Re: Beyond Access and Impact: The Ultimate Benefit of SkyReading/Writing

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Mon, 26 Nov 2001 10:09:39 +0000

On Sun, 25 Nov 2001, Arthur P. Smith wrote:

> The fact that we have some interactions "at the speed of thought"
> surely does not preclude the simultaneous necessity for use of
> other communication media with much longer interaction times

This is almost exactly the same point made by Gene Garfield almost
exactly 10 years ago (November 11, 1991) in Current Contents in
response to "Scholarly Skywriting":

    "The Question of Reflective Time: The flaw in Harnad's argument,
    in my opinion, is that it ignores the reflective thinking process
    that accompanies the traditional printed article."

And the reply is exactly the same: Near-immediate on-line interactive
skywriting is a SUPPLEMENT to slower, off-line interactions, not a
SUBSTITUTE for them. (It gives one the OPTION to shoot from the hip,
not the OBLIGATION!)

And let us not confuse interactive on-line commentary (the "labile"
medium) with the refereed research corpus itself, which is, if you
like, the lapidary textual ("skyreading") database on which the
rapidfire skywriting can be based (if/when one wishes). Peer review
itself is one of the intrinsic brakes on the process.

Let 1000 flowers (conversations, letters, lectures, conferences,
pre-refereeing preprints, post-refereeing postprints -- on-line and
on-paper -- books, textbooks, reviews, comments, responses) bloom -- but
let the self-archived on-line version of the refereed postprints be
among them, free for picking, by one and all, forever.

> Having Stevan's (and the rest of our) thoughts
> spread across a thousand pieces of email with selective quotes,
> replies, rebuttals, and novel thoughts interspersed almost randomly
> makes this a very difficult medium (at least for most of us)

Arthur is quite right. The indexing and navigation of "Quote/Comment"
(Hypermail) space is one of the very interesting and important
challenges for search and navigation engines under development. And it
will be (and is being) met (Tom Rynne's prize-winning project is an
example: -- Tim Brody's
citation-engine too: After all, with proper
subject-header management and hyperlinking of quotes to their original
texts (just like citation linking), a commentary is just a microcosm of
an article -- and XML will soon make the paragraph the canonical unit
anyway (if not an even smaller part of each paragraph).

As an example, the visibility, searchability and navigability of this
American Scientist Archive Forum immediately went up an order of magnitude
when the token finally dropped and a Hypermail Archive, with its 1600+
items indexed by Google, was created from it a few months ago:

Anyone can now search and retrieve their contributions to it by name,
subject, or any boolean combination from the full-text. And of course
that is only the beginning. Smart-indexing and smart-linking are around
the corner. Don't despair about navigating skyreading/writing: it will
only get better and better.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Mon Nov 26 2001 - 10:09:52 GMT

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