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“Keep alive in your hearts
the feeling of confidence
that the light of knowledge
will inevitably dispel
the clouds of ignorance,
the conviction
that concern for justice
will ultimately conquer
hatred and enmity.
[… The] proper response to oppression
is neither to succumb in resignation
nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor.
The victim of oppression
can transcend it
through an inner strength
that shields the soul
from bitterness and hatred
which sustains
consistent principled action.” UHJ 2009

There is such a contrast between the use of the term “principled action” when used here for healing the human spirit and the way it is used in writings referring to doing ethics, applied ethics, ethics talk. Is it about words or deeds?

“Keep alive in your hearts” calls to all of us to sustain consistent principled action freed from bitterness and hatred even when oppressed, refuse to resign to victimization,  be careful not to respond to oppression by taking on the characteristics of the oppressor, struggle to continue to believe that knowledge will overcome ignorance, that justice will conquer injustice, nurture and maintain  inner strength that will sustain us through the most ethically distressing dilemmas of our lives, nurture confidence when you feel doubt, seek knowledge instead of vengeance. This far transcends concepts of ethical codes and minimal ethical standards.

“Some people confuse acting in good conscience with “doing ethics”. While personal good conscience is necessary for acting ethically, it is not sufficient.  There is also confusion of so-called “codes of ethics’ which are really codes of professional etiquette – for instance, between physicians or between lawyers – or which define unprofessional conduct, with codes of ethics properly so-called. Just because certain conduct does not breach professional norms, does not necessarily mean that it is ethical […] “Doing ethics”, especially by an ethicist, requires one to undertake an informed structured analysis that will assist in the identification and prioritisation of the full range of values relevant to, or affected by, the various decision options that are open in any given situation. It is inevitable that one’s own values come into play, but they should be identified as such and the other people involved advised of this. I sometimes imagine that “doing ethics” can be compared with opening a beautiful, intricately painted fan. The struts are the different schools of ethics, or the fundamental bases of the alternative analyses that could be used. The fabric that joins the struts may display one or several scenes. When we all agree on the outcome, although we do so for different reasons, we are choosing a different location in the one scene. When we disagree on the outcome, we are identifying several scenes and arguing that one scene is fundamental and should take priority in setting the overall tone or interpretation of the painting that the artist has portrayed on the fan, and that the other scenes must be interpreted in light of this. We all need to learn how to do ethics, even if we do not always succeed in doing this. “Doing ethics” is not a simple task; it is a process, not an event; and, in many ways, no matter in which capacity or context we do ethics, it is a life-long learning experience. The most important requirement, however, is that we all engage in that process, that is, we all participate in “ethics talk” (Somerville 2006).



Following in the footsteps of great Western philosopher’s peripatetic origins (Socrates, Nietzsche, Rousseau, Kierkegaard and Walter Benjamin) Writer and Director Astra Taylor invited Cornel West (Cultural Studies scholar and campaign advisor to Barack Obama), Avital Ronell (who co-taught a graduate course with the late Jacques Derrida), Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Slavo Zizek, Judith Butler and her own sister Sunara Taylor to walk the talk while examining contemporary social and ethical issues in her 2008 documentary The Examined Life. Following Philadelphia curator and academic Aaron Levy’s suggestion that camera shy or timid speakers might be more comfortable walking, and enthused by Rebecca Solnit’s book Wanderlust, “a magisterial history of walking,” Astra Taylor decided to ask the big questions using the peripatetic approach. She filmed Cornel West in the back of a New York city cab as it wove through traffic. Peter Singer navigated Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue , a high-end shopping area with luxury items reflected in windows and on shopping bags flashing behind him. She chose a garbage dump as backdrop for Slavoj Zizek’s conversation on ecology. In this a series of vignettes she attempts to demonstrate the accessibility of philosophy, reiterating Isaiah Berlin and Bertrand Russell that, “the central visions of the great philosophers are essentially simple.” Through this documentary she stresses the urgency for a philosophy with a cosmopolitical point of view as “the myriad problems facing us [in our broken world . . . one beset by problems both interpersonal and political], demand more thinking than ever, not less.” Philosophy helps us to “search for meaning and our responsibilities to others in a [world] full of inequity and suffering.”

 

http://www3.nfb.ca/webextension/examined-life/medias/pdf/ExaminedLife.pdf

www.nfb.ca/examined-life

www.nfb.ca/press-room/photo-gallery

http://www.calgarysun.com/entertainment/movies/2009/04/17/9142811-sun.html


Concepts such as “ontology” and “epistemology” used in discussions of Web 2.0, Web 3.0, wikis and the semantic web expand conversations from Data Management to Knowledge Management and now even Truth Management (Garfinkel 2008-11/12).

Garfinkel claimed that “wikitruth” is true enough for most readers including journalists who use “wikiclaims” as background material.

Garfinkel distinguishes between the epistemological standards used in mathematics and science where legitimization of objective truth-claims are based on laws and observability in contrast to Wikipedia epistemology where “wikitruth”-claims are included as long as they are “verifiable.”

“The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth.”

He raises a number of key issues about the dangers of a consensus view of knowledge-claims-about-a-thing. But these are fundamentally the same issues that anyone seriously wanting greater clarity on any topic would consider.

Who is naive enough today to trust truth claims from a single article on a controversial topic in even the most prestigious scientific, medical or technical journal?

I am sure I am not alone in reading their bibliographies first, selecting and reading some of their suggestions while seeking out the viewpoints of those who have made opposing truth claims.

If a person is serious about finding greater accuracy, surely she would find the most convincing and robust among the wiki sources to use as background. Wikipedia is not authoritative in itself nor does it claim to be, does it? I am pleased wiki does not allow original research. I wouldn’t cite a wiki-claim in an academic journal. (I would point to the wiki the way I would point to other links (indexicality) on my blog. It says, “This is interesting. Check it out.” I’m not claiming it is the Truth.)

But then most encyclopedias could not be expected to provide the most recent (post-printing) robust statements required for advanced academic research. That’s what researchers working on original research are meant to do on an ongoing basis. So it is always changing.

In reality the two processes are the same.

When we look at root causes of the current global economic crisis and compare it to crises in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s we can trace the unbridled power of truth claims made by economists like Milton Friedman to Sachs. Nations cut off the economic-social tails mercilessly, made draconian cuts to transform economies based on Free Market-Minimal Government-Invisible Hand theories that were called Truth. It is only with hindsight that we recognize the enormity of the social costs, the abysmal errors, the arrogance and giddy power on their faces from interviews in Argentina, Bolivia, Poland, USSR/Russia.

As we face the complete breakdown in U.S. credit markets even market experts like Alan Greenspan admitted his own errors in judgment in resisting regulations, we are witnessing an assault on truth claims that have enjoyed a hegemony since 1989 and on ontological certitude in the kingpin of western capitalism.

Who do you trust now?

I choose the wiki article among the first and work through their sources.

The ontology within a wiki-Web 2.0 zeitgeist resembles a pragmatic realism that acknowledges human limitations; a wiki, Web 2.0 epistemology looks more like a search for knowledge-to-enhance-understanding-about not Knowledge, various truth-claims-to-consider not Truth, a wiki, Web 2.0 methodologies are eclectic, open, technology-enhanced, shareable, collaborative; wiki Web 2.0 axiology incorporates some elements of trust and generosity.

The Virtual post-positivist philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view.

A compromise that is possible between positivism and relativism is to engage in inquiries as if reality, the Real, did exist while acknowledging human limitations in terms of our capacity to completely observe, analyze, measure, describe, comprehend or explain reality, the really Real.

Pragmatism can be seen as reasonable accommodation within inquiries about truth claims to allow for diversity in terms of ontology, epistemology, methodology, axiology and zeitgeist.

Notes

1. Wiki “The term ontology has its origin in philosophy, and has been applied in many different ways. The core meaning within computer science is a model for describing the world that consists of a set of types, properties, and relationship types. Exactly what is provided around these varies, but they are the essentials of an ontology. There is also generally an expectation that there be a close resemblance between the real world and the features of the model in an ontology.[3] What ontology has in common in both computer science and in philosophy is the representation of entities, ideas, and events, along with their properties and relations, according to a system of categories. In both fields, one finds considerable work on problems of ontological relativity (e.g., Quine and Kripke in philosophy, Sowa and Guarino in computer science)[4] and debates concerning whether a normative ontology is viable (e.g., debates over foundationalism in philosophy, debates over the Cyc project in AI). Differences between the two are largely matters of focus. Philosophers are less concerned with establishing fixed, controlled vocabularies than are researchers in computer science, while computer scientists are less involved in discussions of first principles (such as debating whether there are such things as fixed essences, or whether entities must be ontologically more primary than processes).”

2. With alarming frequency wikipedia has become the primary resource for Canadian students doing ‘research’ on such topics as Inuit culture, comparative economies of nation-states, etc. What are the longterm implications for civil society in the future with this embedded dependence on wiki-epistemology and wiki-ontology? How can we be informed as citizens if we do not take the long slow road to knowledge acquisition? What role do educators play in developing critical thinking in the wiki environment? Will we PowerPoint our way to the simplest descriptions of complex issues allowing the market and/or interest groups to sway our decisions in an effortless manner simply because we only had time for a wiki-analysis?

Bibliography and Webliography

Garfinkel, Simson L. 2008-11/12.“Wikipedia and the Meaning of Truth: Why the online encyclopedia’s epistemology should worry those who care about traditional notions of accuracy.” Technology Review. MIT.

Garshol, Lars Marius. 2004-10-26. “Metadata? Thesauri? Taxonomies? Topic Maps! Making sense of it all.”

Felsenthal, Mark. 2008-10-23. “Greenspan “shocked” at credit system breakdown.” Reuters. Business and Finance.

Notes

It is informative to review Commanding Heights documentary on the frightening power and influence of economists from the Chicago School (University of Chicago) and Professor Sachs from Harvard University on world economics and world governance. The list of social problems stemming from past mistakes are eerily repeated in current economic chaos.


Michael S. Gazzaniga [1] argued that our beliefs about the world and the nature of human experience are merely tendentious and our memories fallible. Therefore we should rely not on “the ubiquitous personal belief systems held by billions of people (which he describes as akin to believing in Santa Claus (Gazzaniga 2005:163) but on modern science to seek out, understand and define our universal ethics grounded in the natural order (Gazzaniga 2005:178). From his viewpoint great religions of the world were conceived by ill-informed humans (not received from the Divine) who lacked competing data about the essence of the natural world (Gazzaniga 2005:162). He explains religious experiences as Temporary Lobe Epilepsy (TLE). He compares the conception of a fetus to the “conception” of a house at Home Depot. When is a fetus a person? When is a house a house? Gazzaniga believes that a fertilized egg is hardly deserving of the same moral status we confer on the newborn child or the functioning adult (Gazzaniga 2005:17-8). He also argued that the aging brain’s level of consciousness should be assessed by scientific means and euthanasia considered as an option (Gazzaniga 2005:33). His reasoning is not robust and appears to be directed to those already converted to his belief system.

However, it is his argument for brain enhancement through genetic intervention that causes a shiver of repugnance:

“Perhaps we should be free to try whatever we can think to try- this is the nature of scientific inquiry. Let an innate moral-ethics system assert itself and stop us from going too far. We have never annihilated ourselves; we have managed to stop short of doing that so far. I am confident that we will always understand what is ultimately good for the species and what is not (Gazzaniga 2005:54).”

One wonders on what planet he has been living.

We are currently listening to political debates around the clock as two nations head to the polls. Different value systems clash as “facts” are presented on each side of debates over contentious issues. We live in a time when scientific facts themselves are challenged as informed readers inquire about motivation and agendas of scientific researchers. Who finances the research? We are all too aware of the ease with which policy makers and decision makers choose comfortable truths over the uncomfortable.

Gazzaniga oversimplifies the awe-inspiring mind-soul-spirit by reducing humans to the chemical brain. He grossly underestimates followers of religions capable of making ethical decisions by considering both scientific information and their religious principles.

He argued that universal ethics are social, contextualized, influenced by emotions and natural survival-instincts. Whether your guide in life is simply “received wisdom” or “the confluence of neuroscientific data, historical data, and other information illuminating our past” he claim s we all share the same hard-wired moral networks and systems and therefore respond in similar ways to similar issues. He further claims that social systems explain individual feelings which are institutionalized into social structure (Gazzaniga 2005:162).”

According to his logic philosophers involved in neuroethics[2] should “use understandings of the brain’s hard-wiring to contextualize and debate gut instincts that serve the greatest good- or the most logical solutions- given specific contexts (Gazzaniga 2005:178).”

“Neuroscience reads brains, not minds. The mind, while completely enabled by the brain, is a totally different beast (Gazzaniga 2005:119).”

Gazzaniga (2005:iv-v) describes neuroethics as a spin-off of bioethics [which] was developed and defined to take medical ethics further, as scientific findings became more advanced and needed more specialized philosophers thinking about what is acceptable and unacceptable in areas like genetic engineering, reproductive science, defining brain death, and so on. [. . . Neuroethics are involved] whenever a bioethical issue involves the brain or central nervous system (2005: v).”

“We now step into the world of neuroethics. This is the field of philosophy that discusses the rights and wrongs of the treatment of, or enhancement of, the human brain.” “Was the medical team acting ethically, putting the patients’ interests first, or was it influenced by the humanitarian prospect of the advancement of specific knowledge about the brain — or by the attraction of the world fame and professional prestige that would follow a high achievement?” “Not just neurosurgeons but other brain scientists are thinking long and hard about the morality (right or wrong) and the ethics (fair or unfair) of what such breakthroughs as genomics, molecular imaging and pharmaceuticals will make it possible for them to do.” “In the treatment or cure of brain disease or disability, the public tends to support neuroscience’s needs for closely controlled and informed experimentation. But in the enhancement of the brain’s ability to learn or remember, or to be cheerful at home or attentive in school, many of the scientists are not so quick to embrace mood-manipulating drugs or a mindless race to enhance the mind (Safire 2003-07-10).”

“The brain’s ethical sense may run deeper than we think. ”The essence of ethical behavior,” writes the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio in Looking for Spinoza, his newest book, ”does not begin with humans.” Ravens and vampire bats ”can detect cheaters among the food gatherers in their group and punish them accordingly.” Though human altruism is much further evolved, in one experiment ”monkeys abstained from pulling a chain that would deliver food to them if pulling the chain caused another monkey to receive an electric shock. Damasio does not believe that there is a gene for ethical behavior or that we are likely to find a moral center in the brain. But we may one day understand the ”natural and automatic devices of homeostasis” — the brain’s system that balances appetites and controls emotions, much as a constitution and a system of laws regulates and governs a nation (Safire 2003-07-10).”

“[Brain] scientists . . . debate going beyond the cure of disease to the possibilities of meddling with memory or implanting a happy demeanor (Safire 2003-07-10).”

“Maybe the human brain has a self-defense mechanism that causes brain scientists to pause before they improve on the healthy brain. Would we feel guilty about discovering the chemistry of conscience (Safire 2003-07-10)?”

Folksonomy, taxonomy, tags, key words, classification, semantic web

cognitive neuroscience: moral and ethical aspects, ethics, Damasio, science and religion, chemical conscience, meddling with memory, permalink,

Health

Notes

  1. Michael S. Gazzaniga is President of the American Psychology Society, and director of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience at Dartmouth College.
  2. According to Gazzaniga it was William Safire who coined the term neuroethics to describe the field of philosophy that discusses the rights and wrongs of the treatment of, or enhancement of, the human brain.”
  3. The Dana Foundation: “The Dana Foundation is a private philanthropy with principal interests in brain science, immunology, and arts education. Charles A. Dana, a New York State legislator, industrialist and philanthropist, was president of the Dana Foundation from 1950 to 1966 and actively shaped its programs and principles until his death in 1975.”
  4. Some of these bibliographic entries were inserted using Zotero’s capacity to let “users choose a citation format, such as Chicago, MLA, APA, or others. To add a source from Zotero, a user simply drags that source into an application such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs [and WordPress!!!!], and a properly formatted citation is inserted. Zotero also generates a bibliography of all the sources included in a paper.” I did not choose my preferred citation format or generate the bibliography in the proper Zotero mode yet. This needs tweeking on my part but it was successful.

Citations from Antes, Geertz and Warne (2004).

4. “Body, Emotion, and Consciousness: The Portuguese born neurologist at the University of Iowa College of Medicine and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Antonio R. Damasio, has argued in a number of books that studies of the brain, cognition and consciousness are seriously hampered because neuroscientists traditionally ignore the role of functions and emotions in the brain. 47 He claims that “it is possible that feelings are poised at the threshold that separates being from knowing and thus have a privileged connection to consciousness” (Damasio 1999:43). Emotions are at a fairly high level of life regulation, and when they are sensed, that is when one has ‘feelings,’ the threshold of consciousness has been crossed. Emotions are part of homeostasis, which is the automatic regulation of temperature, oxygen contentration or pH in the body by the autonomatic nervous system, the endrocrine system and the immune system. According to Damasio, homeostasis is the key to consciousness (Damasio 1999:40). Damasio defined consciousness as constructing knowledge about two facts: “that the organism is involved in relating to some object, and that the object in the relation causes a change in the organism” (Damasio 1999:20). Understanding the biology of consciousness becomes, then, a matter of discovering “how the brain can map both the two players and the relationship they hold” (Damasio 1999:20). The interesting thing is that the brain holds a model of the whole thing, and this may be the key to understanding the underpinnings of consciousness (Antes, Geertz, Warne 2004:365).”

“[Damasio’s] explanation for this enigma is precisely as follows: “I have come to the conclusion that the organism, as represented inside its own brain, is a likely biological forerunner for what eventually becomes the elusive sense of self. The deep roots for the self, including the elaborate self which encompasses identity and personhood, are to be found in the ensemble of brain devices which continuously and nonconsciously maintain the body state within the narrow range and relative stability required for survival. These devices continually represent, nonconsciously, the state of the living body, along its many dimensions. I call the state of activity within the ensemble of such devices the proto-self, the nonconscious forerunner for the levels of self which appear in our minds as the conscious protagonists of consciousness: core self and autobiographical self.” (Damasio 1999:20) cited in (Antes, Geertz, Warne 2004:365).”

“This is, indeed, a radical embodiment theory and should be of interest to scholars of religion involved in studies of central religious concepts such as personalities, personhood, selves and souls. The very fact of plurality of selves in Damasio’s model should prove useful to the study of religions that deal with multiple selves and souls (Antes, Geertz, Warne 2004:365).”

Webliography and Bibliography

Antes, Peter; Geertz, Armin W.; Warne, Randi R. 2004. Cognitive Approaches to the Study of Religion. Walter de Gruyter: Berlin/New York.

Anthony Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (New York: Harcourt, 1999).

Brain-Based Education – Summary Principles of Brain-Based Research, Critiques of Brain-Based Education,”

Michael S. Gazzaniga, The Ethical Brain (New York: Dana Press, 2005).

Henry T. Greely, “Prediction, Litigation, Privacy, and Property: Some Possible Legal and Social Implications of Advances in Neuroscience,” in Neuroscience and the Law: Brain, Mind, and the Scales of Justice . Dana Press.

Safire, William. 2003-07-10. “The Risk that Failed.” New York Times.

Educause, “7 Things You Should Know About Geolocation,” 2008,


which world religions get excluded?

Washington Post's blog On Faith: which world religions get excluded?

When I began to become enraptured with Web 2.0 I wanted to find ways to use intelligent, emerging instruments from the semantic web to continually improve findability and search optimization of resources I had gathered over many years, even if my own PC broke down and all my back up systems failed, and my own memory became faulty, or . . . I had hoped that blogging would help me remember where I put things that might someday be useful again.

The catalyst for “Folksonomy: optimizing soul searching” was a question regarding how absent categories impose their presence through their very absence. Faced with closed field category/subcategory options offered by Digg for example, under which I had to place my article, etc I struggled between philosophy or society, finance or economics, environment or politics.

I have also found it enlightening to find under which categories my own Creative Commons blogs, articles, posts and images might appear.

As my own sites grow organically, my categories and parent categories constantly need to be reformulated; new tags added and others deleted or merged. The goal is efficiency and elegance in the ungainly word of “findability” or search engine optimization, potent instruments in the semantic web.

At times I am frustrated by the absence of categories that exclude entire populations and conversations. Recently I came across a site hosted by the Washington Post. In their About page they describe how they use the limitless space of the online world to host a blog entitled “On Faith” which invites “intelligent, informed, eclectic, respectful,fruitful, intriguing and constructive conversation-among specialists and generalists about the things that matter most, religion, the most ancient of forces, the most pervasive yet “least understood topic in global life.”

I read comments and the post from David Grant, a junior at Virginia Tech who commenting on his visit to the Baha’i gardens in Haifa,Israel-Palestine (which has recently been named as an International Heritage Site) remarking on the broad reach of the Baha’i religion. “Where else on Earth could you find a family from the Bible Belt, a pair of South Africans currently working in Japan, and a crew of Peruvians all heading to say their prayers at the same spot?”

I wanted to search “On Faith” for more strings on the Baha’i but realized that Baha’i World Faith was not offered in their pop-up menu of “List Posts by Topics” which did include: Anglican, Atheist/Agnostic, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Earth-based Spirituality, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopal, Evangelical, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Jewish, Mainline Protestant, Mormon, Muslim, Native American religion, Protestant, Quaker, Sikh, Taoist, Wiccan.

As of February 2008 there were 5,000,000 Baha’is in the world and 159,692 Baha’is in the United States. I couldn’t find a figure for either Taoist or Wiccans but one site at least claimed that in 2001 there were c. 34,000 Wiccans in the US.

Baha’is promote tolerance and moderation and are anxiously concerned with the social issues of the time in which they live. Baha’is around the globe contribute to civil society at locally, regionally, nationally levels on issues and programs related to World Religion Day, interfaith relations, religious freedom, Race Unity Day, race unity, elimination of prejudice, advancement of women (CEDAW), human rights, among others. Baha’is have offices at United Nations as NGO are are prominent in international forums as invited participants acknowledged for civil moderate behaviour in the most volatile situations. Recently the U.S. Bahá’í U.N. representative Jeffery Huffines received a Friendship Award for his work “promoting cultural understanding throughout the world and at the UN Headquarters” and for serving as a “positive, guiding force” to all. It is surprising that Baha’is seem to be largely absent from this forum.

The categories offered under “List Posts by Topics” are confusing since some are parent categories for the others. The Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and Evangelical are all followers of Christ and are all therefore Christians. Which discussions take place solely under the name of Anglican, Mainline Protestants and Episcopal? In terms of the semantic web it would be far more useful to provide a theme-based “List of Topics” that is inclusive of all the groups and religions mentioned. Tags could be used to facilitate searches for a Quaker, Sikh or Baha’i or Catholic perspective, for example. I would recommend that the blog architects revisit and update their taxonomy using principles of folksonomy: what users do with words.

Years of working with research materials leads to a way of thinking with categories, subcategories; key words (tags); abstracts, descriptions, key concepts, timelines, references in .eml or similar formats. The semantic web revs up that process with powerful tools. So my blogs are always a work in progress, process works.

My own personal blogs are experimental and while I am very conscientious about what is here, I can claim no professional authority in any one field.

At this time in my life I feel as if I live outside linear time. Blog stats soar up suddenly for no apparent reason on a blog posted weeks or month ago. So I tidy it up a little. Then the graph drops sharply again with no apparent reason. I don’t need to try to control it.

Outside linear time, I could just pick up threads begun months ago on Milton Friedman, the social history of Inuit, media objectivity or what we do in the name of such concepts as “memory work” or “everyday life.” Through creative commons I could share all my teaching, learning and research resources without having to shorten them, tidy them up or make them ready for someone else’s deadline. Take what you need and leave the rest. I would still work as hard as I could to maintain my own standards particularly in investigating , acknowledging and referencing sources of information, images, etc.

As I am creating, writing, coding, snurling, twittering, blogging, and uploading to wikipedia, social bookmark accounts, my blogs or others’ etc I have absolutely no trust in anyone.

I post knowing that anything I have shared can be misinterpreted, misunderstood, misread. It can be rejected, ignored, criticized. It can be copied and pasted without my name attached. I license all my work under the Creative Commons License 3.0 SA-NC-BY but I know it cannot be enforced in most cases.

So why bother?

What I do is not based on my need to trust others in cyberspace. I do not feel as though I am an embodied link in an embodied network in linear time and space.

This is even more than that. If I use the semantic web effectively, a searcher who is not “now” from a geographic location that is not “here” can still find my arrows, my markers, hotwords and icons, index-mouse-clicks that might just help them a little in their search. Maybe I will be that searcher.

It is more important to me to work hard at providing information that is not misinformation, trying hard to be as close to the truth as is possible, to use the most powerful arguments from the most reliable texts available to me at any given time.

I am not an anthropologist nor a journalist; I am definitely not a churnalist. My responsibility to me and therefore to others in this network or not, is to post that which I believe to be useful in a way that allows others to follow a trail of truth claims should they choose.

Thirteen years ago Francis Fukuyama in Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (1995) questioned predictions that the Internet, the computer to computer communication network, unleashed from restrictions imposed by its creator, the Department of Defense, would herald a new organizational network constituted by small firms and individuals that would prove to be superior to large, hierarchical corporations and anarchical market relationships (Fukuyama 1995:195). Fukuyama argued that network efficiency depended on reciprocal moral judgment [1], “a high level of trust and the existence of shared norms and ethical behaviour between network members (Fukuyama 1995:195).” He contrasted the necessity of that network users share social responsibilities and obligations with hackers and other users who were “free spirits hostile to any form of authority . . . vulnerable to certain forms of normlessness and asocial behaviour.”

Fukuyama furthered argued that the Internet is a community of shared values using the concept similar to Shumpei Kumon’s notion of “consensus/inducement-based exchange.” He felt that Internet users in the 1970s and 1980s (mainly government and academic researchers) internalized unquestioned shared values. The Internet could be kept low-cost if users respected certain ethical standards.

In 1994 two lawyers broke the Internet’s code of ethics and bombarded news groups with advertisements for their services (Fukuyama 1995:196). The lawyers were not breaking any written laws and were not shamed into retreat. However, the sheer quantity of hate mail they receive, forced their server shut down.

Although the monitization of all things Internet is well underway, there is also exponential growth in cyberworld capital [2] which like cultural capital or academic capital can facilitate access to certain privileges. I am aware of ways in which users of social networking sites strategize to optimize search engine findability, to increase their hits, statistics, and cyberworld capital.

I am not certain if the success in accumulating cyberworld capital or monitizing all things Internet is made more efficient by trust?

Notes

1. Fukuyama compares network as community concept to the Japanese concept of keiretsu and its western reincarnation in American conglomerates like Gulf + West + ITT. keiretsu depends on a high level of trust.

2. Some measure cyberworld capital in terms such as “authority” as with Technorati. Others self-identify as A1bloggers.

Churnalism 2.0

July 15, 2008


In his scathing critique of the state of the British fourth estate (1970s-2007), entitled Flat Earth News, seasoned Guardian investigative reporter exposed falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media. This reporter with a distinguished record in investigative journalism claims that “the British newspaper industry, its regulators and the PR machine that supplies it” accept, report and spread “lies, distortions and propaganda” in a culture of “churnalism” not objective, investigative reporting (Riddell 2008).

“Il documente les règles permettant à n’importe quel rédacteur d’usiner une « information » sans chair, sans risque et parfois sans vérité — mais respectueuse des principes du marketing : privilégier les enquêtes au rabais, éviter de froisser les institutions, se porter au devant des désirs supposés du lecteur, alimenter la panique morale… (Davies 2008-07).”

He revealed how the public has come to accept misinformation (the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq) as it is so widely spread by a mass media culture in which fewer journalists are hired and those that remain are discouraged from taking the time to verify the credibility of sources.

“Davies unmuzzled deplores the rise of ‘churnalism’; the quick-turnover dross peddled by hacks less scrupulous or fortunate than him. Costs are being cut and standards eroded by greedy proprietors. Hidden persuaders are manipulating truth. At its worst, the modern newsroom is a place of bungs and bribes, whose occupants forage illicitly for scoops in databases and dustbins. Newspapers hold others to account while hushing up their own unsavoury methods. Self-regulation does not always offer fair (or any) redress to citizens who have had lies written about them. Stories are often pompous, biased or plain wrong. Some close scrutiny is not only legitimate: it is overdue (Riddell 2008-02-03).”

BBC website. Look how much of that is just rewritten wire copy with no attribution

Webliography and Bibliography

Davies, Nick. 2008. Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media. London: Chatto & Windus.

Davies, Nick. 2008-07. “Qui veut en finir avec le modèle de la BBC: L’émotion n’existe pas? Alors, inventez-la!Le monde diplomatique.

Glover, Stephen. 2008-02-04. “Damning allegations that, if true, bring disgrace upon ‘The Observer’. Stephen Glover on The Press > The Independent.

Greenslade, Roy. 2008-02-04. “The difference between journalism and churnalism, a book we must take seriously.” > Greenslade > The Guardian blog.

Lanchester, John. 2008-03-06. “Riots, Terrorism etc.London Review of Books.

Riddell, Mary. 2008-02-03. “Failures of the Fourth Estate: Flat Earth News by Nick Davies turns the spotlight on the workings of the press.” The Observer.

Notes

See also Media Objectivity in Canada: a Timeline of Social Events November 30, 2007.


“How does information become transformed into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom? (Yerushalmi 1994)? This commitment to rereading history from papyrus to hypertext parallels the commitment to philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view. It is not merely theory for theory’s sake. Gatekeepers of the archives (and collective memory) wield power. Access to information is more than a legal right: it becomes an indicator by which effective democracies can be measured. (Derrida 1996a: 4). The mapping of archives of the infosphere needs to be concerned with uncompromised inclusivity as constitutive of a renewed, unbound, effective democracy in which plurality can co-exist with social cohesion. It requires a consistent and constant vigilance against complicity and complacence. It involves nurturing and encouraging diverse ways of seeing, knowing and remembering. The architecture of deconstruction facilitates the round-tables of discussions which invite, welcome and propel rather than discourage, exclude, dismiss and prevent convergences of divergent thoughts. The sparks of discord can illuminate the ashes and dust of the (missing) archives (Flynn-Burhoe 2000).

This is a blog version of a html webpage entitled “Mapping Memory: from Papyrus to Digitization: The Great Flood and the Arkh“. In 2000 (?) it was presented to a small eclectic group of dazzling student super-geeks and hackers brought together by a shared interest in the virtual and Carleton University star professor Rob Shields.

Abstract: This paper and webpage examines intersections between Jacques Derrida’s Archives Fever and texts, objects and events that informed Archive Fever: Plato’s Phaedrus, Freud’s Moses and Monotheism and Yerushalmi Freud’s Moses. (How) Is the authority of the archonte transformed by the digitization of archives? How can conceptual tools developed by Jacques Derrida enhance understanding of the concept of archives in this period of transformation? (How) can the structure of the archives allow for the co-existence of social cohesion and pluralism? To what extent is archival meaning co-determined by the structure of the archives? (Derrida 1996a: 16) To what extent is our access to knowledge, to collective memories barred by inadequate maps and ideological obstacles?

Keywords: archives, anarchives, digitization, cartography, pharmakon, plurality, democracy

With the digitization of data, archives have been inundated with a tidal wave of information. The great flood of the archives is both cause and effect of an expanding collective electronic memory and an enlarging field of inquirers and inquiries. Cultural groups resisting the homogenous mass culture of globalization, an increasingly informed citizenry insisting on accountability in governance and grass roots movements involved in risk management excavate the archives to legitimize claims and trace memories (Wallot 1996: 23).

In this complex infosphere of ‘…shifting nationhood, evolving governance, mutating organizations, and changing forms of records’ archivists attempt to maintain a creative tension and complementarity between their hybrid roles as gatekeepers of evidence and map-makers of society’s ‘…long-term memory, identity and values formation and transmission’ (Wallot 1996: 23). This involves nothing less than a re-examination of the theoretical roots and conceptual framework of the professional roles of archivists (Wallot 1996: 24).

In 1994 an international conference in London, organized by the Freud Museum and the Société Internationale d’Histoire de la Psychanalyse, focussed on ‘Memory: The Question of Archives.’ Derrida’s presentation Archives Fever which lasted over three hours was dedicated to Jewish historian, Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi whose ‘handsome’ book Freud’s Moses provided a catalyst for his own. Yerushalmi’s frustrated attempts at accessing certain exclusive archives while conducting his research on Freud, led to his paper ‘‘Series Z: : An Archival Fantasy’ presented at the same conference.

Derrida juxtaposes reflections on memory and archives with Freud’s psychoanalysis. Freud’s archives in Freud’s Museum, London and in the Library of Congress consist of thousand of items collected and stored under protective guardianship. Yet the archons of the corpus of the most-quoted man of the twentieth century seem to break all the rules of archival practice: the archived items are neither innocent, accessible nor dusty. Freud’s archives were not naive: they were self-conscious, wary of censorship therefore self-censored and incomplete. Freud’s own secrecy rivaled that of Goethe who was a ‘… great self-revealer, but also in the abundance of autobiographical records, a careful concealer’ (Freud 1930: 212). But then all archives are incomplete repositories, containing only those objects and artifacts that have survived the past (Yerushalmi 1994).

Even with the best archival practice the archival documents cannot be historical facts. Vital archival objects are articulated or constructed as historical in an interpretive process through the mind and imagination of the historian. History is constructed from documents retrieved from archival storage. And archival material can be constructed to contradict memory (Yerushalmi 1994).

‘Psychoanalysis aspires to be a general science of the archive, of everything that can happen to the economy of meaning and to […] its traces.’ The science (or art) of psychoanalysis depends on memory as data. Freud’s human subject achieved freedom from neurosis through memory management. In the economy of psychoanalysis memories can be called up, evoked, transmitted, named, categorized and relativized.

What is the nature of transmission of memories? Freud suggested ways of remembering that were relevant to psychoanalysis and inaccessible to ordinary histories. But he only once used the term ‘archives’ as a metaphor for memory. In 1898 he imagined memory as an open, accessible archive that was subjected to the will. He discarded the inadequate metaphor: memories can be stored but not all can be retrieved. (Yerushalmi 1991 Freud [1898]) Yerushalmi concluded that Freud abandoned the term ‘archives’ as a metaphor for memory since they have ‘…nothing in common. Memory is not an archive, nor is archive a memory bank’ (Yerushalmi 1994).

Archives, even Freud’s official Archives were not ‘the ultimate arbitrar of historical truth’ about Freud as it was widely believed by both his defenders and his attackers (Yerushalmi 1994). In spite of the sophistication of contemporary historians who recognize the limitations of archival documents, the unlocking of Freud’s most secretive archives, Series Z, led to a ‘fureur de l’inédit.’ This fury to publish previously unpublished archival documents was reminiscent of the 19th century heyday of scientific history informed by the cult of the archives. In the 1830s through the 1860s national governments opened their archives to research in an effort to protect their collective histories. Lord Acton proclaimed, ‘To keep one’s archives barred against the historians was tantamount to leaving one’s history to one’s enemies’ (Yerushalmi 1994).

Like an archaeologist, Derrida excavates the concepts of archives and memory. These pharmakon-like concepts contain both the cure and the poison. This homeopathy of thinking describes ‘archive’ as open, visible, accessible and undivided. Archives become an indicator, evidence, witness, a way of rewriting history, a return to origins, a return to the archaic, a search for lost time, scar-like traces on the surfaces of the body and an archeology of the surface. But archives are also dormant, lost, dissimulated, forbidden, censored, destroyed and incinerated. Through the secret archives or anarchives Derrida raises questions of transmission in the economy of memory. (1996a)

Derrida’s impressions of l’actualité have left their mark around the globe. Situating himself as one who lives between two worlds, a world citizen who is Jewish-French but also Algerian he argues for a philosophy from a cosmopolitico view point where transmission and alterité become the centre. In international conferences spanning three decades with diverse groups: arabo-islamic intellectuals, UNESCO, the Société Internationale d’Histoire de la Psychanalyse or at John Hopkins University, he challenges complacency and complicity. He reveals how philosophy is not shackled by an exclusive, solitary memory or language: it is stereoscopic, polyglot, multi-linear even bastardized, crossbred and spliced. He calls for a new role for philosophy, one in which a rereading of Plato, for example, becomes as urgent a task as new scientific results (Derrida 1996b). He adds a third space to columns of binary opposites: a space of tension, of sparks generated from divergent viewpoints (1981:73).

Derrida cites and questions Plato’s separation of live memory mneme from hypomneme. Archives are hypomneme along with inventories, citations, copies, lists and genealogies (1981:107). The archives are an extension of writing, commodified by power brokers, the sophists. Socrates’ words written by Plato, upheld the ‘art of memory.’ Writing was imperfect memory or even forgetfulness, dependent on signs; it was nonknowledge (1981:105). The recital of 25,000 lines of Homeric verse over several days was a manifestation of the living word, of knowledge, of the promise of limitless memory. But Socrates, “he who does not write” was written. When Derrida came upon a 14th century Italian print from the Bodleian Library, reproduced mechanically as a postcard he was enchanted. It became a visual metaphor for the archival object: in the scriptorium Socrates is writing with Plato standing behind him. By examining the relationship between the two fathers of meaning in Western thought, Derrida opened a space for a rethinking of transgenerational patriarchal transmission. He brought Freud’s ghost, his archives and his historian into the discussion. He reveals how secret archives and powerful archons dissimulate.

Derrida speaks and writes in a ‘scriptless’ hypertext, where intertextualitity can either enrich or confuse. Derrida’s reflections on Plato, Freud, Yerushalmi are constructed into complex layers of texts that defy a linear structure such as this paper. Its content is better adapted to the nonlinear format of the webpage. Fascinating and thought-provoking connections can be extrapolated following Derrida’s lead from papyrus to digitization. Both Plato and Freud circuitously lead us to the Black Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton who introduced a form of monotheistic religion c. 1379 – 1362 BCE with Aton the god of the universe subsuming both Thoth the moon god and Amon-re or Amen the sun god. Plato as scribe for Socrates used a myth to discredit myth over logos. In Socrates’ version of the myth Thamus disparaged Theuth (Thoth) for inventing writing along with alchemy, geometry, astronomy and calculations. Theuth not only writes and represents Amon-Ra; he effectively replaced the god himself.

Freud investigated Egyptian monotheism as possible source of Moses’ monotheism. To these layers I would suggest another, accessible through archives that are still underused by western inquirers. Questions of intellectual genealogy and inheritance can be enriched (although not answered) by accessing Islamic archives. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the Ptolmeac corpus influenced Islamic thought. Islamic law was informed by Solomon’s judicial system. Further in these archives monotheism is traced to the Patriarch common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Abraham. How would Socrates hypothetical journeys to Palestine and Syria and the possible influence of Hebrew sages on Socrates himself impact on the concept of bastardized, hybridized and spliced philosophies? Answers as evidence are not the issue. The answers to Freud’s question ‘Was Moses Egyptian?’ like Yerushalmi’s ‘Is psychoanalysis a Jewish science?’ take second place to the open-ended questions themselves.

Derrida’s papyrus and postcard connection led to the Bodleian Library. While reading my library copy of Postcards, the ghostlike presence of the postcard became so tangible, I almost expected ‘a missing letter’ scratched on the back of Plato and Socrates to fall out from between the pages. Following Derrida’s trail electronically I accessed the Bodleian Library’s medieval print section. The Bodleian Library seemed elusive, even exclusive: it is the main research library of the University of Oxford used by scholars from around the world. However, a number of their collections of medieval manuscripts are now available around the globe on-line. The mechanical reproduced images that appeared on my screen leaving their impressions were from Dante’s Divine Commedia. In a northern Italian 14th century illustration Dante and Virgil observe Mohammed and Ptolemy, both condemned to inferno for their heresies. The same medieval censorship that suppressed Ptolemy’s Geographia, and denied the monotheism of Islam, had also misread Socrates and Plato.

Was Artaud referring to Ptolemy when he proclaimed: ‘The library at Alexandria can be burnt down. There are forces above and beyond papyrus: we may temporarily be deprived of our ability to discover these forces, but their energy will not be suppressed’ (1981: 53). Instead the secret archives becomes a spectre, a ghost, a phantom protecting itself from detection, repression, censorship and destruction.

An entire corpus of Greek knowledge was rejected by early Christians fearful that the spherical globe violated their fundamental religious beliefs. Navigation and cartography are inextricably interwoven. Yet the historiography of cartography of our biosphere is one of ransacked, missing, secret and recovered archives. In 391 AD Christians mobs sacked the Alexandrian library including Ptolemy’s research. As Librarian of the Alexandrian, he had inherited centuries of Greek scholarship which he published in the Geographia. Arabo-Islamic scholars, unbridled by Christian fear of ‘Greek science’ translated and developed Ptolemaic maps for their journeys to India, Tibet and China. In 1154 Al-Idrisi, Arabo-Islamic geographer in a Sicilian court created a world map influenced by Ptolemy. The European period of world-wide expansion took place only after Medieval maps were replaced by Ptolemy’s science. McLuhan suggested that without maps as a means of communication “the world of modern science and technology would hardly exist” (McLuhan 1964: 157-8). What will be the suppressed memories, the missing links on the maps of the infosphere, on the maps of the archives? Who decides the grid and the structure?

Digitized, indexed and linked image, stills and motion, sound and text can be mapped by one author then unwrapped and re-mapped by an active reader. Virtual objects seem to float dislocated from space and time connected only by links, those ‘arrows frozen in time’ (Shields 2000). Once reproduced electronically, an urn, an 11th century map, a postcard letter or the Bodleian’s 14th century version of Dante’s Commedia are wrenched from the structure, context and content. John le Carré stated, ‘Nothing exists without a context.’ Descriptions and explanations can be lost leaving ‘vast holes in memory.’ Or the opposite can occur: Navigational tools, maps and charts can reintegrate structure to context and content (Wallot 1996: 14). Through electronic embedding, for example, virtual images of Inuit sculptures, those silent ambassadors of a dynamic living culture, can hyperlink context and content in rich layers of information.

Concept maps are not innocent; they become tools for data interpretation and ways of assigning value and meaning. Maps are not draped over reality; they exclude. They are like Derrida’s archontes, the archivists who wield authority (and power) over data, its interpretation, its storage and its accessibility. The archontes of electronic archives decide what is collected, described and classified or ignored, destroyed or virtually left hanging, unmapped and disconnected. What happens to the ‘other’ in cyber archives? If categories are not created, do they no longer exist? If there are no pointers, can they be found? Could the holocaust have happened in the age of electronic mail? Would there have been electronic traces of the crematoria?

“But of the secret itself, there can be no archive, by definition. The secret is the very ash of the archive. . .” Derrida’s concept of archives bridges the technical, political, ethical and judicial with poetry and ghosts. In Feu le cendre the holocaust ashes of the crematoriums contain traces of memories, names, letters, photos, personal objects and even keys. The ashes become the pharmakon. They are both cure and poison; they remain but are gone. They are the incomplete archives, traces of the disappeared, traces that speak of that ‘other’ memory.

The censorship of psychoanalysis, ‘a Jewish science’ led to an ethos of protective secrecy about Freud’s archives which continued throughout the 20th century. In 1885 and again in 1907 Freud completely destroyed all his correspondence, notes, diaries and manuscripts (Yerushalmi 1994). He wrote Moses and Monotheism, his only work specifically on a Jewish theme on the eve of Nazi occupation of Austria. Shortly after Freud’s forced exile to England and the completion of his manuscript, Freud died. His inquiry into the history of monotheism was a questioning of the role of religion itself. Was it possible to trace suppressed memories of a people as one can with individuals? Would such a project reduce religion to that of a social neurosis caused by deeply embedded and suppressed trans-generational memories? Freud wrote his first manuscripts knowing that censorship would prevent it from being read, at least in his lifetime. Catholic authorities were critical of psychoanalysis: this manuscript would provoke even greater antagonism. After his death any literature on psychoanalysis uncovered by the Nazis was incinerated as ‘Jewish literature.’ But Freud’s psychoanalysis of Jewish history and Judaism also sent a shock wave through the Jewish community. He hypothesized, like Otto Rank in 1909, that Moses was born to a Egyptian princess not to a Hebrew woman. Freud suggesting that Moses’ monotheistic religion was actually based on an existing Egyptian monotheistic religion, Aten. Further he sought out clues to Moses’ murder. In effect Freud was dismantling the Jewish claim to uniqueness. Freud died before the manuscript was published, without ever knowing the holocaust. He wrote for a secret archives, knowing readers were not ready, nor would they be until sometime in the future. Derrida describes the writing that seeks dissimulation as anarchives, the ‘other’ archives, the secret archives hidden from the flames of repression.

Yerushalmi’s book Freud’s Moses became an appeal to the spectre of Freud to reveal the contents of the secret archives, to provide answers that the archives did not hold. How did Freud’s personal life relate to his teaching or to the history of the psychoanalytic movement? In the final dramatic, audacious chapter entitled ‘Monologue with Freud,’ Yerushalmi addresses Professor Freud’s spectre in a ‘fiction which [he] somehow do[es] not feel to be fictitious’ (Yerushalmi 1991:81). Yerushalmi implores Freud to reveal to him “When your daughter [Anna in 1977 declared that psychoanalysis was a Jewish science] conveyed those words to the congress in Jerusalem, was she speaking in your name?”

Was Freud being loyal to Judaism, through disloyality? Was he recognizing its weaknesses without rejecting it outright? Was he refusing alienation and victimization? Was he protecting his own true subjective freedom by refusing to accept in its entirety an inherited ethnicity, religion, culture or nationality (Derrida 1996c)?

Yerushalmi did not expect the archives to provide evidence of Freud’s relationship to Judaism. But did he perhaps hope that Freud’s collection of antiquities would reveal some specifically Jewish objects? None were exhibited in a traveling exhibition of Freud’s antiquities in 1989. However, a year later exhibition curator Dr. Gamwell informed Yerushalmi, after he had sent off his manuscript, that at the Freud Museum in London, objects had been found “which are related to Freud’s Jewishness.” Included in the list of items was a Hanukkah Menorah which was in Freud’s study during his lifetime and a 1913 postcard to Karl Abraham which shows the arch of Titus. On the image depicting the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE with soldiers removing the Menorah from the Temple, Freud wrote, “The Jew survives it!” (Yerushalmi 1991).

Freud used his vast collection of antiquities from Greece, Rome and Egypt to illustrate his remarks during his therapy sessions. He compared the relatively unchanging nature of the unconscious to the antique objects in the study which had been entombed and preserved, then uncovered, unchanged.

The pivotal object however was the rebound bible which Freud’s father had presented to Freud on his thirty-fifth birthday in May, 1891. Yerushalmi became the first guardian, reader, doctor and the only legitimate archon (Derrida 1995:22) of Jacob Freud’s Hebrew dedication, which Derrida himself analysed in detail. Derrida described the law makers who create and maintain the archives: Freud’s father, Freud, Yerushalmi and the “arch-archiving of the family Bible of the arch-patriarch of psychoanalysis in the arca, cupboard, prison cell, cistern, reservoir.” (Derrida 1995:23) Using this specifically Jewish artifact Derrida ties together strands that had been threading through Dissemination, Feu le cendres, Postcards and Archives Fever. The impression is left by the Jewish father on his son. The one who writes is written by the father in the pre-Socratic language. The new skin of the Bible is covered with scar-like traces as reminders, as ways of remembering. The Bible as gift to the son continues to be the gift to Yerushalmi who yearned for the spectral presence of Freud.

The archives provide a deluge of information. But haunting questions remain: how does information become transformed into knowledge, and knowledge into wisdom? (Yerushalmi 1994)? This commitment to rereading history from papyrus to hypertext parallels the commitment to philosophy from a cosmopolitical point of view. It is not merely theory for theory’s sake. Gatekeepers of the archives (and collective memory) wield power. Access to information is more than a legal right: it becomes an indicator by which effective democracies can be measured. (Derrida 1996a: 4). The mapping of archives of the infosphere needs to be concerned with uncompromised inclusivity as constitutive of a renewed, unbound, effective democracy in which plurality can co-exist with social cohesion. It requires a consistent and constant vigilance against complicity and complacence. It involves nurturing and encouraging diverse ways of seeing, knowing and remembering. The architecture of deconstruction facilitates the round-tables of discussions which invite, welcome and propel rather than discourage, exclude, dismiss and prevent convergences of divergent thoughts. The sparks of discord can illuminate the ashes and dust of the (missing) archives.

CC 2000Maureen Flynn-Burhoe for comments, corrections and copyright concerns.