Knowledge Organisation


Kim H. Veltman

New Media and Transformations in Knowledge

Opening keynote: “Metadata und die Transformation des Wissens,” Published as New Media and Transformations in Knowledge I, II in: Euphorie Digital? Aspekte der Wissensvermittlung in Kunst, Kultur und Technologie, Heinz Nixdorf Museums Forum, Paderborn, September 1998, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2000, pp. 35-62, 131-166

1. Introduction
2. Processes
3. Views and Levels of Abstraction
4. Scale
5. Kinds of Reality
6. Complex Systems
7. Individuals and Particulars
8. Now and Eternity
9. Meta-data
10. Global Efforts
11. Emerging Scenarios
12. Conclusions.
Appendix 1. Basic Application Areas not Systematically Discussed in this Paper.
Appendix 2. Glossary of Key Elements in Internet Metadata.

1. Introduction

As media change so also do our concepts of what constitutes knowledge. This, in a sentence, is a fundamental insight that has emerged from research over the past sixty years. In the field of classics, Eric Havelock, showed that introducing a written alphabet, shifting from an oral towards a written tradition, was much more than bringing in a new medium for recording knowledge. When claims are oral they vary from person to person. Once claims are written down, a single version of a claim can be shared by a community, which is then potentially open to public scrutiny, and verification. The introduction of a written alphabet thus transformed the Greek concept of truth (episteme) and their concepts of knowledge itself. In the field of English Literature, Marshall McLuhan, influenced also by historians of technology such as Harold Innis, went much further to show that this applied to all major shifts in media. He drew attention, for example, to the ways in which the shift from handwritten manuscripts to printed books at the time of Gutenberg had both positive and negative consequences on our world-view. In addition, he explored how the introduction of radio and television further changed our definitions of knowledge. These insights he distilled in his now famous phrase: “the medium is the message.”

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