Re: The value of navigability (related to META...)

Tue, 7 Jun 94 11:35 BST

Nick Arnott's discussion is very stimulating:

> |I like to make the comparison of today's convergence of inexpensive
> |computers and networks to the 15th century convergence of inexpensive
> |printing and paper

The development of the printing press provided the means for the mass
dissemination of information but the other side of the coin is the
resultant rise in literacy to the point where a mass market, or audience if
you prefer, exists. Printing wasn't inexpensive prior to the press, it
was pretty much non-existant. Umberto Eco in "The Name of the Rose" has
fictionalised the strangle hold that the church had on "knowledge" in the
middle ages. Thank goodness that this is no longer possible given the
quantity of information and the many ways of accessing it today.

and ...

We are unlikely to see the burning of individuals because they provide
contentious or inflamatory material by whatever means.

The press changed the world almost beyond recognition. The rise of
capitalism and scientific, historic and technological principles were
impossible without the ability to diseminate information and stimulate
intellectual activity in as wide a group as possible.

In the late 18C and early 19C the industrial revolution in Europe led to
the centralisation of the population in enormous cities. Glasgow grew from
20,000 people in 1820 to more than 200,000 less than ten years later.
Already the move back out of the cities has begun and is almost completely
facilitated by cheap PC's and reliable global networks.

The Internet (web gopher AFTP et al) provides the model for a fundamental
change in society as large or larger than either the explosion (excuse the
hyperbole - these things are difficult to overstate) in literacy or the
development of the assembly line model of production.

Bert Bos replies:

>The issue is more subtle than this. A colleague of mine, who is an
>expert in these things, likes to start his lectures on SGML and TEI
>with examples from pre-Gutenberg and early printed scholarly works, to
>show the navigational aids that were lost when printing became
>mechanized. Those books are pure Hypertext! On one page you could find
>basically everything that was ever written on, say, Genesis 1:1,
>logically mapped out, with cross references, annotations and
>annotations-on-annotations, textual variants and bibliographic

>You can still follow a bibliographic reference in a book
>published 200 years ago, but can you trust any URL in 200 years from

Can you trust it next week?

Nick Arnott is absolutely correct in identifying navigability as the
crucial issue in this arena. I see it in terms of threads. Instead of
information enclosed in quotes, packets or nuggets, the idea of a pathway
through a sea of data where the compass bearing is an interest or a study
is a Web model and perhaps the most succinct. Even as the thread is
followed documents along the way are old or new or updated seconds after a
copy is requested.

On Gopher, Veronica provides a good but unlinked method of finding
information but I havent seen, and to be honest I'm not sure what it would
look like, a web thread manager. So much of the information is
in non .txt or .html format that providing indexing or keyword access to
much of the data is laborious and limited.

Al. <-:< (