we don’t necessarily have to make books work. We can make new forms instead. This doesn’t have to mean abandoning narrative prose; it doesn’t even necessarily mean abandoning paper—rather, we can free our thinking by abandoning our preconceptions of what a book is. Maybe once we’ve done all this, we’ll have arrived at something which does indeed look much like a book. We’ll have found a gentle path around the back of that intimidating slope. Or maybe we’ll end up in different terrain altogether. So let’s reframe the question. Rather than “how might we make books actually work reliably,” we can ask: How might we design mediums which do the job of a non-fiction book—but which actually work reliably?
Posts tagged knowledge
“STS’s detailed accounts of the construction of knowledge show that it requires infrastructure, effort, ingenuity and validation structures. Our arguments that ‘it could be otherwise’ (e.g. Woolgar and Lezaun, 2013) are very rarely that ‘it could easily be otherwise’; instead, they point to other possible infrastructures, efforts, ingenuity and validation structures.”
Sergio Sismondo, ‘Post-truth?’ (2017)
Lynne Kelly, author of The Memory Code has studied the way memory is embedded in landscape in many cultures. Drawing on these techniques she’s developed her own memory code or Songline to remember swathes of information she was not otherwise able to do. As with many oral cultures, she’s used the environment around her.
Lynne Kelly: Well, I started with the countries of the world. So I started in my studio, my office where I work, and in each location around that office, the first 10, I’ve put the top 10 countries of the world, starting China, India, the United States. Then I go out, right around the garden, right around the house, down the street, pick up the bread and come back, and by the house not far from home I’m down to Pitcairn Islands with 66 population. Each house and each location represents a country. So now if I’m watching the news and a country comes up, like Reunion when they found the plane crash parts, my brain automatically goes to that position. It doesn’t have to go in sequence because it’s fixed in sequence by the landscape, and I can add that bit of information and it just grows and grows because there is a structure. So I’ve done all of prehistory and history. I start 4,000 million years ago, walk around, prehistory, takes about a kilometre to do that. Right around history, back to today, on a portable device, sort of like the Aboriginal tjuringa but modelled more on the African Luba, Western African lukasa. I’ve encoded a complete field guide to the 408 birds of Victoria.
Metaknowledge functions as a powerful bullshit detector. It can separate crowd members who actually know something from those who are guessing wildly or just parroting what everyone else says. ‘The crowd community has been insufficiently ambitious in what it tries to extract from the crowd,’ Prelec says. ‘The crowd is wise, but not in the way the error-correcting intuition assumed. There’s more information there.’ The bullshit detector isn’t perfect, but it’s the best you can do whenever you don’t know the answer yourself and have to rely on other people’s opinion. Which eyewitness do you believe? Which talking head on TV? Which scientist commenting on some controversial topic? If they demonstrate superior metaknowledge, you can take that as a sign of their superior knowledge.
Imagine, for a moment, if it were possible to provide access not just to those books, but to all knowledge for everyone, everywhere—the ultimate realisation of Panizzi’s dream. In fact, we don’t have to imagine: it is possible today, thanks to the combined technologies of digital texts and the Internet. The former means that we can make as many copies of a work as we want, for vanishingly small cost; the latter provides a way to provide those copies to anyone with an Internet connection. The global rise of low-cost smartphones means that group will soon include even the poorest members of society in every country. That is to say, we have the technical means to share all knowledge, and yet we are nowhere near providing everyone with the ability to indulge their learned curiosity
‘Peer review’ was a term borrowed from the procedures that government agencies used to decide who would receive financial support for scientific and medical research. When 'referee systems’ turned into 'peer review’, the process became a mighty public symbol of the claim that these powerful and expensive investigators of the natural world had procedures for regulating themselves and for producing consensus, even though some observers quietly wondered whether scientific referees were up to this grand calling. Current attempts to reimagine peer review rightly debate the psychology of bias, the problem of objectivity, and the ability to gauge reliability and importance, but they rarely consider the multilayered history of this institution. Peer review did not develop simply out of scientists’ need to trust one another’s research. It was also a response to political demands for public accountability. To understand that other practices of scientific judgement were once in place ought to be a part of any responsible attempt to chart a future path. The imagined functions of this institution are in flux, but they were never as fixed as many believe.
on February 2012, one of the largest library on Earth burned, and no “mainstream” media, no politician denounced it. The reason for this silence is that the library was “illegal” and that it wasn’t a physical one. Library.nu was by far the biggest public library on the internet, with a catalogue of about 400,000 to 1,000,000 books. And, as Christopher Kelty said, it contained “not just any books – not romance novels or the latest best-sellers – but scholarly books: textbooks, secondary treatises, obscure monographs, biographical analyses, technical manuals, collections of cutting edge research in engineering, mathematics, biology, social science and humanities. The texts ranges from so-called “orphan works” (out-of-print, but still copyrighted) to recent issues; from poorly scanned to expertly ripped; from English to German to French to Spanish to Russian, with the occasional Japanese or Chinese text. It was a remarquable effort of collective connoisseurship.”
“The function of the artist is to evoke the experience of surprised recognition: to show the viewer what he knows but does not know that he knows.”
–William S. Burroughs
Learning point: I didn’t need non-public access to systems in order to interpret and disseminate useful information. Learning point: I did need to understand how the subject matter works in order to interpret and disseminate useful information.
Transdisciplinarity “concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across the different disciplines, and beyond all discipline,” and its aim is the unity of knowledge together with the unity of our being: “Its goal is the understanding of the present world, of which one of the imperatives is the unity of knowledge.” (44) Nicolescu points out the danger of self-destruction caused by modernism and increased technologization and offers alternative ways of approaching them, using a transdisciplinary approach that propels us beyond the either/or thinking that gave rise to the antagonisms that produced the problems in the first place. The logic of the included middle permits “this duality [to be] transgressed by the open unity that encompasses both the universe and the human being.” (56). Thus, approaching problems in a transdisciplinary way enables one to move beyond dichotomized thinking, into the space that lies beyond.
Human knowledge expresses itself in three different modes, i.e. as explicit, semantic or verbal knowledge, as implicit, tacit or intuitive knowledge, and as visual, pictorial or episodic knowledge. To refer to knowledge only as „explicit knowledge“ would neglect the other modes of knowledge that are of equal importance for higher cognition. Unifying frames of the different modes of knowledge are the aesthetiic principle on a formal level and the mimetic principle on the level of reference.
The general idea behind the Hydra narrative in a broad sense (not just what Taleb has said/will say in October) is that hydras eat all unknown unknowns (not just Taleb’s famous black swans) for lunch. I have heard at least three different versions of this proposition in the last year. The narrative inspires social system designs that feed on uncertainty rather than being destroyed by it. Geoffrey West’s ideas about superlinearity are the empirical part of an attempt to construct an existence proof showing that such systems are actually possible.
But we should not delude ourselves for a moment into bestowing any special significance on this, because when we do this thing that so many of us like to call “curation” we’re not providing any sort of ontology or semantic continuity beyond that of our own whimsy or taste or desire. “Interesting things” or “smart things” are not rubrics that make the collection and dissemination of data that happens on the internet anything closer to a curatorial act; these categories are ultimately still reducible to “things I find appealing,” and regardless of how special one might feel about the highly cultivated state of his or her tastes there is no threshold of how many other people are eager to be on the receiving end of whatever it is we’re sharing that somehow magically transforms this act into curation—that is, at least, unless we’re also comfortable with arguing that “curation” is the act in which Buzzfeed is engaged.