Today, I’m going to look at indeterminacy (mentioned last week) and then move on to “bit rot”.
Aryeh Botwinick explains that “[t]he concept of indeterminacy refers to the quality or state of not being precisely determined or definitely fixed. It can be divided into two subcategories: (a) overdetermination and (b) underdetermination. Over determination means having more than one determining factor, and underdetermination signifies falling short of being fully determined by some feature(s) of a situation. The worldview that is opposed to indeterminacy is determinism which is the theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, and social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws.”
That’s a very long-winded way of saying that indeterminacy is the act of describing something by what it isn’t – and it’s everywhere. Take the concepts of humans and monsters:
- Humans are human because they are neither divine nor monstrous.
- Monsters are monstrous because they are neither human nor divine.
- Gods are divine because they are neither monstrous nor human.
Rocks are hard because they’re not soft. We all use what we aren’t to define what we are. I consider myself a good person because I’m not a bad person. People apply this rule even to things that are not mutually exclusive.
My Irish friends consider me English because I’m not Irish. My English friends consider me Irish because I’m not English. My Northern Irish friends consider me Canadian or maybe European because my accent scares and confuses them.
English students may say they are good at the arts because they’re bad at maths, and maths students may say the opposite. I am an English student who is good at maths, but I am an outlier and must not be counted.*
What, then, is bit rot**?
Moving away from the academic sources, this article from The Guardian explains that ““bit rot” is a process by which the mechanisms for accessing a digital file are lost, rending that file useless junk. A big part of the problem is the use of closed file formats that require specific software to read those files.”***
Bit rot is the reason that my favourite VHS tape (containing a number of episodes of The Goodies) has gone unwatched for almost half of my life****, and that when I wrote a poem in my dissertation about my favourite arcade game, Mappy*****, I then had to explain what Mappy was because nobody’s been interested in that game in about 20 years. It’s also the reason that I can’t play my favourite game, because someone in student halls a few years ago broke my clunky console (which would have cost about £10 when it was bought, but now costs much, much more because everything is terrible) and I have not been able to replace it.
Bit rot is also the reason I can’t afford to “game”, because every other year, a new device is produced to replace your device, rendering yours and your games and yourself completely useless. Disappointing me is a million-dollar industry.
*video to be released*
*Story of my life
** Bit rot has little or nothing to do with indeterminacy, but a lot to do with Thursday’s seminar.
*** See Appendix G.
**** Insert existential crisis. Oh god, I am so old.
***** Whose name, I recently found out, comes from the Japanese slang word “Mappu”, an offensive word for a police officer