S/N and Floppy

Signal-to-Noise Ratio

According to Wikipedia, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR or S/N for short) is “a measure used in science and engineering to quantify how much a signal has been corrupted by noise. It is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power corrupting the signal. A ratio higher than 1:1 indicates more signal than noise.” The most illustrative way to understand this is to think about the radio. If signal is the music and noise is the “fuzz,” then no matter what amplitude (volume) you have your boom box set on, at a given point in time the ratio of signal-to-noise will remain the same. This pesky little ratio is the reason that when you turn up the volume to try and hear the music over the interference, you hear both objects amplified (both more signal and more noise).

This idea of a ratio of “meaningful information” versus superfluous noise can be incredibly helpful when first approaching ergodic / hypertext /post-print / literature. My intent is not to set up a valued binary between “important stuff” versus a section of text the you skip forward through or skim. Instead, my goal is to explain that both categories are equally important and dependent upon the other for the overall effect / affect of a text.

S/N and “Floppy

If trying to do a specifically text(word)-based reading of “Floppy”, it is easy to consider the entire multimedia interface superfluous. In class on Monday, we discussed if and how “Floppy” would function if it were printed as a book instead. The Windows XP computer screen user interface would be lost, but it could certainly be described using adequate description. The warm, nostalgic whir of a floppy disk loading would be lost too, but again could be described for the reader. The .txt files could be printed on separate pages in a similar “order” to what they are in now, still including the strings of characters implying that the file is corrupted. Screen shots could be taken to get the overall layout, too. Still, it just would not be the same. Taking away all of the things mentioned above, even just taking away the “gibberish” characters in the corrupted (or encrypted?) text files would change the affect of “Floppy.”

The literal noises, the interface, the ” :±30ôy[–Ë:±3            &  j    &  j   j&      j&      j&      j&      j&     ~&      ~&      ~&      ~&      ~&      ~&     ˆ&     ~&      š&  1   ˜&      ˜&      ˜&      ˜&      ˜&      ˜&      ˜&… ” all of these are part of the noise necessary for a reading of “Floppy.” The narrative-like text is certainly important too, but it does not behave the same way on its own without a cursor changing to a hand to point the finger.

With hypertexts, the idea of S/R also works with Barthes’s idea that incorporating”deemingly functionless detail ‘because it is there’ to signal that ‘this is indeed an unfiltered sample of the real,” (Danilewski 146).


Wagstaff, Chris, “Sexual Noise.” Sight & Sound 2.1 (1992): 32-35. Print. (This article explores relationships with reality and how they influence an interpretation of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-up. Although this is not exactly what I am talking about, the ideas Wagstaff presents are what allowed and inspired me to make the connection between S/N and hypertext.)

S/N on Wikipedia

“Floppy” on Dreaming Methods


~ by hlrypngr on April 17, 2010.

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