Gradus ad Parnassum

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 14:19:11 +0000


Comments on N. Arika "Quodlibet"

Stevan Harnad

> N. Arikha: "hypermail indexing: I am not sure how widespread it is so
> far but there is no doubt that it is an optimal format and that a more
> dynamic interface would be beneficial."

It is very widespread (especially if we include all its variants,
imitators, and enhancements). The principle is as simple as it is
optimal: Email files all have 3 basic pieces of metadata:

(1) Date

(2) From

(3) Subject

(plus information on which item an item is in response to).

This makes possible a remarkably powerful, functional and perspicuous
automatic archiving, with items all full-text archived, each with its
own URL, searchable and displayable by author or by subject-thread (all
comments on that subject), with jumps possible back and forth from
items to comments on them or to the items on which they are comments.
(For examples, see some of the Hypermail archives at: )

And of course it has a MUCH better quote/comment format than text-e did:
That is super-important to the entire e-symposium/skywriting medium.

So the reply is: Hypermail-like e-symposia and archives are very common,
and we should definitely do an automatic conversion of the text-e
contents into such a permanent archive. Text-e's off-line texts that
need to be generated on-line by java each time are a VERY non-optimal
way to do it; and for storing it, nothing could be worse (as it is not
stored in a way accessible to google-harvesting and browsing).

> N. Arikha: "That said, I did find that the technical limitations this
> time around actually helped to define text-e as a proper conference
> even more precisely - after all, you can't index the comments of
> speakers and public in a physical symposium, not, at any rate, while
> the event is happening."

I regret that I cannot follow that at all. How does dysfunctionality
help "define" anything at all? (And nothing needs "definition" here:
the new capability, online, near-real-time, digital symposia --
"skywriting" -- is here, here to stay, and needs no definition, it
needs only implementation and use!)

> N. Arikha: "The concentration of communication within a fleeting
> temporal continuum generates an intense sort of thinking that
> characterizes the conference setting, as opposed to the calm, parallel
> study of books juggled and shuffled in a library."

Fine, that is perhaps a rationale for having the symposia start-finish
bounded in time rather than open-ended, but apart from that, it is
absolutely no rationale for archival dysfunctionality.

> N. Arikha: "A new sense of time was bred within the text-e event, since
> it was a hybrid temporality, between immediate and unrepeatable
> communication and revisable deliberation."

Unfortunately, that is becoming a bit too impressionistic for me. (It
may be true, but I am not sure what it means, what the evidence for it
is, and what it would imply, if it were true.)

> N. Arikha: "This might be one reason - this is a tentative response to
> Serge Pouts-Lajuss comment in the fourth title here - why many
> participants didn't "speak." We mentioned the phenomenon of "silent
> participants" earlier during the event; it is another similarity to
> physical conferences, in which silence denotes concentration rather
> than lack of engagement, although, true enough, there is everything to
> be gained from getting people to speak up!"

I regret that I must again disagree. Yes, one of the remarkable and
creative features of scholarly skywriting is that in writing what one
writes up there in the sky, one has a sense that it will immediately be
seen and appreciated by many eyes and minds. That is inspiring, and can
elicit from us our best efforts. But that only works up to a point.
Once one starts hearing the same commentators over and over, and one
fails to hear from the other minds and names one had imagined among the
sky-gazing populace, inspiration dwindles.

Besides, I don't find silence inspiring in any case; it is interaction
that stimulates ideas, and that is the essence of the skywriting
(not skygazing) revolution, with the quote/comment function at its very

Harnad, Stevan (1990) Scholarly Skywriting and the Prepublication
Continuum of Scientific Inquiry. Psychological Science 1:342-343.

Harnad, Stevan (1991) Post-Gutenberg Galaxy: The Fourth Revolution in
the Means of Production of Knowledge. Public-Access Computer Systems
Review 2(1):39-53.

Harnad, Stevan (1995) Interactive Cognition: Exploring the Potential of
Electronic Quote/Commenting, in Gorayska, B. and Mey, J.L., Eds.
Cognitive Technology: In Search of a Humane Interface, pages 397-414.

Harnad, S. (1999) The Future of Scholarly Skywriting. In: Scammell, A.
(Ed.) "i in the Sky: Visions of the information future" Aslib, November 1999
Received on Fri Mar 15 2002 - 14:21:03 GMT

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