Some thoughts about Human Knowledges, Web2.0 and Hypertope

These are just some preliminary sketchy thoughts.  I will keep adding and editing later.  Any comments are appreciated.

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I always get the feeling that theoretical knowledge is being increasingly overshadowed by information and fast-food pop-info-experience.  Aristotle himself foresaw that such a development a would cause a crisis in human knowledges, which in turn would have it’s impact on progressivist instincts of mankind.  Nietzsche, Heidegger and Feyerabend alike predicted this evolution in various ways.  It’s a crisis of knowledge – a pandemic that sweeps the planet and threatens the human knowledge and progressivist instincts for evolution with an imminent cataclysm. The requirements that late-modern capitalism dictates on knowledge as well as Warholian prophesy that in the future everyone will have 15 minutes of fame … namely the postmodernization of Pop culture are inherently related to what is happening to the way that knowledge spreads through quantity and pop, though not necessarily quality, style and insight.

 Historically there have been two models of knowledge: the Babylon and the Wiki. By Babylon I mean the hierarchicalist, exclusivist and top-down approach to knowledge… and it is also one that has been Sophist in it’s basic logic “you pay us money and we will give you knowledge”. What we see today is precisely the transmogrification of the Babylon model of knowledge in light of the historically specific material conditions that late-modern global capitalism dictates.Web2.0 has heralded a more “anarchistic” model of knowledge -- the Wiki.  A wiki is a type of content that anybody can contribute to and edit.  What is important is that with wiki it is more difficult and time-consuming to destroy than to create and preserve content.  In effect it works like a bee hive, and in a very rapid manner it has challenged the previously existing Babylonian models of knowledge wrapped in walls of exclusion, codes of practice and one that has been closely monitored and guarded.

Nevertheless, the Wiki model of knowledge does not escape what Foucault called the “episteme” – the discursive mode that defines a particular epoch -- a sort of “epistemological subconscious” of a given epoch. If you notice, the Wiki (and Wikipedia as it’s central example) cannot step outside of a kind of knowledge that is necessarily factual. Also the wiki always tries to come up with some kind of objectivity.  In effect, wiki simulates fact just as it simulates objectivism, and thus reifies and creates those as stable categories and necessary criteria that define knowledge.  In effect, the wiki participates in the constructions and reifications of the notions of objectivity and fact, as well as the notions that knowledge, in order to qualify as knowledge must necessarily be objective and factual – and that is precisely the episteme of our epoch.  In other words, a wiki cannot really expand into a kind of knowledge that is theoretical in its nature.  In other words, as it is wiki cannot challenge the episteme of the day: it heralds itself as a subversive outsider to the episteme, yet it participates in reification of the definitive categories of modern episteme.  

 Yet what IF given what was said above about Babylon and Wiki… a slightly modified model of content generation, accumulation and distribution and can be devised. And that’s why I’ve designed Hypertope as system that could be useful in other areas, but also leap into experimenting with the way that human knowledge is generated and evolves.  So researchers can use various Hypertope features according to their needs, but as the requirements of Google engines dictate their own criteria for effective content distribution, I think what we are gradually going to see is a new set of evolutions in academic content.Through Hypertope or not, I think what will gradual, but inevitably happen is that web2.0 will prompt many academics to rethink the basic academic practices. Like, for instance, what is a footnote if not an outdated formality and a “ritual” that is inherited from the Guttenberg era when the content was on a paper. What if referencing to other authors, to other books and to other articles could be done dynamically and through hyperlinks (just like on Wikipedia). What are the advantages of doing it this way?

A) when you see a footnote you generally trust the author, but then it takes time to go and to actually look up that reference in the library where that particular kind of argument is being made. With Hyperlinks one can do it instantly.

B) The Google Revolution was to move away from keyword searches to a type of search that gives priority to that content that has most a-links and back-links. Google searches prioritize pages that link to other pages (the logic being similar to the academic one: “if this piece of writing has a lot of links then it means that it is well researched and should be given priority” and similarly “if this piece of writing has many back-links that link to it, it must be the case that readers found it to be of certain importance and authority of subject matter”) , which is also why when one searches for something on Google its most likely that the first page that one will find will be an article in Wikipedia. 

Through the technologies that web2.0 allows a lot of possibilities open up.  It’s not just the footnote… Things like conferences, peer-reviews, calls-for-papers etc can now be rethought, revitalized and reinvigorated.  It is all very exciting as it allows for adding a whole new level of rigor and dynamism back into everyday academic practice.

 

The way that I have designed Hypertope is precisely with all these thoughts in mind. I want to provide academics with an easy way to output their pre-published research material and even daily research notes all in one place so that it is immediately seen by the audiences (which they can control through flexible privacy features) that the author intended it for, and so that constructive commenting is instantly in place the next morning.  If before time-zones were seen as a drawback, now they can be used for effective research workflow and motivation.  Structurally hypertope is designed in such a way that quality and style are prioritized over quantity.  It is possible for someone to write just few paragraphs of well thought text and instantly catch everyone’s attention and receive hundreds of recommendations (something that employers will immediately notice).

 Knowledge is always already a sight of politics (since it is always already a sight of power and powerknowledge).  And where there is politics there is always the field of War as well the field of Possibilities simultaneously.  Yet it can only present itself as a possibility when one ceases to resist it, and instead chooses to embrace it – embrace it and over-flood it with more of its kind.  Deleuze’s dialectic in Difference and Repetition comes to mind… I’ll need to think more about this and write here later.   

Thanks Garen

David Kaufman's picture

Garen, I wanted to say "thank you" for letting me know of this networking possibility.  Already got a couple of people in my department interested (a couple more in limbo) and I'm looking forward to the possibilities this format presents. 

You seem extremely knowledgeable and eloquent, by the way!  Take care.

 

David Kaufman

Dept. of Anthropology

University of Kansas

Lawrence, KS, USA

Thanks! It's a pleasure to

Garen Karapetian's picture

Thanks! It's a pleasure to see that one's creation is valued and is found useful.

I'd say what you see so far is only the beginning - we're constantly working on various new features - like for instance today we implemented the bookmarklet sharing functionality, and there is still loads to come. For now it is all mostly skeletal and we're going to wait until more people join in before we get rid of the unpopular features and implement new ones.

Not many people know about Hypertope simply because we only just launched it and we didn't do any marketing, advertisement or spamming, which is customary for websites of this kind. We just rely on our members - if they find Hypertope useful and if they see that it is in their long term interest that membership of hypertope grows, then they will confidently invite their academic friends and research colleagues.

To see the updates on your comments you don't need to visit each blog/notepad individually. Just click on "Track" on your profile page and it will display if there are any updates.

best

Garen

Hmmm...

Jacob J. Walker's picture

I'm not sure I agree with all your premises of your logic about trends of the world, and history, but I do agree with the notion that digital media can change how reading happens. I think a transformation of footnotes is possible and maybe desirable, but I also believe that citing sources is more important than ever. I also think that it would be great to have the ability to "show/hide" details in knowledge explanation. I'm not sure if this would be widely used on the writers side, but for a reader, it would be great to be able to get more detail where you want it. Although, maybe hyperlinks can take care of this too.

I appreciate that you created hypertope. Having done a bit of programming, I know it is a large undertaking. I hope it catches on, both for its sake, and the fact that I'm betting on it by using it :-)

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