As a nerdy addendum to the previous post it reminded me of a thing when I worked as an engineer in the fringes of media and communication.

There was something called the Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) model that was a conceptual tool to describe how a communication system or network could be seen as a hierarchy of seven specific layers which received messages and passed them up and down the chain to the adjacent layers.

Each layer had its own rules, its own syntax, encoding, protocols, and so on that would be applied to the message to translate it into something that the next layer could understand.

At the top was the Application layer - where the end user (be it machine or human) presented its message for delivery and received incoming messages. The message would be passed down through each of the layers to the physical layer at the bottom - the actual wire, or fibre, or even paper and ink, which carried the message across distance to the destination. There it would be passed up through the layers being decoded, error corrected, presented and ultimately received by an end user through the application layer.

It was very abstract - the specifics of implementation were not defined, just the kind of thing that had to be implemented at each interface for the message to flow between layers. It was sometimes useful and sometimes ignored - it was supposed to help things from different sources work together.

Anyway it wasn't long before some wags observed that communication certainly did not end with the application giving a message to an end user. There were more layers to be uncovered.

In particular there was a financial layer that mediated what sort of messages could be afforded. For example in the early days of computing storage was expensive so it was decided that 2 digits would be quite sufficient to store the year of a date - hence the great Millennium bug and loads of work for now ageing programmers to get re-employed as consultants to unpick what they had gone and done 20 or more years earlier.

Then there was the political layer - usually meaning small p office political - which mediated what sort of messages were acceptable. Does this message conform with the way we do things around here? Is it asking something unthinkable? Thus messages from scientists that are politically unacceptable to the orthodoxy can safely be rejected - climate change? Not gonna happen on my watch so I don't need to know.

Above that was often the Religious layer. Does this message conform with our belief system? What would our god think of it? What do you mean we are running out of resources - we'll put the price up and the market will find more... Mammon says so.

Thus we had the extended OSI 10 Layer Model. There were other variants with more or different layers added - all making the point for engineers that there is a lot more to communication than nuts and bolts.

So I was just musing about how the original 7 layer model applies to the mainstream media and also to the components within it, and how the problems with MSM are precisely those associated with the additional layers...but the second glass is getting empty and I'm fed up with typing.


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