12.12.2007

trajectory of categories

I’m doing a little experiment with Wikipedia. More on that later. In this post, lemme introduce a quick theory on the evolution of our understanding and use of emerging technologies. In the future, I'll superimpose it onto Gartner’s hype cycle, but for now, a brief description:

The manner in which we understand and use emerging technologies undergoes a trajectory of categories, from binary --> spectrum --> typology --> promiscuous pragmatic pluralism. Take hyperlinks for example. Search engines currently look for whether or not a site has links (binary: yes or no). But there's increasing talk of link strength (spectrum: weaker <--> stronger). And a semantic web would require search engines to understand the type of link between pages (typology: different types). Applied to links between people, Facebook, with its “How do you know [insert name]?” feature, is attempting to elaborate a "social graph"* based on the type of link between people. Other examples are hanging out in the comments.

Ultimately, as we climb the slope of enlightenment towards the plateau of productivity in Gartner’s hype cycle, it won’t be that a typological approach is inherently better than a binary one, but a matter of when to use which type of categorization (promiscuous pragmatic pluralism). Humanifesto on ppp to come...

*Fight for the survival of "social graph" on Wikipedia. It automatically re-directs to "social network," which is why I had to create an entry for social graphs in the plural. If you talk and discuss, Wikipedians might let it be. But if you wait too long, it might just be left gathering dust in history. Yes, this is part of my experiment with Wikipedia that I'll someday post about.

8 comments:

Stephanie Gerson | Sequoia Hax said...

Other examples of the trajectory of categorization:

-blogs: blogs vs. traditional journalism (binary) --> degree to which a blog adheres to standards of traditional journalism (spectrum) --> different types of blogs/journalistic media, which may/may not adhere to journalistic standards (typology)

-virtual communities: virtual communities vs. real communities (binary) --> virtual communities are less real (or less something) than real communities (spectrum) --> different types of communities, online and/or off (typology)

-virtual worlds: virtual worlds vs. real world (binary) --> degree to which a world is real/virtual (spectrum) --> different types of worlds, real and/or virtual (typology)

Actually, the trajectory of categorization doesn’t only apply to emerging technologies, but to concepts and other intangible phenomena:

-public spheres: inside vs. outside the public sphere (binary) --> degree of public-ness of sphere (spectrum) --> typology of spheres, and of public spheres (typology)

-noopolitik: noopolitik vs. realpolitik (binary) --> degree of noo-ness/realness of politik (spectrum) --> typology of politiks whether noo, real, and/or otherwise

-civic participation: yes/no civic participation (binary) --> degree of civic participation (spectrum) --> types of civic participation (typology)

Stephanie Gerson | Sequoia Hax said...

And the obvious example: information. Access to information, great! (Binary.) Wait, um, how good is the information? (Spectrum.) Actually, what type of information? (Typology.) Answering this last question will help address the storage problem.

Arthur Klepchukov said...

Does your typology category encompass the relationship between links? I'm thinking specifically of things like the microformats based on the rel and rev attributes (rel-license, rel-nofollow, VoteLinks, etc.) I think capturing link relationships is a pretty hard problem (unless you have a human to read the context in which the links appear).

Stephanie Gerson | Sequoia Hax said...

I don't know what rel/rev attributes are (could you please elaborate?) but there are non-human-required ways of doing this. Possibilities include being able to search for: 1) one-way vs. reciprocal links (there might be a difference between a one-way link, and a link that links back to its source, e.g. with trackbacks); 2) links to an index page vs. links to elsewhere on a website (links to a homepage are presumably more general than links elsewhere); 3) whether links are embedded in text vs. listed in a side/nav bar (presumably if in a side/nav bar, they are somehow affiliated or being advertised). These distinctions wouldn't necessarily indicate the strength (spectrum) or type (typology) of the link - although 1) and 3) might - but they might help characterize it beyond the mere fact that it exists (binary).

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