieds.

I've tried to avoid delving too deeply into the linguistic implications of the model because (I speak here as a sidelines observer) the linguists have been fighting among themselves for something like 40 years, and it often gets nasty, and (speaking as a sidelines observer) it's not clear to me that much useful work has come out of all the fighting. And I think the linguistic implications of the model are at least defensible.

Patrick Quinn 16 years, 10 months ago

I have not read DAY, or in truth even heard of it until yr citation. I looked it up and am vy much intrigued. Popological poetry... Goldsmith sounds like my kinda guy. Thanks for the tip.

No thesaurus, as I am away from my books. However I STRONGLY recommend Rodale's, which is always available at the Raven, and is better (simpler) than a conventional thesaurus.

It makes my head hurt, too....

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