t byfield on Tue, 13 Apr 1999 22:10:06 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> usenet faq and a rant about handedness

a short but interesting FAQ on the early history of usenet 
('USENET: The Great Renaming, 1985-1988') by Lee Bumgarner:


in particular, it deals with the origin of the hierarchies
(net.* [unmoderated], mod.* [moderated]. and fa.* [ARPAnet), 
which provides an interesting counterpoint to the debates
about domain name architecture, for the obvious reason that 
the taxonomic structures are quite similar--with one subtle
but absolutely crucial difference: they're mirror images of
each other. newsgroup nomenclature becomes more specific
from left to right (alt.conspiracy.usenet-cabal), hostnames
become more specific from right to left (basis.desk.nl). if
you think that's a joke, try reading this:

   tenesu fo yrotsih ylrae eht no QAF gnitseretni tub trohs a
  :renragmuB eeL yb ('8891-5891 ,gnimaneR taerG ehT :TENESU')


   seihcrareih eht fo nigiro eht htiw slaed ti ,ralucitrap ni
 ,(tenAPRA[ *.af dna .[detaredom[ *.dom ,[detaredomnu[ *.ten)
    setabed eht ot tniopretnuoc gnitseretni na sedivorp hcihw
  taht nosaer suoivbo eht rof ,erutcetihcra eman niamod tuoba
  eltbus eno htiw--ralimis etiuq era serutcurts cimonoxat eht
  fo segami rorrim er'yeht :ecnereffid laicurc yletulosba tub
     cificeps erom semoceb erutalcnemon puorgswen .rehto hcae
  semantsoh ,(labac-tenesu.ycaripsnoc.tla) thgir ot tfel morf
   fi .(ln.ksed.sisab) tfel ot thgir morf cificps erom emoceb
                   :siht gnidaer yrt ,ekoj a s'taht kniht uoy

'handedness'--the directional bias in perception and manipula-
tion--bisects all of culture: organic chemistry, industrial
design (consumer electronic interfaces), sociability (table
manners, physical greetings), impersonal 'personal' habits
(knots, belts, buttons), moral and political discourses, etc.,
etc. pick any taxonomic chart you want: unless it explicitly
incorporates a temporal narrative that overrides the other
content, it will place simplicity on the left and/or top and
complexity on the right and/or bottom. 

if domain names had been reversed (e.g., nl.desk.basis), the 
debates would have been explicitly correlated with debates 
about usenet's structure. the result would have been very
different, i think--there wouldn't have been much talk about
'scarcity.' but the contrary arrangement of hostnames, which
places general classifications on the right and increasing
specificity on the left, runs completely counter to the 
logic of western poetics.

oh well.


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