Saturday, November 13, 2010

Immanence of Myth Status Staring Down The Rabbit Hole

Some of you may be wondering what kind of limbo the Immanence of Myth project has fallen into, or if I've somehow forgotten about it.

In early October I determined to focus on my re-boot of the Fallen Nation series. I have completed a solid draft of the Urban Fantasy / YA novel Fallen Nation: Party At The World's End, and as planned have been turning my attention back around to looking at the Immanence of Myth material, along with our periodic Clark shoots and ongoing agent queries for the FN novel.

But now that I look at the 400 or so pages that I've, believe it or not, whittled the IoM project down to, I find myself increasingly dissatisfied with its ability to really do what I intend to do with it: which is to solidly re-define "myth" and provide the first glimpses of a "unified theory" of the elements of philosophy, psychology, media studies, anthropology and folklore which all overlap within this single concept of myth, and specifically immanent myth. There are a lot of good contributions in the book, I've written some essays which on even days of the week I feel are strong. It doesn't need to tossed in a pit of flame. But I'm just not feeling the ground breaking cohesion that I'm looking for, yet.

So... I need to go back to the drawing board, I feel, and keep working this and researching and thinking, until I'm really satisfied that the project satisfies its goals. (Which is being satisfied twice in just one sentence. That's a lot of satisfaction.) Otherwise, there's no sense in publishing it. Of course, even if I do that, or maybe even especially if I do that, there is no assurance I'll be able to find a publisher to get squarely behind it - I have already approached quite a few with what a solid query and they've mostly baulked due to the fact that I don't have enough "rockstar" and or academic names associated with the project to assure a decent ROI. There's also always the possibility that this bloats into the 2000 page death tome that I never actually publish. In which case, if someone wants to edit the thing after my death, good luck!

But seriously... In the meantime, I'm going to keep the draft up on lulu for those who want to purchase a hard copy because there is a great deal of value in there, despite the problems I've mentioned. And I will probably continue to release some of the interviews that I did on this blog in the coming month or two. Perhaps they will lead to still further conversations on the subject of modern mythology.

When I say go back to the drawing board, I mean it. I need to do a lot more research, and I need to broaden my disciplinary base. I'm taking time every day watching lectures on calculus, physics, molecular biology, psychology, the philosophy of cognitive science, and whatever else I can track down that can in some way be related to this subject in the way I've framed it. I already have most of the background I need in media, art, and philosophy but my own lack of knowledge in some basic and fundamental areas is I think limiting the scope of the book itself. In a sense, I am using De Landa's 1000 Years of Nonlinear History as a means of reverse engineering the material I need to access... because though my subject matter is not history, I feel a similar approach in many ways is needed in terms of modern mythology for this to truly contribute to the subject. (I emphasize the word approach because I do not mirror his materialist model, or at the least, do not think it is as appropriate to the subject of myth as it may arguably be for the subject of history. But a multi-disciplinary, multi-model, and non-linear approach is clearly called for.)

Here is a list of the questions presently brewing in my mind. I wrote these in my iPhone while waiting in line at the grocery store. This may demonstrate that I've "gone round the bend" (or right, already there):
  • How, exactly, are dynamic systems modeled? (Not "how are those equations derived or solved" but rather, "how are the modeled, how are the variables attributed?") 
  • How do the biases applied in the construction of models effect the conclusions drawn from them, and how does that effect the conclusions, that is the application of that model? (This is dealt with in several sections of the book. Not well enough.)
  • How does the motive behind the modeling of a system or the interrelationships of systems effect the conclusions, and how does that skewing effect the presuppositions of future models? (I've already dealt with this in "Pretty Suicide Machine" but not rigorously.) 
  • What is the distinction between model and myth? 
  • How are the unquantifiable elements of modeled systems made so they can be related to one another - or to the quantifiable elements? 
  • Are unquantifiable elements of complex (multi-function) systems misinterpreted as quantifiable based on the bias of physicists / mathematicians? How does this factor into the psychological forms that artists try to represent in their work? (e.g. Do the arts manage to deal with the elements that can't be successfully modeled using scientific method - what Wittgenstein called "metaphysical," undefinable - and is there some kind of unification of these things to be had in how myths render themselves culturally?)
  • Is there an interplay of myth on genetics? There is certainly substantiation of an interplay of culture directly on genetics, (De Landa lays this out in pg 130-165 of 1000 Years of Nonlinear History with plenty of footnotes of other researchers to explore). This is crucially important to the thesis of the book and is only hinted at presently. Think about the ramifications of this if a correlation can be drawn. 
  • Can the conclusions drawn from modeled systems, even in theoretical physics, be considered anything other than myths (already dealt with in the book but not substantially enough) even if the methods used to draw them are unimpeachable? ("Natural Laws" -- again, explored in the book but again, not rigorously enough.)
  • De Landa insists that the systems referenced in his works are not merely metaphors, that they represent actual physical processes-- how does this distinguish from a metaphor if all modeling is inherently representational? Is there is a difference between representation and myth? Dealt with in the book but this needs to be explored re: not only De Landa's approach but also the central conceit of the history of science...(The only facts that can truly be considered facts are axiomatic, which is to say, mathematic. Mathematics are all derived, however, when applied, say, in physics.) 
Any thoughts on these questions are welcome. Especially from people with the background to really help me dig in. I have my fucking work cut out for me.

Let me also finish with an xkcd comic as a reminder to myself:

Though, when I did this very kind of thing in my psych classes in college it's not that what I was pointing out was original but turning a blind eye to cultural relativism or just calling it a "statistical bias" is such complete and total bullshit that @*(#@*#(*#*@#*@#*@!12014920. When I did the same thing about the nature of truth in a philosophy class, handing in a 100 page paper essentially saying that the methods of philosophy made the endeavor of philosophy essentially impossible when the assignment was a 10 page review of William James' definition of "truth," I may have overstepped my bounds.

Well. OK. I'm done. Have a good night, people.


  1. Idea: myths have psychological resonance and correspond to a psychological need (from what I read of Jung), whereas models do not necessarily; a model can be considered to be of no use because of errors in its modeling of the domain in question, because the sole purpose of a model should be to make it easier to predict the behavior of a system, whereas a myth has a component of balancing or manipulating other parts of the psyche that sometimes takes priority over the predictive element. 'Pathological Science' is the label applied to some very good examples of myths mistaken as models.

  2. I'm not positive it is quite so black and white, though there is something to that.

    Have you read the following post: ?

  3. Probably. If not, I will tonight.

    On the subject of the modeling of dynamic systems (and to some extent, the reasons behind the way in which they are modeled): if you have not yet spent a few hours swimming through the Principia Cybernetica site, I strongly recommend it. I haven't touched the place in years, but I recall it being reasonably user-friendly in terms of someone without the math background (me) trying to grok systems theory.



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