[topicmapmail] epistemology or pragmatism

Bernard Vatant b.vatant@wanadoo.fr
Sun, 8 Jul 2001 12:40:05 +0200

Paul, Patrick and al.

I think we have two views here. Do we consider TM as  ...

1. Simply one more tool for
(after and before many more since language's and writing's invention)

2. A "new paradigm" with fundamental philosophical/political/ideological

Patrick and W.M. are considering clearly 1. whereas Paul is sticking to 2.

My view is: even if we have in a corner of our mind that 2. may eventually
turn out to be true, we should stick to 1. I've written that here already,
and sorry to repeat that commonplace, but a tool is only a tool. As soon as
it is available, no way its authors can legifer on what its uses will be.
The uses will be commanded by a complex set of parameters, its simplicity,
its efficiency, the ability of its first developers to sell it, the state of
market ... and certainly all a bunch of other invisible, random, contingent,
non-measurable factors. History of tools is pretty much non-linear ! Of
course the Big Ones will consider this tool as any other one if they feel it
fits their goals and interests. And if AOL ever takes it as a part of its
toolbox, it will be clearly not for knowledge sharing in the sense of Paul,
and there is no way I can see you can forbid that (and no reason to forbid
it, even if I would not like it much either). And that would change of
course the face of things ... The present state of the Web has nothing to do
with what was in TBL's mind ten years ago, and so on ...

History of ideas and societies should learn us at least one thing: paradigm
shifts and revolutions are not decreted. They are recorded "a posteriori",
and no revolution in any field has ever turned out the way its "thinkers"
were aiming to. If I am wrong there, show me just one example.

At Mondeca the line is clearly 1. Yes we have an expensive tool, it has a
R&D cost, we try to figure out what tasks it would be good at and what are
its limits and shortcomings, target a market, build use cases, improve from
that, etc ... and yes we need someone to pay for it: project leaders,
investors, customers ... Looks like a very standard business model :))

OTOH we are of course aware, as anybody, of the collective needs for
knowledge management and sharing - whatever the size of community, from
corporates to research networks ... and wider communities up to the
worldwide community of web users (that is 2. in a corner of the mind). And
if the tool is used in projects of that kind, all the best (for example the
projects we develop in the frame of European Community, or the collaborative
Semantopic Project)

All that looks to me like pragmatic pionneering. Nothing there to really get
at war for. Just another, both risky and pleasant, human and technical
venture in knowledge land. No more, no less. Are we inventing a little bit
of the future? Hope so, as everyone occupied to build something. Are we
pretending to shape the future? Should be arrogant. Do we believe we are
ploughing the right way? Like every human enterprise has to, to get the
necessary spirit and self-trust to move forward.

Well - hope those pragmatic principles will be the basis of the present and
future reorganization of our community ... And looks to me it's quite the
OASIS spirit anyway, which makes me reasonably confident we'll get out of
"paradigmatic" debates and go forward building hopefully useful tools.

Cheers all


Mondeca - "Making Sense of Content"