[unrev-II] Poetry and Knowledge Management

From: Rod Welch (rowelch@attglobal.net)
Date: Sun Oct 29 2000 - 20:22:59 PST

  • Next message: Rod Welch: "[unrev-II] Plan for HyperScope-OHS launch and development"


    Thoughtful stuff on "meaning" and KM. I think SDS helps per POIMS and NWO, but
    not really sure; here is some feedback...


    Would be great to research these issues, per letter on 001011...


    Hang in there.


    Paul Fernhout wrote:
    > Paul Fernhout wrote:
    > > However I still find links appealing in the sense of building up
    > > knowledgebases. However, this issue of [metaphorically guided] search
    > > vs. [explicit] link is a very interesting one. And just because I want a
    > > system to use links internally to represent my changing knowledge base
    > > does not mean it is the best way to communicate. Let me present a
    > > challenge that makes the point: how do you hyperlink a poem for public
    > > display? Yes, creating links may be easy for you to do for yourself and
    > > your own interpretation, but how do you do it for others?
    > On Poetry vs. Fine-grained Meaning in Knowledge Management
    > The more I reflect on this, the more I think the issue of understanding
    > the differences and similarities of Poetry and Knowledge Management is
    > key to seeing the effective limits of hyperlinking and maybe working
    > through that into ideas for better KM tools.
    > I have been reviewing some of Rod Welch's site, especially pages related
    > to Knowledge Management, especially the comments related to trying to
    > define what KM means and who will use it or pay for it or change their
    > daily practices to get its benefits (if any). Or, in other words, the
    > OHS purpose and vision.
    > I have also been thinking about the previous message I sent discussing
    > the distinction between referencing text and referencing concepts and
    > mentioning how one could not hyperlink poetry in a meaningful way
    > (because to fix the meaning of words defeats much of what the poet
    > attempts to convey with purposeful ambiguity). In this sense Poetry
    > represents the Knowledge Management problem in a very bright light.
    > Poems are often intentionally ambiguous, with interpretation expected
    > oftentimes to depend on the reader. To an extent, poetry describes all
    > communications, even though the intent may be to convey more precise
    > meaning.
    > When we talk about "unique IDs" and "global identifiers" we are very
    > much talking about sharing meaning through communications. Linking is
    > an attempt by the author to force (or make convenient the movement of)
    > the reader to a certain metaphorical understanding of the linked item.
    > Yet, the reader may prefer other links (either metaphorically or to
    > other resources) depending on the reader's needs or intents or
    > interests. Or the reader may interpret a reference, phrase, or link in a
    > way other than as the author intended.
    > On reflection, I would say pointers to knowledge or concepts cannot be
    > called "fine grained", as opposed to the way that we might call pointers
    > to lines within a web page more fine grained than a pointer to the web
    > page itself.
    > The "finest grained" thing we have is words, but they are usually
    > defined in context. Example: we are lost in the woods and you point to a
    > tree (making a signal somewhat equivalent to saying a word). That signal
    > could mean any of:
    > * climb the tree to look around,
    > * eat fruit from the tree,
    > * cut the tree down to burn to keep warm,
    > * cut down the tree to build a shelter,
    > * look at the pretty tree,
    > * there is a trail marker on the tree.
    > Which one does the signal mean? It may mean several, or none (think
    > poetry). But it will be easier to understand if we know the context for
    > the signal and something about the signaler's intent. If for example,
    > there was just a discussion on trail markers, the signal would be more
    > likely to mean "there is a trail marker". But if the discussion was just
    > on how to survive the cold night and the need for a source of firewood,
    > the signal might mean "cut down that tree".
    > I explained the meaning of the signal "tree" in terms of words. But, as
    > you think about those words, you will realize they too are just signals
    > -- just pointers. And so, I haven't completely resolved the problem.
    > What does it mean to "cut down the tree"? What does "cut down" mean?
    > Pull off a branch? Chainsaw through the tree? Saw through it? Cut it
    > into logs? Make it into boards? So again, vagueness. The desired outcome
    > depends on the context -- the intent behind the signal. The intender
    > might not even be sure of exactly which is desired -- focusing more on
    > the end goal (burning wood vs. building shelter) than on the exact
    > cutting pattern discovered by trial and error or limited by available
    > tools.
    > If one considers communication and related knowledge that inspires it
    > (especially verbal communication) as metaphorical, then we can't say
    > knowledge is ever fine grained. Augment's numbers are locations of
    > paragraphs, like Rod Welch's communication metrics numbers indicate
    > lines on his web site pages. (Both are somewhat more than that because
    > they are hierarchical, so fragments indicate larger textual units, and
    > in Rod's case the date is also encoded.) I would say though that what is
    > being pointed to in a "knowledge" sense is not so much a word or
    > sentence or line or paragraph, as much as a pointer into an ongoing
    > presentation of metaphors in a certain larger context. To understand the
    > intended meaning of the word "tree" at a location on a web site, one
    > must understand the context around it. (Infinite regress up to
    > understanding the universe can be avoided by at some point us thinking
    > we understand the context of the conversation as a conventional one we
    > are used to workign with.)
    > My point for going on at length is to say that I am realizing (or
    > re-realizing or remembering?) that there is to an extent no way to do
    > "fine grained" knowledge representation. You can point at a word, but
    > since the word loses its meaning by itself, you are pointing at a
    > paragraph or essay -- which is a context. It is true that pointing in
    > one place in an essay may conjure up a different meaning than pointing
    > to another part. Anyway, my point is that while it may be easy to think
    > about pointing to textual artifacts (messages, documents) it is hard to
    > point to specific "meanings". At best we can say, I think that section
    > of text is intended to mean "X" where "X" is another set of signs. So,
    > to reiterate, even when we point to the words, we are not pointing to
    > the meanings. The sign is not the signified. The words are not the
    > wisdom. This is common knowledge in sociology, communications studies,
    > and a bunch of other fields -- I'm just hammering on this point in this
    > context of designing knowledge management tools.
    > People's minds consist of words and images (and impressions, thoughts
    > and memories, etc.) in action. That is, people process information and
    > have motivations, have perceptions, and take actions. The "knowledge" or
    > "wisdom" of a person (inside a person?) consist of information in that
    > *active* context, and alongside other information also in that context.
    > That processing is quite complex -- involving multiple simultaneous ways
    > of representation (e.g. Marvin Minsky's latest work) and very complex
    > perceptions related to combinations of visualization, verbalization, and
    > other sense impressions acting in a sort of mental world simulator full
    > of various thinking tools (i.e. simplified ways of predicting the future
    > or the past or making a choice). This is one reason that conversational
    > AI-type systems that just process textual symbols fail to do a very good
    > job of duplicating human thought; they can't for example handle simple
    > 3D geometry problems like imagining using an umbrella to knock down a
    > banana which any chimpanzee could easily solve. So -- thought is more
    > than language, although language is used in much human thought.
    > You can't easily point to a bit of knowledge in a document, any more
    > than you can point to one dot in a painting by Georges Seurat (a painter
    > who created Pointilism) and say that is a picture by itself.
    > http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/seurat/
    > http://www.epcomm.com/center/point/point.htm
    > So, we must distinguish between creating memory aids and document
    > management systems, and creating artificial intelligences. Obviously, to
    > the extent people are using memory aids, they are "augmenting"
    > themselves into being a sort of artificial intelligence. This is not an
    > argument against AI; it is just to distinguish "AI" from "Knowledge
    > Management".
    > Anyway, I am trying to get at the issue that our understanding of a
    > knowledge management system has to rise above the notion that the
    > "knowledge" or "wisdom" being managed is in the computer system. It is
    > in the intelligences (typically based around people) of which the
    > knowledge management system may form a part (an aid for memory,
    > communication, and calculation). The designs for Knowledge Management
    > tools must soar above the mundanity (but necessity) of managing chunks
    > of texts, images, sounds and so on. This is in line some with Doug's
    > point about how the user (or user community) must co-evolve with the
    > tool and information in it. In effect, the knwoledge is distributed
    > throughout the entire system. But the system itself must still reflect
    > the special needs of doing KM which may require interfaces and processes
    > different from more conventional tools. What these interfaces and
    > architectures should be is a subject of debate -- obviously Augment or
    > Memex or Xanadu set the stage as archetypes.
    > So, what I am saying is knowledge is in the system including the people.
    > When we talk about knowledge management systems we are talking about
    > systems that help people or communities to manage their knowledge --
    > that help people organize knowledge, communicate it, revise it, and so
    > forth. But that does not to mean we ever have to say the "knowledge" is
    > in the system, any more than we need to say that "knowledge" is in a
    > book.
    > A book may have words, and page numbers, and may inspire you, and tell
    > you things you didn't know -- but the knowledge in the book resides more
    > in the system of author and reader sharing certain metaphorical
    > backgrounds and thus being able to understand a certain communication
    > made in print.
    > And one must admit, since the author and reader may never share exactly
    > the identical metaphorical background, the meaning of any communication
    > to the reader may not be what the author intended. Perhaps one can call
    > this meaning shift "concept drift?" Most non-routine communications
    > probably contain some element of "concept drift", as I'm sure does this
    > communication.
    > But with enough communciations, generally I would think the parties
    > begin to understand the other's metaphorical system, even if they may
    > decide not to share it in the sense of relate values or assignment of
    > "truth". Thus, they may come to better understand the intent of the
    > communications by the sender, even as they may still also interpret the
    > communication as poetry using their own metaphorical system.
    > However, there must be some commonality in metaphor, otherwise the
    > reader could get little out of a book or message at all. Think about the
    > StarTrek:TNG episode "Darmok" where the aliens talked in terms of
    > mythological figures and storylines which the Enterprise crew has no
    > knowledge of. The words were spoken and understood -- but there was no
    > meaningful communication.
    > http://www.ugcs.caltech.edu/st-tng/episodes/202.html
    > http://www.chaparraltree.com/sflang/darmok.shtml
    > http://www.chaparraltree.com/sflang/discurs.shtml
    > The bottom line: We'll never be able to point to the "Knowledge" in a
    > "Knowledge Management" system. But, that doesn't mean pointers into text
    > aren't useful, or that one can't construct tools to help manage
    > knowledge as it is communicated by text, images, sounds, and so on. Or
    > in other words, think of an Augment-ish library as communications system
    > (as opposed to an AI). Which brings us back to email as a good
    > vehicle...
    > -Paul Fernhout
    > Kurtz-Fernhout Software
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