Re: [unrev-II] Poetry and Knowledge Management (was Jack's Use Case)

From: Paul Fernhout (
Date: Sat Oct 28 2000 - 06:57:20 PDT

  • Next message: Henry van Eyken: "Re: [unrev-II] Poetry and Knowledge Management (was Jack's Use Case)"

    Henry van Eyken wrote:
    > My own mind has been shaped or warped, whatever the case may be, by Bloom's
    > Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain published in 1958 and, I understand, still
    > used as a guide by educators. To emphasize, it is not a theory of knowledge,
    > just a, well, taxonomy.
    > [snip]
    > Nowhere in this classification is a form of knowledge or use of knowledge tied
    > to a single word. To the contrary. Knowledge of generalizationd and
    > principles, for example, imply items of knowledge that call for descriptive
    > sentences or paragraphs.

    > Interestingly, whereas Paul talks about communication between parties with
    > attendant drifts in meaning due to different ambiant knowledge structures in
    > the sender and receiver, there is nothing in this tabulation to reflect on
    > that. (But maybe the work by Bloom et al as a whole does, which may be
    > worthwhile checking out.)

    On educators and their methods (which indirectly relate to how people
    learn to use metaphorical knowledge):

    It wouldn't surprise me to see much pedagogical theory ignoring meaning
    drift, as the main intent of education is historically speaking for all
    students to end up sharing the same metaphorical models, upholding a
    conservative line of transmission of static ideas judged worthwhile by
    previous generations. The admission of different points of view
    (metaphorical contexts for interpretation of communications and
    perceptions) is a fairly sophisticated one in psychological development,
    and is usually taught in advanced situations (e.g. Dale Carnegy's "How
    to Win Friends and Influence People" or various sociology theories on

    Oddly enough it might then follow that this mandate for conservative
    cultural transmission of metaphor would be at odds with the notion of
    doing research in academia (which involves creating new metaphors and
    evaluating the old for current usefulness). On a daily basis it is
    easier to preserve and transmit the cultural notion of "the scientific
    method" than to actually apply it. And academia has organized itself to
    resist research, by shifting significant research to the post graduate
    years (universities) rather than making it a major part of the early
    curriculum. Further, peer review for funding ensures the research done
    fits the current metaphorical conventions of established academics
    (occasional exceptions like J.R. Licklider's DARPA grant to Doug proving
    the rule).

    That all is in line with an educational process designed to standardize
    the educational product (i.e. graduated students who pass a fixed test,
    like USDA canned meat). This is as opposed to an educational process
    designed to amplify the students potentials in whatever direction they
    go within a large positive value based framework (more along the lines
    of John Holt, Papert, or Gardner). (Obviously, universities do tend to
    allow more of this amplification than primary grades).

    Given the educational culture of accurate transmission of facts (vs.
    values), one might expect a push for higher quality in terms of meeting
    the standard (purity of transmission) would receive a ready audience.
    This is one of the reasons I think the push for "higher standards" in
    education (effectively enforcing that all students share the same
    metaphorical background) is a load of bunk, compared to pushing for more
    resources for education (higher teacher pay, more lab equipment, more
    field trips, higher teacher-student ratio, more support for birth
    through age two high quality care) and more related educational
    technology and research -- all of which would allow more support for
    students growing their own way within a positive value framework (which
    is more expensive and harder to manage).

    It is also an issue whether you see shared culture (an intent of
    education) as implying identical backgrounds vs. just some degree of
    overlap related to core issues. Perhaps that is the fundamental shift in
    perception that might need to occur in the primary grades.
    > I need to verify details, but from recollection I understand that Claude
    > Shannon measured in some way that there is about 30 % redundancy in ordinary
    > English communications, an excess verbage that serves somewhat like a qwerty
    > keyboard, to slow things down a bit so as to permit the receiver to tune into
    > and accomodate the sender's intended meaning. Again: extra words. Conversely,
    > one might say that a message (information, knowledge ?) is found within a
    > stream of signals with some degree of randomness.
    > But don't take my word for it. Check out a small text by Shannon and Wheeler
    > about this. Sorry, I haven't got the title.

    I think you are referring to information theory? The idea here is that
    information is novelty and the process of communication of information
    can be described probabilistically. That is, if I don't know what
    English word you say, the chance of me getting it right by guessing is
    one in many thousands (the count of all possible English words). But if
    I know you are saying a simple number (one to ten) then my chance of
    getting it right by guessing is one in ten. So, the information conveyed
    by recognizer that number in a number only context is much less than
    recognizing the next word. Speech recognition technology uses
    probability theory in dictation for improved accuracy, because
    statistically speaking, given the word before and after a word, the
    choices for that word are greatly restricted. In this whole context,
    information is very restricted as an idea.

    But the redundancy issue is slightly different. That is more that things
    like noun-verb agreement or agreement among noun gender and possessives.
    Or another things is how most verbal and non-verbal communication (95%)
    is actually more like queries about relationships and camaraderie and
    reassurance and understanding ("how are you", "are you OK", "did you get
    it", "is that OK?") than any sort of otherwise factual information
    ("I'll be at the park at 10am"). In both cases redundancy and
    reassurance information help keep the conversation from breaking down in
    the face of noise -- dropouts in communications or misinterpretation.

    So, one might then extend this to metaphorical communication. It is one
    thing to use a metaphor, it is another to explain it, or to reconcile
    that the same thing is understood by both parties for the communication
    using that metaphor. Again, to use the "like Bill Gates" example, if
    you say "I think Doug Engelbart is like Bill Gates" (meaning someone who
    invents the future), I might take offense (interpreting it as an elitist
    / monopolistic comment) and say "Doug is in no way like Bill Gates)
    (meaning Doug actually invented significant stuff rather than purchased
    it). Now we have a disagreement in metaphor. So, we need to resolve it.
    We could "take it outside" in a physical way (a fist fight over who is
    right) or we could "take it outside" in an metaphorical way (by seeing
    where our metaphorical models are not in agreement). We might still
    never agree on the meaning of "like Bill Gates", but we might agree on a
    new metaphor (like Nicoli Tesla) which might really mean the same thing
    to both of us.

    So, my point about metaphor and redundancy is that to prevent such
    problems we may need to use 30% (or whatever) of our communications to
    constantly check our metaphorical background when we communicate (which
    is almost always metaphorical). So, we have "Doug Engelbart is like Bill
    Gates, you know, an inventor" where the "you know, an inventor" is
    redundant information intended to to assure our metaphorical
    interpretation is similar.

    The problem in the Star Trek TNG episode "Darmok" is that there was
    little of this redundant communication of metaphor in the aliens
    language (beyond some use in context and non-verbal reactions of alien
    crew). So there was no way to determine what the metaphors were intended
    to mean and thus reconcile the metaphorical models of the speaker and

    -Paul Fernhout
    Kurtz-Fernhout Software
    Developers of custom software and educational simulations
    Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator

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