Thursday, November 11, 2004

Content Webs


I made a comment the other day that I thought the pool of philosophical research that was publicly available was small. Implied here is also some degree of quality associated with that - there's plenty of bad pseudo-philosophy out there.

His response was that he had about 2000 pdfs of stuff in a directory somewhere, and he didn't think the pool was small.

Well, that's not really a pool - it's more like a kind of large asteroid. Rather than being a watering hole for information-thirsty travellers, it's more like a freewheeling chunk of information that you'll never know about until it hits you, unless you've got a good telescope.

I think is a well-connected link in the web, drawing together more independant content sources for philosophy than any other page on the web. This wasn't particularly hard, because there was no competition. Literally everyone else has concentrated on (a) introductory guides to philosophy, (b) selling content, (c) making a specific set of e-content available, (d) promoting a personal view. There just wasn't any (e). Instead of all these people linking to eachother, they existed in isolation, whizzing around in the vastness of space, visible only to those with good telescopes.

This isn't just a beat-up for MP. Okay, maybe it is so far, but I'll make some other points now. Firstly, mp3s became a "killer app" because they allowed easy redistribution. Good mechanisms for organising and trading them exist. MP doesn't provide this - it helps you find related but unlinked sources of data, but doesn't actually help in making them more accessible. To get philosophy research into the public consciousness, this needs to happen. I'm not suggesting that philosophy papers will ever get as popular as mp3s, but until they become easily redistributable, they will suffer from a cloud of technical obscurity.

The "information pool" presented by the mainstream media is one example of the power of interconnected information. Whatever newspaper you buy, you are reading essentially the same thing. The information mostly comes from all the same places, and the only value-add is to couch it in a particular language and give it a particular slant. Information that is not linked to by the mainstream media is not considered credible. By using the power of connection, the mainstream media is able to easily dictate what society gives credence to. It's capitalism at its worst.

To 'escape the trap' we need
* The ability to aggregate data from information sources of our own choosing
* A reliable system for re-distributing data
* Print media equivalents of the same
* Greater understanding of the nature of news reporting
* Healthy skepticism
* Greater attention to local issues

And philosophy is a good place to start.


Blogger trinity said...

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10/08/2005 08:47:00 AM  

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