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Stream of Consciousness

Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions - trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old.
Virginia Woolf, in an essay on 'Modern Fiction'
Mrs Dalloway is the story of one day in the life of the heroine in which the impingement of past on present consciousness enables her to tell the whole of Mrs Dalloway's past by naturally developing flashbacks within consciousness.
The Penguin Companion to Literature


In this paradox, that through an immersion in the present we can present a picture of the past, lies part of the inspiration behind the Factasia Web site.

Uprooting "stream of consciousness" from its literary origins, consider the consciousness of a philosophically minded information systems engineer. Like a mathematician in prolonged search for the proof to Fermat's last theorem, I can be oblivious to my surroundings, deeply engrossed in thought, and yet not concerned with introspective thoughts about self, past, present or future. The consciousness of a novelist seems a far remove from this experience.

Nevertheless a parallel technique can be considered. Not to present a life through the experience of a day, but to present an understanding, an intellectual model of the world, built up over a lifetime, through a presentation of the day to day continuing process which gave rise to it. Not starting from the beginning, but working on today's problem, weaving in, piece by piece, the background needed to make intelligible how we strive today to build the future.

Factasia contains my best shot at putting this together. I hope that it will gradually evolve untill it becomes a reasonable presentation both of my own worldview, of my aspirations for the future, and of the dynamics of their evolution and realisation.


Here's how I think my mind works.

First, I need to have a purpose, and I usually do. Several.

Second I have a structured knowledge of my environment, which is my mental Model of the Universe. This model provides the basis for my action plan for realising my purpose(s). Or at least it influences the rather uncoordinated steps I take in the hope of getting where I want to be.

In the course of thus hopefully wending my way, I am continually acquiring new information, which I interpret using my Model of the Universe. The information, wherever possible has to be integrated into the overall structure in a coherent way, or else filed as mysterious anomolies awaiting future explanation. The process of understanding experience as it unfolds is a process of evolving the structure and content of my world view.

So it seems to me that to understand life as I experience it (and I dare say this holds for many others), you have to understand the world view in terms of which all my experiences are interpreted.

I'm thinking in terms of trying to make these Web pages do pretty much the same kind of thing that is happening to my own mental space. I don't remember the detail of what happens to me, but my world view moves on, and the things I learn are integrated into the evolving world view. I aim to do the same thing with these pages, evolving the structure they form until they come closer to representing a decent piece of my own world view, and then gradually converging the evolution of the pages with the evolution of my own world.

See also Utopian Fantasy
and Factasy.

UP HOME © RBJ created 1995/4/25 modified 1998/7/25