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December 28, 2010

[2b2k] Understanding as the deepest driver

I’m working on a talk that asks why our greatest institutions have trembled, if not shattered, before the tiny silver hammer of the hyperlink. One tap and, boom, down come newspapers, the recording industry, traditional encyclopedias… Why?

I recognize there are many ways of explaining any complex event. When it comes to understanding the rise of the Net, I tend to pay insufficient attention to economic explanations and to historic explanations based around large players. I’m at doing the opposite of justifying that inattention; I’m copping to it. I tend instead to look first at the Net as a communications medium, and see the changes in light of how what moves onto the Net takes on the properties of the Internet’s sort of network: loose, huge, center-less, without shape, etc.

But, then you have to ask why we flocked to that sort of medium. Why did it seem so inviting? Again, there are multiple explanations, and we need them all. But, perhaps because of some undiagnosable quirk, I tend to understand this in terms of our mental model of who we are and how we live together. My explanatory model hits rock bottom (possibly in both senses) when I see the new network model as more closely fitting what (I believe) we’ve known all along: we are more social than the old model thought, the world is more interesting than the old model thought, we are more fallible and confused than the old model wanted us to believe.

(Now that I think of it, that’s pretty much what my book Small Pieces Loosely Joined was about. So, eight years later, to my surprise, I still basically agree with myself!)

My preference for understanding-based explanations undoubtedly reflects my own personality and unexplored beliefs. I don’t believe there is one bedrock that is bedrockier than all the others.

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December 11, 2008

Multimedia aggregation point

Apture, a free app I’ve been using on this site for many months, enriches links. You select a phrase in your blog and click the magic button, and Apture suggests links to you from multiple sources and in multiple formats. You select the ones you want, and Apture then puts a link in your post that, when clicked, pops up the selected info, and will play even play the selected video or whatever that. For example, here’s an Apture link that will display info that I’ve selected about Madonna.

Now Apture has done a special data collection for Congresspeople. Great idea. Click on the little Congressional dome next to the Nancy Pelosi’s name to see an example. (The Washington Post has started using Apture for this.)

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October 28, 2008

Linking to defamation is not defamation

A Canadian court has decided that linking to a defamatory page is not itself an act of defamation. It does leave admit exceptions, such as repeating the content of the defamatory passage or linking the phrase “The truth about Wayne Crookes is found here.”

The chilling effect if the court had decided otherwise would have been positively arctic.

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July 26, 2008

Hyperlinked Society book now online

The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age, edited by Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui, is now available in full online. It’s an anthology of essays about hyperlinks and society by a great collection of folks. (And then there’s my contribution, which argues that the Internet is good — what a surprise! — because the hyperlinked architecture of the Web mirrors the architecture of morality itself.)

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February 24, 2008

Neverending links

At the end of his very entertaining talk at the NFAIS meeting, Bryan Alexander put up the usual slide with his email address and blog site, and said lightly, “It is of course required by law that the very last thing in every presentation be a URL.”

Nice observation. And behind it is, I think, the sense that we no longer want to announce finality, as if what we just said wraps up the topic in a nice bow. Now it’s not done unless it points to what’s more.

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