Information comes and goes.
The how of it? Nobody knows.
This is not a post for everyone, maybe not for anyone, but the post is true to its title. I have been thinking, again, about the flow of information: how; it moves, who changes it’s flow or content, and who finds and chooses to use it. Think about the crazy information trails from obscurity to foolish action to widespread disbelief in the Bedbug Incident or Pizzagate, but not today.
Because, finally, the impeachment process has begun, and already people don’t know how to choose a source that will give them credible, current, newsworthy information Already the impeachment inquiry is a lot of recorded information from a lot of sources, gathered by a lot of official bodies. Where to look? Who to believe? Where to start? Who or what outlet(s) to follow? Oh yeah, I am so ready.
How about beginning with the two official documents that started it all: the whistle-blower’s complaint and the President’s summary of his phone call? Then add the pond ripples of official testifiers, their testimony and documents and you have a useful information trail to follow, though the record of the Congressional hearings will only be made public later, and the distractions will be ever with us.
Add the coming circus of seemingly endless other primary records, e.g. tape of the President’s actual call, translator notes, notes from others listening in, other whistle-blowers chiming in, legal opinions, Congressional rulings, Judicial rulings, White House press interactions and walk-backs, etc. Then add the wanna-sayers, analysts and everyone else with an opinion and a bull horn. The problem is not in the number or variety or even the distribution of these records. No, the problem is figuring out what information you need and how to find it. Clearly, you need a map with routes built on a visual image of an organizing scheme.
Scheme and image have to come together somehow. That’s the fun of the challenge. Bibliographic chains used to work, and maps are always good, but two dimensional, although overlays help.. A maze or web come to mind, but they are too inflexible. An opening peony blossom works for the expanding sources, but the inter-petal links apparently don’t exist. Color could sort the political from the legal sources, but other variables, e.g. origin, authority, spread, influence, timing, point-of-view, need to be included, maybe. (Have I said I love the NYTimes’ online graphics?) Consider these three ways of thinking about the problem.
The complex of bare branches of a living tree might work.
Carol Lee Chase’s painting ”An Order Shared” at Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis
Photographs of mathematicians’ blackboards “[with] swirling gangs of symbols sketched in the heat of imagination, argument and speculation.” are food for thinking about possible variables which, when somehow combined, might suggest a useful trail to follow.
Jessica Wynne, photographer, “Do Not Erase.” A collection of these images, will be published by Princeton University Press in the fall of 2020 some of which appeared in the NY Times (9/23/09).
Finally, of course, a book, one of my favorites. Barbara Ann Kipfer’s The Order of Things: Hierarchies, Structures, Pecking Orders is an unusual, useful, charming effort to sort things out and give them a place. This was one of the hardest books I had to give up when I could no longer manage pages of a bound, paper book. And it is not available for Kindle readers, so I am remembering my years of pleasure in having it nearby. Edward Tufte’s books are great graphic displays, especially, in this case, Envisioning Information, but they are data driven, and my information variables are not yet that established.
Epilogue: Thinking about thoughts of a happy post-er:
I majored in philosophy, so now I see, frame, and ask questions. I became a librarian, so now I search for the possibles. As a trained researcher, I apply rigor and imagination. With God’s grace and dad’s Irish tongue, I am still, ever an arguer I am well-prepared for my life of little movement and much thought. Sigh.