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
> 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
> 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.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> 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
> -Paul Fernhout
> Kurtz-Fernhout Software
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