This paper offers a conceptual discussion of repetition and joy in the context of information and their relation to the good life.
Joy is defined as an integrative element of the good life which can be achieved through repetition. This may be surprising, given that our most ready-to-hand associations with “repetition” are negative in tenor rather than positive. Building on the work of repetition theorists Søren Kierkegaard and Gertrude Stein, we can discern three different forms of repetition: that looking backwards (e.g. rereading), that looking forwards (e.g. art-making) and that looking inwards (e.g. chiasmus). Throughout this paper, information-related examples are given and discussed as vignettes that move the conversation forward.
These examples lead to a nascent theory of why the repetition of information can spark joy and not just tedium. First, its stability and predictability that instill comfort in us. Second, its unifying force that brings us to experience wholeness. Third, its invitation to keep the repetition going through creation, further helping us feel part of the world. And finally, its paradoxicality—as strict repetition is impossible—which requires change, paving the way for satisfying surprises and delights.
Repetition is a ubiquitous and theoretically interesting phenomenon when it comes to information, and though it is implicit in some information science research, it has not yet been theorized directly. Moreover, this paper connects this issue to an emerging “positive” orientation in information studies.
The author is grateful to Michael Dickard, Jenna Hartel and Hailey Siracky for helpful comments and resources; to the organizers of the (Un)Like workshop in May 2019 at the Centre for Life-Writing Research and the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King's College London for providing the platform where some of these ideas germinated; and to the anonymous reviewers and editor of this journal, whose comments greatly improved the manuscript. Earlier versions of some of the ideas in this paper appeared in a general-audience essay published in The Smart Set (see Gorichanaz, 2019b).
Gorichanaz, T. (2021), "Rereading, art-making and other joys: toward a theory of information, repetition and the good life", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 77 No. 6, pp. 1364-1378. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-01-2021-0011
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