All posts for the year 2003

Hilary Lawson – Openness and Closure – Interesting debate on BBC Radio 4 Start The Week (29 Dec 2003) with Andrew Marr. Not come across Hilary Lawson before, but previously published work was on “closure” – about the stories we create to describe the patterns we see in the world as closure on the potential mystery, uncertainty and complexity behind them. Our working models of truth. Latest work is on Openness is looking at the extent to which 99% of the world out there remains “open” obscured by the 1% we have taken to be closed – eg by science or accepted knowledge. Also the idea of different stories / patterns for different purposes. Interesting discussion – no real debate – but involving geneticist (Matt Ridley), historical biographer (Linda Colley) and anthropologist / linguist (Hugh Brody) – all the ingredients for a philosophy of truth and knowledge.

Couldn’t fail to recall DNA’s (Douglas Adams’) white mice in the discussion about experiments on small rodents and discoveries about how little difference there is genetically between humans and the rest, and that many others are more complex than humans.

Also liked the “Forest Clearing” analogy for knowledge – the larger the clearing the more trees you can actually see (the more questions there are to be asked) – worth avoiding a deforestation view of knowledge methinks.

Interesting side-issue (in South African land claims) about how far back in history counts as aboriginal in the reality of the past decade. In this case 1913 – is this another 80 year cycle of 3 generations like Kondratiev ?

(Interesting follow-on into the book of the week, Byron Rogers biography of J L Carr – The Last Englishman)

Must add Start The Week (Andrew Marr) and In Our Time (Melvyn Bragg) to my fixed links. The last In Our Time was on the subject of Lamarck and how much of his basic thinking remains true post neo-Darwinianism.

Ontologies of Knowledge In Denial – Geoff Cohen over at Coherence Engine one of many taking delight in the Rumsfeld “knowns we don’t know, etc ” quote, but picking up on the essential truth of the matter – it may be lousy communication, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. He also follows-up on truths we choose not to know – being in denial. Like it.

Science – Fact or Fiction – BBC Radio 4 Today had Humphries in a debate with Steve Jones and George Monbiot about science stories that have a big picture story or “grand narrative” overlaid on what must be hughely complex reality – UK MMR Vaccine, GM Foods, Cloning, Global Warming etc. The fact being that one piece of science (even good science) can be seized on to support the case for the grand narrative, which takes on much greater significance than that specific piece of science, even cutting across scientific evidence to the contrary. Bjorn Lomborg was cited as an example of someone who had dared to pick up on the scientific counter evidence to spin the story opposing the received wisdom behind the global warming “problem”. [See also] Either way both stories are spin – for or against – so how do you decide the truth ?

The interesting point is that whilst both scientists accepted this, both knew which of the grand narratives they believed, and both accepted the reality of the negative reaction generated when someone dares to suggest the opposite view is scientifically supportable.

More Dave SnowdenKurz and Snowden in IBM’s Systems Journal [via Ton]
The paper behind the slide presentation below.
[Interview with Dave Snowden][Also here][And here]

We also discover that ….
Cynefin (pronounced kun-ev’in) is a Welsh word with no direct equivalent in English
As a noun it is translated as “habitat,” as an adjective to convey “acquainted” or “familiar.”

Could I suggest – comfort zone – perhaps ?

KM Meets Pirsig – I was impressed by David Snowden’s contribution to the European Knowledge Management conference as reported by Ton. Well I see David’s presentation at the launch of the London Knowledge Network includes a quote from Pirsig as his second slide.

[Quote] Traditional scientific method has always been at the very best 20-20 hindsight. It’s good for seeing where you’ve been. It’s good for testing the truth of what you think you know, but it can’t tell you where you ought to go. [Unquote] Pisrig ZMM

David Snowden is head of IBM’s consultancy Cynefin Centre.

How mainstream can Pirsig get ?

[Post Note : My basic take on this has always been that objective "scientific" rationale tends to be a post-rationalisation, justification, apportioning (or deflecting) blame, showing just-cause, attributing success, etc but has little use in "decision making" about what you should do next.]

Talking of which … On slide 6 (with build) he uses “Edge of Chaos” to denote that transition from ordered to chaotic, just as does Mark Maxwell in his “Sweet Spot” essay on MoQ.

Paul, Seb, Ton, take a look also at slide 7 in our discussion about ontologies – this is my point …. we need “emergent ontologies”, where the data preceeds the fixed framework. I particularly love to see this presented as an anitidote to that old consultancy cliche the Boston Consulting Group’s 2×2 grid ! Although David goes on to use what look like 2×2 grids in caricature, it is significant that the distortion involves non-clear-cut dividing lines and oddly shaped grey-areas or no-man’s-lands.

Also liked the Tom Peters “Ready, Fire, Aim” allusion on slide 8, where the complex and chaotic dynamic patterns involve action before sensing and responding. The “guided missile” response as I like to think of it.

Blogging Categorisation / Taxonomies – Been corresponding with Paul Kelly on this subject. I remember starting a similar thread with Seb at least a year ago, and notice [via Paul] that Tim Bray [ongoing] is well on top of this subject. (By the way guys, when we have the tools I have some good sources of very generic taxonomy frameworks, rather than fixed taxonomies – being based on the nature of the relationships rather than intrinsic classification of the nodes.)

Where is Jorn Barger ? I queried this a couple of weeks ago on the WebSeitz Wiki, and it seems the grandaddy of blogging is truly AWOL. Eric Wagoner has created a Jorn search page too. Keep ‘em peeled.

Last time he went AWOL in July, it created a lot of chatter about his personal traits and politics. Personally, as someone who finds him a pain communication-wise , having been on the wrong side of his kill-file from the outset, I find that although his views are extreme, idiosynchratic, arrogant and obsessive by any standards, I think he’s close to genius – it’s a fine line anyway. Less of a fine line is the distinction between anti-Israeli-politics and ant-semitism, but some people just cannot see past this taboo subject.

The web is a poorer place without this pain in the a*se.

McLuhan’s Next – Noticed earlier that Paul Kelly had many references to McLuhan, and others who refer to him, Levinson and Postman for example. Recently I’ve been intrigued by the level to which McLuhan’s aphorisms turn up in day-to-day day-job contexts, not least in a recent white-paper by a Canadian day-job colleague. What is it with Canada and knowledge management / blogging generally, a hotbed I think I remarked previously ?

Anyway, well into Rorty now, so preparing for my next foray, into McLuhan I expect.
This McLuhan web-site has a good timeline, biography and bibliography, so it looks like a good place to start. Must also ask Paul where he would advise diving in to McLuhan.
[See also Manitoba Author Index][And also Toronto University]

And also a Toronto University Blogger-based blog with exactly the same template as my original KM Blog Spooky ! or was this a blogger template ? A lot of overlapping links in the blogosphere too. Presumably “Mark” is Mark Federman, McLuhan Toronto course tutor and co-author of “McLuhan for Managers”]

I was ignorant of the Cambridge connection (Trinity 1936/39) until I read the above – must have crossed with C S Lewis judging by the timing ? What was it he said about the Global Village ? You’ll be telling me his regular was the Pickerell next ?

Another common theme in this space is late conversion to religion, Catholicism and a pontifical appointment in McLuhan’s case.

[Spooky coincidence no 347 in a series of thousands ... the Genesis / Peter Gabriel song I quote in the footnote, includes a memorable McLuhan line too.]

Reminded by Dave Pollard’s reaction in the previous post, to an ongoing difference of opinion with a colleague, which I guess is a variation of the cup-half-full / cup-half-empty syndrome.

Life’s a bitch, …. and then you die ? or
Life’s a bitch, …. unless you change it.
Which are you ?

Dave’s “How to save the world” blog wears its colours on its sleeve.

Fourth Turning – Pre-9/11 (1997 in fact) study on cultural / political global cycles – no obvious mention of underlying technological / economic cycles, but worth looking for parallels I suspect. Doomsday / holocaust prediction of 9/11-esque triggered events – it was ever thus etc. Salutory. [via Dave Pollard] Dave throws his hands up in horror at the fatalistic conclusions of the paper – I suspect I’ll feel the same if we can’t learn something more pro-actively useful from this.

Personal Knowledge Emergence – Great summary from Luigi / Sharewood Tidings (Robin Good) on effectiveness of knowledge emergence thorugh blogs and other de-centralised / peer-to-peer / interactive systems. Links to many other KM’ers in blogland. [Also via Seb]. You can spot the angle from the opening paragraph referring to Autonomy and Siebel as “useless shelfware systems”.

Oliver Wrede also picked-up this thread, and highlights this summary quote “In other words, content providers should not be trying to guess how I want to interact with their information. They should just be providing the information. I will customize my experience as I see fit.” Interesting in a day-job context where we are working on de-coupling “acquisition” from “characterisation”, and saying to source applications – give me your raw data – tell me what you know in your own words – ie don’t second guess how you think I want to see or use it.

(Broad-band internet link from Aotou, China enables this post !) Finished Barfield’s History in English Words and started Rorty’s Contingency, Irony and Solidarity on the flight.

Barfield uses etymology of English words to paint a picture of the history of thought through language, not just through the stems and origins of the individual words, but most importatly through their evolving useage and semantics. (See the Aryans post below) He comes down very heavily on the side of the poets who’ve contributed the most – Shakespeare, Coleridge and Wordsworth in particular, and the Oxford English Dictionary as the best source there is (1953). How does one get access to the full OED, rather than all the various “concise” forms ?

As for Wordsworth he quotes the lines from Tables Turned …. Our meddling intellect, rhyming with, We murder to dissect. Apart from re-inforcing the death of / through logic angle – I couln’t help hearing “analysis paralysis” in murder to dissect.

Rorty – this is the first I’ve read since struggling with his Mirror of Nature, apart from his autobiographical essay Wild Orchids and Trotsky – Contingency, Irony and Solidarity. Apart from the preface and intro, I’ve read only the “Contingency of Language” chapter so far. Absolutely brilliant – natural follow on from Barfield. He very much supports the line that if its human nature you’re interested in it’s a work of fiction you should be reading, prose or poetry. Apart from the usual Marx, Nietzsche, Hegel, Kirkegaard, Heidegger, Dewey, James, etc, he relies strongly on Donald Davidson here. [Quote] Davidson breaks with the notion of language as a medium , and not for either representation or expression.[Unquote] Very much the same as Lakoff’s conduit metaphor rant, and evocative of McLuhan.

Also, of more than passing day-job interest [Quote] … the term intrinsic is one which it would pay us not to use, one which has caused more trouble than it has been worth.[Unquote] Tell me about it.