Knowledge Organisation


Kim H. Veltman

Computers and a New Philosophy of Knowledge

Published in: International Classification, Frankfurt, vol. 18, (1991), pp. 2-12. Essay written on the occasion of a 90-day tour of the Mediterranean in 1981.


The rhetoric about computers and networks typically assumes that multimedia is merely about scanning in books and other materials into electronic form so that we can consult anything, anywhere, anytime. This lecture claims that computers can potentially play a much more profound role by bringing about a new philosophy of knowledge. Earlier ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and Leonardo da Vinci are reviewed briefly. Attention is focussed on a new understanding of the interplay of particulars and universals, which is also proposed as a way of resolving Barber’s paradoxical oppositions between globalisation (McWorld) and regionalism (Jihad).

This is not to say that the emerging global infrastructure is without dangers. Telecommunications have produced two roles for users: one, where they actively share information (telephones), which increases their viewpoints; and another where they are reduced to passive users of information broadcast by others (radio and television), which reduces viewpoints. Convergence could make the broadcast metaphor dominant. Proper representation of all cultures is vital, as a source for continued multiple viewpoints, so that the quest for universal standards sees increased individual expression and uniqueness. The lecture will explore these themes with slides, videos and a computer demonstration.

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