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July 14, 2010

14-7-10 Rules Of Games/ Law Of Preposition

This has been one of those entries; it began on July 7th and has straggled over to today’s upload/publication so that The World Cup is already a nostalgic episode. Yep, well…

I’m watching football. This comes as a surprise to footie-loving friends and my football-coach son. It’s the World Cup of course. My usual vague interest extends to the also-rans, the small-nation teams who generally get weeded out in the early stages. I’d like to fly the flag for Togo or Gabon. This time of course, England was amongst those.

One of the big chuckles in the TV coverage was the brief shot of two Ingerland fans dressed as WW2 RAF pilots looking thoroughly glum as Germany pulled ahead in the 4-2 walkover. Officially that was 4-1 but Ingerland’s second goal was clearly badly disallowed. No matter, the two goal lead put paid to any argument about the better team. Given half a chance ‘we wuz robbed’ would have had another four years to mature into a vintage home-brewed whine; instead the nation is agreed that we wuz rubbish.

With any luck this will kill off constant harkings-back to 1966 and more embarrassingly, The War in any future Ingerland-Germany match. At the very least the perpetual parp of the vuvuzela has drowned out the sound of The Great Escape from the stands.

Meanwhile I was watching the African nations and I was rooting for Ghana as the last hope, no mere charity-vote but goodwill for a good team. Watching them go out because of Uruguay’s cynical goal-mouth handball, trading a certain goal for a chancy penalty-shot and a yellow card. Boo the cads!

This obliged me to watch for their come-uppance against The Netherlands and hurrah! Holland delivered the good kicking Uruguay deserved.

Also in my email-box this week a very simplified outline of an argument in a friend’s book on the ‘law of recognition’ in e-commerce. In a few paragraphs here I can’t compress his summary any further and may simplify to the point of caricature. If philosophy and some strands of science are less about finding answers than generating better questions, then this topic is either a goldmine or a minefield.

The foundation of the debate on internet content is the question of whether your monitor is a telescope to view content on a remote site, or whether it’s a device for importing that content. In either case, whose laws regulate or proscribe it?

It’s probably OK if I do a web-search for hand-grenades; iffy if I order a box (for domestic use; I’m an impatient lake-fisher); certainly suspect if I take delivery. Wherever it may be legal to be a small-arms vendor it’s definitely illegal to maintain even a small stock of small-arms here.

In some ways this problem is like the question of where a mirror-image ‘takes place’. When you look at yourself in the mirror you see a ghost-image which exactly represents you, your gestures and expression and the 3D space you inhabit, albeit reversed left-right (why not vertically?).

That image doesn’t exist on the silvered surface but ‘behind’ it. Since a mirror doesn’t actually create a projected space behind it, does it only exist on your retina? Nope, that can’t be it because your brain interprets the contingent firing of rods and cones in a region at the back of the brain. You ‘see’ your reflection in the dark interior of your skull a couple of inches above the collar-line.

Does this image exist ‘out there’ or ‘in here’?

Part of the puzzle about the internet is our need to represent it in the vocabulary of location. Does the content actually exist on a site?

The day after I started writing this, Abu Hamza was in the news, his extradition to the USA refused by a court ruling. His ‘radical Islamist’ site was hosted by an internet server in Connecticut. [ …and by the way, how come we never refer to the IRA or the UDF as radical Christians? ]

I don’t know where this page is stored by the time you read this so I hope it’s not illegal to read it where you are. At this moment it’s a binary-code string somewhere on a hermetically sealed disc to my left. That’s about as much location as you can attach to it.

My friend has to refine and define and suggest practical measures for reaching very real-world judgements about where the internet is and what consequences might apply. His academic work involves regular recourse to statutory and case-law, precedent and House Of Lords rulings to build a proposition in much the same way as those composite images made from a mosaic of tiny photographs, though his magnification extends on occasion to the location of individual screen-dots in the print.

I’m allowed the luxury of treating this as an interesting enigma, in terms of its cultural location; this is a road much travelled but no doubt I’ll return to the hydra of our reliance on and suspicion of the authority and authenticity of information on the global hard-disk and its insidious reconstruction of ‘ownership’ in cut-and-paste culture.