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Per request by Susan Turnbull at GSA, the position paper below from the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting a few years ago is resurfacing to update and present at the workshop Mapping the Navigable Waters of Public Information: Connecting People to Science and Scholarly Knowledge. Images from AAG slides will be interspersed soon, both text and images will be updated.

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Position Paper for Mapping Humanities Knowledge and Expertise in the Digital Domain held at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), Denver, CO, April 5-9, 2005. Organized by Katy Borner & Andre Skupin. By Deborah L. MacPherson, Projects Director
Accuracy&Aesthetics, PO Box 52, Vienna VA 22183 USA

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Part 1 This session

1.1. Describe your main interest in this session.
I am interested in participating in this session because I am bothered by what a map of all of humanity’s knowledge and expertise would look like, how it would function, and how or why people would use it. On the one hand, it seems very straightforward to compare this type of map with “regular maps” that show geographical features, relationships, distances, and even how each of these aspects may change over time or be influenced by people, technology or events. On the other hand, most “regular maps” capture and simplify features, relationships and distances that can actually be measured. Information maps are different, we are not sure how much is there.

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1.2. Which major technical challenges do you see for Mapping Humanity’s Knowledge and Expertise in the Digital Domain, as laid out in the session description?
There are countless reasons why each knowledge domain needs to use their own numbering systems, methods of describing and citing pieces of work in relation to other work to form a whole. By trying to consolidate all of humanity’s knowledge and expertise into one shared system, there will need to be significant, possibly permanently damaging, mathematical and conceptual reductions down to a level where the details and relationships can no longer be seen.

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1.3. Which major non-technical challenges do you foresee?
Changing the way people work and organize their ideas and information is worse than many technical problems because look at the progress that has already been made since 1990 when the total number of websites was 1. Tim Berners-Lee’s prototype. All of humanity’s knowledge and expertise is much older, interconnected and sometimes isolated behind impenetrable walls. Databases, patents, designs, maps, new frontiers and papers (good or bad) are peoples’ work and they are attached to it. Each person, research institute and field of study prefers their own words and don’t care if anyone else knows them, they may even have their own spatial visualizations, and definitely believe they know the best way to fit it all together to decide and show which information is most relevant, interesting or important. Many individuals and institutions entire life’s work is devoted to exactly these tasks – and they know what they are doing so creating a map like this must account for all of these different ways of knowing, techniques and expertise. When all the pieces from every domain are all thrown on the floor together, suddenly, we are asking everyone to cooperate and let other people who do not care or know about the details or relationships of their information to be in charge of what it should look like, act like, and how it should influence or relate to other information around it. If we can work this out, I believe many of the technical challenges will solve themselves.

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1.4. Which major opportunities do you envision?

Educate and inspire the general public. Make people more curious. Let people look outside their knowledge domain and area of expertise. Get history to quit repeating itself. Learn and discover new things we could not do without a map such as this.

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BEGINNING OF PART 2 OMITTED UNTIL THE PROTOTYPE IS REALIZED

2.4. Supported User Tasks
The ability to look through other domains information, place your information where you think it belongs then have it reviewed to be argued against, rejected or raised higher according to the collective view of people who understand what you are working on. In the long term, being able to save only the ideas, information and techniques that actually work; and the ability to streamline all digital collections into one interconnected knowledge base accessible to all people from all cultural and intellectual backgrounds.

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2.5. Data Sets Used
The first set will be created especially to be random and cross cutting against different intellectual/cultural backgrounds and institutional requirements. Subsequent data sets are intended to include digitized art collections, patent specifications and drawings, architectural work, mapping and exploration, large scale databases and new types of digital collections that are not possible yet.

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2.6. Algorithms Used
Context Driven Topologies, a mathematical and perceptual system based on algebra, knot theory topology, cultural anthropology and art curation where each entity within a group knows where it belongs within the context of each particular group, or arrangement, of digital information. Over time, streamlining overlaps between entities, groups, arrangements, and layers of information will generate new views and associations. The purpose of the prototype is to see if these automatic views and associations actually correspond to the ways that people generate and create work to represent ideas in a variety of artistic and scientific fields.

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2.7. Sample Maps – WILL UPDATE

2.8. Pros and Cons
Pro- looks like the right overlaps when you are remembering it. Con- The computer just put everything in places, it no longer corresponds to the placement I gave it and cannot be searched.

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2.9. Planned Work
To develop a prototype of the Context Driven Topology system then present it via papers, conferences and exhibits. Gather feedback from individuals and institutions around the world to consider these views and work requirements in the development and implementation of this system.

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2.10. Publications

Collecting Patterns that Work for Everything, the International Journal of Dynamical Systems Research, Chaos and Complexity Letters Vol. 1, #2, special issue: Chaos and Complexity in Arts and Architecture

Perceiving Design in Virtual Spaces the International Conference of Mathematics & Design June 7-10, 2004, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Collective Consciousness, Qi and Complexity, Consciousness Reframed 2004 in Beijing, China November 2004. Organized by the Planetary Collegium

Digitizing the Non-Digital in Rethinking History, The Journal of Theory and Practice, published quarterly by Routledge/Taylor&Francis.

Sent September 30, 2004 to katy@indiana.edu and askupin@uno.edu

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One Comment

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