Bios / The Logosphere / The Finite-Made Evolver Space

Bios — as in biosphere, the universe, the totality of living things, the breathscape. The evolved: a generational, incremental one-to-the-next change. Contribution, frequency, probability: slow morphing of the gravity of the rules of survival. Diversity: the multiplicity of beings in the same space by happenstance. Not designed, but not undesigned: feedback. The happenstance has a reaction, self-reaction, selves reacting. It is folded in its own echoes.

Digital: the realm inside a membrane of fixed possibilities. Fixed as in the fixed number of possible bits (two) or letters of the alphabet. Or words, more or less — less because this too can evolve, does evolve. The words are there before we get there, though we can cement pieces at hand together, neologos. But we don’t invent all the words, or even most of the words. At best we make a few. Mostly we choose. Selection from the fixed prior set. Finite. The dictionary fits on a CD-ROM with room to spare. The dictionary, even by the standards of the size of the operating system on a computer, is a tiny amount of data.

A subset. A selection of that infinitude of possible human experiences. From only one, or maybe a handful, of all the languages of the earth. Logosphere but specific sphere. A minds-inflated small-point universe. A set. A small set by the standards of databases, but large for the mind: one can’t hold the whole language in mind at once. Robert Duncan told us — over and over — about keeping the numbers small. He insisted he could not count beyond five. Of course he was speaking about prosody, about how many choices he could keep in his mind at once. Small sets. Tiny sets.

Logosphere the model. What if we make the word set as small as possible. Not the whole dictionary but a few hundred words. Words sliced from phrases raised as domestic animals and then offered up as metabolism material, cut up, as food. Logosphere as biosphere: the energy to be word-eaten, processed, an evolutionary catalysis space. A word mass set out as the energy source for the next generation of phrase making: prompt-sheets. A glance source. And the process cycles: a next generation of phrases written from the prompt sheets, and then cut up, permuted, eaten, metabolized: composition by evolution.

Metabolism: as in chemistry: to liberate energy you break the bonds. Cut the phrases up to get reactivity. Composition in advance just to make raw material: precomposition. To make the phrase-bonds just so they can be broken. Free association is OK as metabolism meat: When associating from A to B, keep A, keep B, don’t keep the link from A to B.

On paper it is hard to see how this is achieved. You write A, you write B, they are there together on the paper. If you write them on the screen, they are there together also, but you can break the link: cut the phrase between A and B, scramble it by random permutation. A and B are flung apart by the laws of chance. The bond is not valuable, but the journey got you A and got you B. They settle into place, where they may or may not get eaten. And then, dance-wise, settle into a new place each time the permutation is rerun.

So the cycle: start with phrases, written by hand, the old way. They don’t need to have meaning they only need to have energy. Cut them up. (They are made to be cut up.) Cut them in fact exactly where they mean, leaving the boundary raw, the energy pulsing out. Now take the fragments and permute them, by chance. Pour the result into a single pages-long solid paragraph: the word set. The prompt-sheet for the next phase in the cycle. A source. Possibly a strict source for all the words of the next phase, but not necessarily strict. You don’t insist that every word for the next phase come from the set, but striving for that is an amazement: so often something at hand is right there in the available prompt-sheet, a combination that works exactly in the right slot.

Extraction from a miniature totality. A multitude of topics but then cut and scrambled, thus embodying the model space, an ocean, a full range for years of work at a time. A subset language but is it so sub-: a model. An experiment. A place where the energy mingles are staged. A catalysis scaffold.

The poem starts not from an empty page, but from a full one: the prompt sheet, the source rattle, the extraction space. Its own small universe. Not read, literally, but eye-dance-scanned at random, seeking the leap-out. Words that are there in advance of making the poem as an evolved / evolver space, a logosphere, a word space formed partly by chance and partly by building.

So where, exactly, is the digital world so different from the physical world at this business of making logospheres? We can make a logosphere physically. With no computer at all. Words as real physical objects, each on its own space (an idea I stole quite blatantly many years ago from the painter Mary Jean Kenton.) Objecthood is not an issue: you hold the words in your fingers. Stick them to the walls, the floor, lay them loose, let them loose in the world. Let them float on water. Connect them up with drafting tape. Or as Catherine Marshall did, put them on the spheres of molecular models: word molecules. Shade them. Hide them in piles. The page becomes any possible physical space.

As physical objects the words have weight, have friction, reproducing the word means manufacture: it costs. The space even with no words: it costs. The cost occurs again for each space of words. Cost dedicated to that specificity of word. Cost not for tools or equipment but for bare raw materials of the word space.

Friction, the resistance, the difficulty of motion. In the digital world we can reproduce the words, the word space, with no friction: there is no manufacture. Propagation of the word is free, the reader can do this.

But we pay: the viewport is tiny. Poets can’t afford a monitor the size of a wall. Thus the paradox: our virtual page is theoretically unbounded yet often physically smaller than the real page. So there is this motion problem: motion of the viewport through the text. A retina that is way too obtrusive.

Non-specificity: the word-set, the reservoir is not specific but was made from what once was specific. Specificities accumulated, generality by having lots of them, and then the specificity is intentionally broken up, the pieces scattered, mingled. A kind of specificity in the word-gene not the word experience: specificity is in where the word was, not where the word is. But the word space cut for the scrambling is not cut at every word boundary. There are shards of the specificity left.

Inclusion: logosphere as a miniature universe needs to include as much as possible. But Shannon tells us: the information measure is based on how much is excluded: if everything is there nothing means. The Shannon Measure of information is based on the probability of the codon occurring in the code: if it’s always going to be there there are zero bits. Thus Shannon measures by exclusion: information measured by how much is not there. A high number of bits comes from a low probability. A paradox: one wants to maximize the number and kinds of energy transaction that can happen: to include them. But Shannon tells us that for information we have to exclude.

The specificity, the Shannon exclusion, is time shifted. It happens in the future, in the mind of the reader. It happens in the past: the word materials evolved from pieces that had some specificity but the pieces were then metabolized: getting at the logos as a precompositional evolution movement. Logos as an event horizon with a past as evolution meat and a future as the reader’s energy transaction but absolutely no present. There is no present. There is only a moving blade between that specificity of the past when logos was encased in a rigid body and that specificity of the future where the energy transaction happens. The present is a phase-change boundary. Word-energies flip. Logos not as the code but as the channel. This is how we evade the Shannon Paradox. The text is not the code, it is the channel. We turn Shannon inside out.

There is no mapping between precompositional time and compositional time: The chance of a mapping is destroyed, cut up and permuted out of existence. We are familiar with earlier forms of poetics which are real time poetics — e.g. projective verse time sequences acting as the image of the poet’s breath-time at the moment of composition. Or Allen Ginsberg’s Improvised Poetics: the poem composed live into a tape recorder as an improvisational act, the whole act of composition being a real-time phenomenon. But why should the poet’s time matter? Why not the reader’s time?

Logosphere as process: the evolver space. The codes create channels which create codes which create channels: a self-sustaining energy matrix. Wittgenstein taught us about language games, but every word is a game, word is nothing but game. It flips, like the duck-rabbit. Channel / code / channel / code: there is no real identity as channel or code, it is both, it is the oscillation. It is the whole uncollapsed possibility space, as in quantum mechanics. The word as cloud of possible arrivals.

The logosphere is a biosphere: logos / bios: they are all the same. The word as a being. It behaves. Its fate is to be eaten.