Meta, Data, Noise, Signal

David’s perceptive entry this morning reminds us that the distinction between data and metadata is a pragmatic distinction, not a difference in kind. That, in turn, prompts me to apply his perspective to conventional (“decryption”) models of hermeneutics: while scholars typically invest in one particular category as the proper interpretive key for decoding the intrinsic meaning of a text, the distinction between message and key (or especially “signal“ and “noise“) is likewise a pragmatic distinction. There‘s just no device, no way, that cuts cleanly between the real, true meaning and the key, the evidence, the authentication. A strong interpretive argument includes text, interpretation, warrants, evidence, precedents, implications, and more — and all of the constituent elements require interpretive judgments too. The static that interrupts your enjoyment of Molly Hatchett’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster,” thus constituting “noise” for you, the Southern-rock lover*, might be “message” to the radio station employee who’s trying to track down sources of radio-signal interference or an astronomer investigating sunspot activity.
(P.S. My plane leaves in a few hours. I’m writing from the Mad Hatter, feeling misty-eyed and sentimental about leaving all the people I know and love in the USA, and feeling vaguely trepidacious about making a new home in Scotland. I mean no offense to my ancestral homeland, of course; I’ll feel more attuned to the “exciting adventure” aspect of the experience once the plane takes off. For now, though, I’m a weepy bundle of nostalgic affection, so don’t say anything to set me off unless you’re prepared for embarrassing rivers of tears.)
* That’s as opposed to a geologist from Biloxi, a Southern rock-lover.

2 thoughts on “Meta, Data, Noise, Signal

  1. Hi AKMA,
    We are enjoying reading your comments and happy to hear that you are doing OK. Just takes time to figure it all out. What a great adventure you are on.

    We are electing a new Bishop for Or. and one of the candidates is Michael Joseph Hanley who attended Seabury-Western Theological Seminary recieving his M.Div in 1981 and his D.Min. in Congregational Developement from there in 2005. He was born in 1954.. He is currently a trustee os Seabury-Western. Do you know him or anything about him?

    Good luck to you over there. Sounds like Pipa is loving her school. Lucky girl. Has to make you feel better knowing she is happy where she is. Am sure you miss your family as they miss you. We are so glad we had a chance to see you and all the family in Chicago.

    Take care
    Mary Jo and Charlie

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