The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer is a postcyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. It is to some extent a science fiction bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, focused on a young girl named Nell, and set in a future world in which nanotechnology affects all aspects of life. The novel deals with themes of education, social class, ethnicity, and the nature of artificial intelligence.
What’s fiona? An acronym, perhaps. Functional… Internet-Oriented… Native… Application? File I/O Network Access?
No. It’s not a what but a who, and this is Fiona, her first appearance:
Fiona Hackworth had been wandering through the Royal Ecological Conservatory bracketed by her parents, who hoped that in this way they could keep mud and vegetable debris off her skirts.
A young woman.
A character in The Diamond Age, a science fiction novel written by Neal Stephenson, published in 1992.
A novel set in the medium-flung future, with a plot that hinges on the theft of a kind of super-book.
A super-book that is engrossing, interactive, networked; with pages that change before your eyes; that knows more or less everything. (Again: 1992.)
A science-fictional object that served as the lodestone for Amazon’s efforts, in the early 2000s, to develop an e-reader. In his chronicle of the company, Brad Stone writes: “The early [Kindle] engineers thought of the fictitious textbook in the novel as a template for what they were creating.”
From all this, a codename, Fiona, beloved by those engineers but eventually overwritten by the device’s go-to-market moniker in all places but one.
Mediums change, but what’s unique about Medium, and so many other digital platforms, is that that these changes often apply retroactively. You may “finish” a post on a platform, but to those who own the platform, it’s never quite finished.
I think of this as digital wear & tear. If you leave a book on a shelf, it gets dusty and the pages turn yellow. If you leave a post on a platform, the <div>’s change and the header gets redesigned.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to a w3c workshop about annotations on the web. It was an interesting day, hearing from academics, implementers, archivists and publishers about the ways they want to annotate things on the web, in the world, and in libraries. The more I listened, the more I realised that this was what the web is about. Each page that links to another one is an annotation on it.
Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the URL was a brilliant generalisation that means we can refer to anything, anywhere. But it has had a few problems over time. The original “Cool URLs don’t change” has given way to Tim’s “eventually every URL ends up as a porn site”.
Newspeak is a programming language and platform in the tradition of Smalltalk and Self being developed by a team led by Gilad Bracha. The platform includes an IDE, a GUI library, and standard libraries. Starting in 2006, Cadence Design Systems funded its development and employed the main contributors, but ceased funding in January 2009.
Newspeak is a class based language. Classes may be nested, as in BETA. This is one of the key differences between Newspeak and Smalltalk. All names in Newspeak are late-bound, and are interpreted as message sends, as in Self.
Newspeak is distinguished by its unusual approach to modularity. The language has no global namespace. Top level classes act as module declarations. Module declarations are first class values (i.e., they may be stored in variables, passed as parameters, returned from methods, etc.) and are stateless.
Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by the totalitarianstate as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, peace, etc. Any form of thought alternative to the party’s construct is classified as “thoughtcrime.”
Newspeak is explained in chapters 4 and 5 of Nineteen Eighty-Four, and in an appendix to the book. The language follows, for the most part, the samegrammatical rules as English, but has a much more limiting, and constantly shifting vocabulary. Any synonyms or antonyms, along with undesirable concepts are eradicated. The goal is for everyone to be speaking this language by the year 2050 (the story is set in the year 1984—hence the title). In the mean time, Oldspeak (current English) is still spoken among the Proles — the working-class citizens of Oceania.
Orwell was inspired to invent Newspeak by the constructed language Basic English, which he promoted from 1942 to 1944 before emphatically rejecting it in his essay “Politics and the English Language“. In this paper he deplores the bad English of his day, citing dying metaphors, pretentious diction or rhetoric, and meaningless words, which he saw as encouraging unclear thought and reasoning. Towards the end of the essay, Orwell states: “I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words or constructions.”
Newspeak’s contracted forms, such as Ingsoc and Minitrue, are inspired by the Russian syllabic abbreviations used for concepts relating to the government and society of the USSR, such as politburo, Comintern, kolkhoz (collective farm) and Komsomol (Young Communists’ League), many of which found their way into the speech of Communists in other countries.
Doublethink is the act of ordinary people simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct, often in distinct social contexts.Doublethink is related to, but differs from, hypocrisy and neutrality. Somewhat related but almost the opposite is cognitive dissonance, where contradictory beliefs cause conflict in one’s mind. Doublethink is notable due to a lack of cognitive dissonance — thus the person is completely unaware of any conflict or contradiction.
George Orwell coined the word doublethink in his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984); doublethink is part of newspeak. In the novel, its origin within the typical citizen is unclear; while it could be partly a product of Big Brother‘s formal brainwashing programs, the novel explicitly shows people learning Doublethink and newspeak due to peer pressure and a desire to “fit in”, or gain status within the Party — to be seen as a loyal Party Member. In the novel, for someone to even recognize–let alone mention–any contradiction within the context of the Party line was akin to blasphemy, and could subject that someone to possible disciplinary action and to the instant social disapproval of fellow Party Members.