Legibility, Illegibility, Anti-Legibility

suspended

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illegibility.png
Caption: "It's experimental art, Ma!"

Last time: Fronts.

Insofar as we create performances for each other, and interpret one another's performances, we are constantly caught in a practice of reading and writing.

With a text-based communication medium, like Dissensus, this reading and writing is fully literal. In meatspace, it's a metaphor, but only sorta—how we dress, our moods and affects, our behaviors, are all subject to semiotic encoding and decoding.

Legibility: the quality of being clearly readable.

In broad strokes, the incentives for legibility or illegibility are straightforward.

If you're in an adversarial situation, you want to make sure your opponent can't predict you. If they can predict your behavior, they can optimize around your future behavior; think Rock Paper Scissors.

If you're in a cooperative situation, it tends to help if your ally knows your plan and intent. Avoiding duplication of effort, ensuring that each party's actions do not hinder the actions of the others. Insofar as you desire to hide information, it is typically because you do not trust your partner in some capacity. For a simple example, a game of Rock Paper Scissors where both players win when they choose the same symbol, and lose when their choices differ.

Finally, anti-legibility: You give reader a false clarity; your text purposefully misleads.
 

version

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I went and watched a few clips of her to see if I could get a feel for what she was like and she seemed completely ordinary, just a friendly, middle-aged woman. I suppose that might be even more unsettling than if she were very obviously a monster - banality of evil and all that...



There are some photos where she looks much harder and colder though;

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suspended

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"Now is a moment of masks, and the hard-to-decipher." (Dean Kissick, "Downward Spiral pt. 2")

People are pack animals narrative is our rope. I move, you follow. We sneak up on the flank of an extended Dominican family, a border patrol and picket line, the watchful eyes of a patriarch, young henches on benches, guarding the perimeter, keeping the event closed. We get eyes and eyes. The damn territorialism. There is a public utility mindset, vaguely utilitarian, where lower-level management of local norms, unspoken tensions are evaporated into an open space with agreed-upon rules. (And why is it that these sailboat libertarians, who see the world as clear liberal legal systems which matter and local tribalisms which don’t, are so much less anxious, are of generally clearer headed than those with opposite vision?) And yet on the flank of the quinceañera, on the stones by the river that form a granite bank, we get the gag, what has been guarded: an unhindered view of the train as it passes from upstate into borough, over Jesuit water, blowing steam and coming around the bend through stone tunnel like something from a hobbyist set.

All I can say in passing is if you move with legible intent and people are comfortable, it’s cuz they understand your motives. The picket didn’t know who the fuck I was; I looked like some goddam cop in my camo and industrial headset and sunglasses with a notepad and it freaked them out. When Jeff took his shirt off they realized we were just hippie dip-heads, looking for north-tipped spume.
 

version

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How conscious do you think this reading of people is? I find that when I actually meet people, all this happens subconsciously and very quickly and gets whittled down to a general feeling about them.
 

suspended

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Yeah I think it's pretty largely unconscious, but it's still clearly happening because you know things about them you didn't know you know, your behavior gets altered in response to subtle clues, incredible fluency, the same way you read text, it just "means" it's only occasionally the code breaks down, you need to puzzle it out consciously
 

version

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The conscious/unconscious process is something which bothers me at times. I've talked before about going through periods of being incredibly aware of basic things I wouldn't normally be, things like having skin or walking or breathing and it throwing me off. It's like suddenly forgetting how to ride a bike whilst in the saddle.
 

suspended

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The conscious/unconscious process is something which bothers me at times. I've talked before about going through periods of being incredibly aware of basic things I wouldn't normally be, things like having skin or walking or breathing and it throwing me off. It's like suddenly forgetting how to ride a bike whilst in the saddle.
Yeah psychedelic-type drugs will do that to you too. Loss of fluency. It's the Heidegger present-to-hand thing. When the tool breaks, you're forced to deal with how it works (because it's stopped working). This is partly why people on the autism spectrum have written insightful social theory, I think.
 

version

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How conscious do you think this reading of people is? I find that when I actually meet people, all this happens subconsciously and very quickly and gets whittled down to a general feeling about them.
The flip of this is how conscious people are of manipulating others. I imagine some people are very deliberate about it, but I also imagine some just act and there isn't much thought behind it beyond what happens in the moment, e.g. someone who ends up "gaslighting" someone else, but as a byproduct of being unwilling to lose an argument rather than as part of some extended campaign.
 

suspended

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Sontag, "Aesthetics of Silence" 1967:
For a person to become silent is to become opaque for the other; somebody's silence opens up an array of possibilities for interpreting that silence, for imputing speech to it. The ways in which this opaqueness induces anxiety, spiritual vertigo, is the theme of… [Bergman's] Persona. The theme is reinforced by the two principal attributions one is invited to make of the actress’ deliberate silence. considered as a decision relating to herself, it is apparently the way she has chosen to give form to the wish for ethical purity; but it is also, as behavior, a means of power, a species of sadism, a virtually inviolable position of strength from which to manipulate and confound her nurse-companion, who is charged with the burden of talking.
There's a theory of psychedelics pushed by Karl Friston and Carhart-Harris called REBUS, that basically it increases the weighting of bottom-up incoming data, and relaxes your top-down priors. You get the increases in open-mindedness, experiences of delusion or schizosis, the cognitive rules by which you understand the world have their grip loosened.
 

version

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I remember trying to hand some money to a friend whilst tripping and suddenly thinking I was holding it really far out in front of me, gasping and retracting my arm and them wondering what I was doing.

You get into these situations where you suddenly feel as though you're acting strangely, but the attempt to correct the strange behaviour either makes it stranger or you were never really acting strangely at all and you're just tying yourself in knots.
 

suspended

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I remember trying to hand some money to a friend whilst tripping and suddenly thinking I was holding it really far out in front of me, gasping and retracting my arm and them wondering what I was doing.

You get into these situations where you suddenly feel as though you're acting strangely, but the attempt to correct the strange behaviour either makes it stranger or you were never really acting strangely at all and you're just tying yourself in knots.
It's the thought loops that always got me, in the beginning trips, but I've gotten past that now, and most of the schizo delusions I once got on psychs are gone too (telepathy, secret quests, entity contact, death/rebirth hallucinations, seeing the matrix, etc). It's kind of nice and kind of boring now on the rare occasions I drop. The control the self, never slips, it's always on lock-down, my physical coordination might slip but it's more like being poisoned than intoxicated.

It's not like I have tolerance either, trip once or twice a year, but in college I did it a little more than that and at some point it's like my brain just adjusted, I couldn't actually lose consciousness anymore. It's the same with drink. It's a bit odd.
 

suspended

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Legibility in general puts people at ease, by giving them a clear top-down narrative of what you'll be doing in the near-future. Which is a question they're invested in: when we're "ecologically huddled," sharing a habitat, our actions affect one another, our futures are interdependent. Navigating an intersection with a broken traffic light; a biker passing joggers on the trail. Illegibility can make people nervous, can threaten cooperation, give people the willies, the heebyjeebies. Anxiety is unease at the unforeseeable potential for future calamity, which increases alongside general uncertainty in the predictive schema. To be creepy is to be difficult to read, a situation that gives you the creeps is one which feels like danger could possibly lurking, but the shadows are deep, the fog too thick to tell.
 

version

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It's the thought loops that always got me, in the beginning trips, but I've gotten past that now, and most of the schizo delusions I once got on psychs are gone too (telepathy, secret quests, entity contact, death/rebirth hallucinations, seeing the matrix, etc). It's kind of nice and kind of boring now on the rare occasions I drop. The control the self, never slips, it's always on lock-down, my physical coordination might slip but it's more like being poisoned than intoxicated.

It's not like I have tolerance either, trip once or twice a year, but in college I did it a little more than that and at some point it's like my brain just adjusted, I couldn't actually lose consciousness anymore. It's the same with drink. It's a bit odd.
I did it most weeks, sometimes multiple times a week, for about a year and a half when I was seventeen, eighteen. I carried on doing it for a while after the rough one, but it ruined it for me as I was forever on edge after that and couldn't really enjoy it.
It's been over a decade since I last tried it and I doubt I'll ever do it again.
 

version

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What was rough about it? Losing fluency, or something beyond that/coinciding?
I think I had some sort of panic attack. I felt incredibly claustrophobic and like I was burning up, dripping with sweat, but I couldn't tell whether I actually was or not and all these little things just ratcheted up until I walked out of my mate's house and went home without even bothering to put on my shoes.
 

shakahislop

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I haven't seen him discussed on here I think, maybe because I spend my time reading 21 page threads about zhao's dick which were written while i was in secondary school, but there is all the james scott stuff about the legibility of populations to states, and the ways that people make themselves deliberately illegible to states in order to avoid being controlled by them.
 

shakahislop

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I haven't seen him discussed on here I think, maybe because I spend my time reading 21 page threads about zhao's dick which were written while i was in secondary school, but there is all the james scott stuff about the legibility of populations to states, and the ways that people make themselves deliberately illegible to states in order to avoid being controlled by them.
every now and then i meet people who have read this, it's on a lot of political science curriculums i think, and we have a moment of mutual recognition. yes. you have read it too. we both get it. our brains are the same.
 
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