Stephen Downes really lets his geek/freak flag fly with a posting from yesterday’s newsletter entitled Networks… It’s not so much a discrete article as it is a remix, laying down a loose, jumpy groove that is a DJ Downes standard…
If we were to imagine the internet as a global mind, how would we determine what it was thinking? Not by examining any individual website, or even every website, but by looking for the patterns, the standing waves, the moments. And if we were to seek a single one of the internet’s thoughts, how would we look? We would not seek through individual neurons, but would depend on the mind to organize itself, and tell us.
… while layered over the beat are a diverse sprinkling of samples and conceptual flavourings — a gallery of networked images, a wikipedia entry on the physics of the moment, a hand-drawn map of neural information flow, an overview of Aristotle.
Stephen seems to be having fun here, and this extended bit of riffing — credited to “various authors” — in form as well as argument asserts that gathering and recombining sources is a creative act, one with power to communicate knowledge.
When people in my field started talking about “reusing digital resources”, we focused on specifications, systems and algorithms that promised to structure content for us automatically. People started building boxes to drop our work into, arguing loudly about the shape and placement of the boxes. And boxes do come in handy when you have to store stuff, or move it around. But “content”, in educational contexts, is a term that encompasses thoughts, speculations, and passions — it’s not merely data, or floor wax, or a dessert topping.
The semantic web is an intangible sculptural body that exists only in the virtual space between you and the information you perceive. It’s all in continuous transformation, and to look for anything to really stay the same is to be caught in a time warp to another era, another place when things stood still and didn’t change so much. But if this essay has done one thing, then I hope it has been to move us to think as the objects move: to make us remember that we are warm-blooded mammals, and that the cold information we generate is a product of our desires, and manifests some deep elements of our being.
The point of all this? To remind us that, like Duke Ellington and so many other musicians said so long ago, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.””