Archive for the ‘perception’ tag

Summer reading   no comments

Posted at 5:20 pm in order,phenomenology,physics,time

I discovered a great little book earlier this summer and I commend it to anyone interested in knowledge organization, but especially to those who understand the relationship between the order and structure of knowledge, and the order and structure of everything. The book is The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli (New York: Riverhead Books, 2018). It’s one of those amazing little books (240 double-spaced pages including its index, and also easily handheld at a mere 19.5 cm. tall) but also densely packed with information. I will leave it to others to review the book. What I want to do is just reflect a bit about ideas the book brings forward.

The first is that we do not really understand what is meant by “order.” We think of time as something sequential, carefully ordered and entirely quantifiable. But what do we mean when we think of “order”? Sequence? Did one thing happen before another? How do we know? Rovelli opens (p. 5) with the challenge that “somehow our time must emerge around us, at least for us and at our scale.”

Critical to scientific thinking is (p. 11) “the ability to understand something before it’s observed is at the heart of scientific thinking …. The ability to imagine, reflect and explain something we have not yet seen is the essential intellectual method of science. Thus, to understand time or its order we must be prepared to understand and reflect outside of our own experience, to imagine.

After carefully deconstructing our understanding of time, Rovelli begins to build a more reasonable theory, one that actually synthesizes apparently conflicting points of view, again the essence of science. Among his assertions:

-(p. 96) “the world is a network of events. On the one hand, there was time, with its many determinations; on the other, the simple fact that nothing is: things happen.”

-(p. 119) “there is no need … to choose a privileged variable and call it ‘time.’ What we need, if we want to do science, is a theory that tells us how the variables change with respect to each other.”

-(p. 152) “‘indexicality’: the characteristic of certain words that have a different meaning every time they are used, a meaning determined by where, how, when, and by whom they are being spoken. Words such as ‘here,’ ‘now,’ ‘I,’ ‘this,’ ‘tonight’ all assume a different meaning depending on who utters them and the circumstances in which they are uttered.

-(p. 153): “if we give a description of the world that ignores point of view, that is solely ‘from the outside’—of space, of time, of a subject—we may be able to say many things but we lose certain crucial aspects of the world. Because the world that we have been given is the world seen from within it, not from without. Many things that we see in the world can be understood only if we take into account the role played by point of view.”

-(p. 160): “it is entropy, not energy, that drives the world” … energy is conserved … neither created nor destroyed … what makes the world go round are not sources of energy but sources of low entropy.”

-(p. 194): “a present that is common throughout the whole universe does not exist … Events are not ordered in pasts, presents, and futures; they are only ‘partially’ ordered. There is a present that is near to us, but nothing that is ‘present’ in a far off galaxy. The present is a localized rather than a global phenomenon.

-(p. 201): “physics helps us to penetrate layers of the mystery … but in our search for time … we have ended up by discovering something about ourselves … perhaps the emotion of time is precisely what time is for us.”

At the risk of oversynthesizing, I think I can go so far as to say that I see in this writing confirmation of what I have laconically told students for years, what we do in knowledge organization is impossible. There is no order other than perception, indexicality can have no order because it is entirely dependent on point of view, and if space and time are the same, there cannot be two different facets that represent them unless we admit that we are representing neither but only our perceptions of “here” and “when.” On the other hand, science is a critical tool for comprehending the “network of events” that constitutes observable reality. And the presence of networks means there are potential pathways.

(Ironically, I don’t now recall how I discovered this book, it does not occur on any reading list for knowledge organization that I have seen. I suppose it must have been suggested to me by Amazon or Google!)

Written by lazykoblog on August 8th, 2018

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Noesis revisited   no comments

Posted at 8:37 pm in facets,phenomenology

IMG_0158 - Version 2Here is a sign I saw recently. It was in a public space and in a country where I had never visited before, but then again it was in a university hall, so I can’t really say that I was so culturally shocked that I didn’t comprehend it. Still, I took it’s picture, didn’t I?

I had a lot of contemplative time that day because I didn’t really speak the language in which most of the discussion was taking place, so although I could read the slides people were showing and sort of follow along, I also had time to let my mind drift. I looked at this set of images, and I laughed a bit to myself and resolved to take a picture when the next break came along. Then I got to thinking about Otto von Neurath and his attempt to use visualization to advance human communication, in particular to use images as a sort of universal language. One supposes it is from that impulse that we get the confusing array of icons on the dashboards of new automobiles today. The point is that even simple images, like those shown here, can be confusing.

That brings me back always to phenomenology and the notion of noesis, that humans perceive through ego acts, or, to try to put it more simply, we see new things always through a lens of those things we have experienced in our past. The reason I laughed (not quite out loud) when I looked up at this sign was that I read in my head “no cigarettes, no radios, and no hamburgers.” Well, why not? The cigarette is clear enough I suppose. But to my unfocused gaze that image in the middle looks like the kind of radio we all had when I was a teenager. You’d set it in the sand near your ear so you could listen to it but it wouldn’t bother the other people on the beach, the sound of the surf providing useful cover. And if that isn’t a hamburger on the right I don’t know what it is! Ok, with a large soda, but obviously no fries. Maybe this means “no carnivores”?

Well that’s the majority of my point I think, that we simply cannot take a simple notion of “concept” seriously as a concrete entity because there just is no such thing. All concepts, no matter how simple, are perceived along a zillion personal continua. Knowledge organizations can provide frameworks but precision will always escape us.

Which is why we need to move to faceted systems–not categorized systems, but true facets–that embrace contexts, because it is the contexts that mediate individual perceptions. A faceted KOS that permitted contextual entry first and conceptual second would allow users to gauge the parameters of noeitic mediation involved in a given search, or in a given set of assigned semantic concepts. Just for fun, here is the uncropped image. I admiIMG_0158t it isn’t the best example; still it shows a column, in fact the top of a column in an industrial strucutre with cinderblock walls and an airduct there on the ceiling–that makes it relatively clear this is some sort of public space, like a classroom, and that also makes it a bit more clear why those certain things are prohibited.

I know now that thing in the middle is a mobile phone, because they don’t want people chattering. The sandwich and drink on the right probably mean “no eating or drinking” (see, I did get it, after considering the context). Still, it would be more useful to show someone with a full mouth I think and that hash mark across it.

This was in Rio de Janeiro, by the way, at the recent ISKO Brazil conference held at Fundação Getulio Vargas: Portal FGV.

Written by lazykoblog on July 14th, 2013

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Perception (originally posted 1-25-2009)   no comments

Posted at 10:07 pm in phenomenology

Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth ….

Okay, so I’ve been working with noesis, which is a matter of perception. The work all boils down to a basic question: how do we organize knowledge conceptually so long as every concept is perceived differently by everybody? The answer is that the whole process is a huge and constant brain-massage, wherein we shove a little to the left and then a little to the right and back and forth and on and on, trying to get everybody to agree to a common set of perceptions. Which, of course, was the idea behind universal KOS.

I thought this cartoon was perfect:

Written by lazykoblog on November 17th, 2010

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Noesis (originally posted 3-14-2009)   no comments

Posted at 6:39 pm in phenomenology

Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology is just one of the 20th century’s fascinating schools of philosophical thought that is directly relevant to notions of knowledge and information. I have been experimenting with the differentiation of otherwise like entities by attempting to identify their perceptual differences–Husserl calls this noesis, or the act of perception through one’s own ego. Trivial examples are most entertaining so here are two. This sign from a hotel in Amsterdam puzzled me for years:

The text says “Wat to doen bij brand,” which as you can see means “what to do in case of fire.” (The photo is fuzzy, which is a shame, because it means I will have to fly back to Amsterdam to take a better picture!) The first time I encountered this I was rather jet-lagged and thought “how odd, instead of running apparently you are supposed to scream.” What did I know of Dutch culture? But the more times I pointed this out to people in the hotel the more times they said to me “looks like he’s dancing.” So there you have it–the picture shows a person by a fire. I see someone screaming, many others see a person dancing. Those are ego-acts–noesis–self-experiential interpretations. It is one reason classification can be so difficult, because the same thing can mean different things to different people. Here is a set of pictures from the intersection of Frauentorgrabe and Kartäusergasse in Nuremberg; this is where you turn to approach the Germanisches Nationalmuseum:

Clearly, in Germany in order to cross the street one must stand atop a bicycle. Note that if the light is red one is compelled to balance there at rest until it turns green. Obviously this is problematic for some citizens–the older gentleman in the last photo has acquired the requisite bicycle, but although the light is green he is hesitant to leap onto the bar to cross the street.

Okay–point made? I always think it is an interesting philosophical exercise to approach a scene as though one were a creature from outer space and ask oneself “what am I seeing here?” Do you see that long line of earthlings on the right in that third picture? They have evolved to a high capacity and even seem to float as though on wheels; when they become excited their eyes shine enough to brighten even the night. Unfortunately, all of them are infested with two-legged parasites. Their civilization must learn to deal with these infestations before we can settle among them.

(Are you curious about how much traffic I stopped taking these pictures? I’m interested to know whether anyone has noticed I’ve taken hundreds of infrastructure photos around the world recently as part of this study!)

What is the use of this research stream? At present an obvious implication is the explanation of divergence in Web 2.0 applications–when is a tag meaningful and to whom? But there is much more potential here as well. For instance, in my paper for last summer’s ISKO conference I developed the idea of noesis as the synthesis of perception. Here is the abstract:

Perception is a crucial element in the viability of any knowledge organization system because it acts as a filter that provides contextual information about phenomena, including potential categorical membership. Perception is moderated culturally, but “social” systems exercise little or no cultural conformity. “Every day classification” is rife throughout human experience; but classification arises as a system of formal constraints that embody cultural assumptions about the categories that are the products of human cognition. Noesis is a perceptual component of Husserl’s phenomenological approach to human experience. How we perceive a thing is filtered by our experiential feelings about it. The purpose of this research is to increase understanding of the role of cognition in every day classification by developing a fuller profile of perception. Photographs of mailboxes (a mundane, every-day example) from different locales are compared to demonstrate the noetic process. Tag clouds are analyzed to demonstrate the kinds of perceptual differences that suggest different user perceptions among those contributing tags.

(“Noesis: Perception and Every Day Classification.” In Arsenault, Clement, and Tennis, Joseph, eds. 2008. Culture and identity in knowledge organization: Proceedings of the 10th International ISKO Conference, Montreal, 5-8 August 2008. Advances in knowledge organization 11. Wurzburg: Ergon Verlag, pp. 249-53.)

While trying to illustrate this process I realized that the heretofore supposed origin of perception is not in the information object itself, but rather is in each person who interprets it. So this accords with the phenomenon of instantiation. Instantiation says there are many perceivable iterations of information, and phenomenology says there are many potential noetic acts of perception. What is the chance that any two of these streams will meet in a human mind and form an understandable chain? A million research questions now follow; stay tuned.

Written by lazykoblog on November 17th, 2010

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