Date:         Fri, 26 Jan 1996 22:09:12 +0100
Reply-To:     Knowledge and Networking <MII-CKCN@LS.UNIVIE.AC.AT>
Sender:       Knowledge and Networking <MII-CKCN@LS.UNIVIE.AC.AT>
From:         Kristof Nyiri <nyiri@LUDENS.ELTE.HU>
Subject:      Target paper

    To the prospective co-authors
    of the planned joint, interactive, MONIST paper

    "The Concept of Knowledge
    in the Context of Electronic Networking"

    Dear Colleagues:

    It was agreed that our discussion - like all other discussions envisaged
    for the _Monist Interactive Issue_ - should begin by the moderator
    mailing what is usually called a "target paper".  The moderator (that is,
    me) should have done this long ago - by the end of October last, in fact.
    Now the present text, I am afraid, is still not the paper you were
    promised. Perhaps there will be no such paper at all - perhaps the
    discussion will have to emerge from more spontaneous beginnings. The
    reason: As time goes on, I find it increasingly difficult to adhere to the
    views I had held for the past few years - without, however, having
    arrived at some settled, alternative, position. In particular the views I
    had defended in my 1994 paper "Electronic Networking and the Unity of
    Knowledge" have ceased to satisfy me. (For bibliographical references
    see below.) I have come to feel disturbed by the typographical bias of
    those views - especially after having read Talbott's _The Future Does
    Not Compute_. Talbott entertains an obsolete notion of what it means to
    have *meaningful knowledge*; his philosophical anthropology is quite
    ahistoric; so ahistoric it made me take issue with what I now recognize
    to be a latent ahistoricity in my own former approach. I am not saying
    everything in "Electronic Networking and the Unity of Knowledge" was
    wrong (indeed I would be pleased if some of you would want, at some
    stage, to have a look at it - I am mailing the text to you simultaneously
    with this one); but its argument had presupposed a timeless validity of
    certain ideals which in fact are bound up with the age of the printed

    If my own views, then, are in a flux, the adequate way to convey them is,
    I would say, not by making statements at all; but by formulating
    *questions* instead. And so here are some questions - I invite you to
    react to them.

    1) Assuming that the term "knowledge" has a whole cluster of meanings,
    most of the fuzzy: how should one proceed when inquiring about what
    the notion of knowledge in the contect of electronic networking  amounts
    to? Should one apply the methods of a non-ethnocentric cultural
    anthropology so to speak, i.e. describe specific cognitive attitudes as
    manifested in the linguistic habits of some networking populations?
    Describe, that is, some emerging new language games, or forms of life,
    in the Wittgensteinian sense - describe new conceptual patterns, without
    paying attention to older ones? Or should one, rather, begin precisely
    with an articulation and analysis of those older patterns, and examine
    new usages in the framework of the former? My own choice would still
    be the second one.

    2) Assuming you accept this choice: what would an articulation of the
    hitherto established meanings of the term "knowledge" look like? The
    first distinction perhaps could be that between "knowing that" and
    "knowing how": that is, *verbal* or *theoretical* knowledge on the one
    hand, and *practical* knowledge (skills, techniques) on the other. But
    then one would immediately have to ask: how clear-cut is this
    distinction? What to say, e.g., of knowledge conveyed by *pictures*
    (images, diagrams, graphs, maps)? A second - related, but hardly
    identical - distinction is that between *operative* and *contemplative*
    knowledge. A third distinction one should surely make is that between
    personal (in the sense of possessed by some individual) knowledge and
    collective knowledge (knowledge possessed by a community, or by a
    culture). A fourth distinction could be made between personal (in the
    sense of evaluative, normative) and objective (in the sense of purely
    descriptive, factual) knowledge. Are these useful distinctions? What
    other distinctions would be relevant? And should one also distinguish
    between knowledge and "information"? Is knowledge entirely different
    from information, or is the former a special case of the latter?

    3) Am I right in believing that the nature of knowledge - or if you
    prefer: the way different notions of knowledge emerge, flourish, and
    become obscure - is not independent of the technologies by which
    knowledge is communicated and preserved? What connections do obtain

    4) And what effect, then, has in particular the technology of electronic
    networking on the nature of knowledge? What are the *relevant*
    dimensions of changes in the communication and preservation of
    knowledge when computer networking supplants the printed text? (And
    what is the correct expression here: "supplanting" or "complementing"?)

    5) It seems obvious to me that one such relevant dimension of change
    pertains to our experience, and concept, of *time*; to the temporal
    *context* within which we conceive of present contents of
    communication; to the mode, in particular, we experience and handle
    the *past*. Important observations have been made, for instance, about
    the changing notion of *archiving* (Hedstrom; Bearman). And at the
    time I have read it I have been deeply impressed by Birkerts' book
    _Gutenberg Elegies_, bewailing our "fragmented sense of time" and our
    "divorce from the past, from a vital sense of history as a cumulative or
    organic process". I am still impressed; but I am not convinced anymore.

    6) The point Birkerts is making is that we are losing the *historical
    consciousness* that for many centuries distinguished the Western mind.
    But are we *really* losing something? Perhaps what we lose is but an
    obsolete ideal. Perhaps we are gaining, as Nietzsche had thought we did,
    a new freedom to deal with the presence in a practical spirit.

    7) And historical consciousness of course is just one among the many
    contestable ideals: the ideals of originality, individuality, privacy, unity
    of knowledge, objectivity, and absolute truth. I think these ideals should
    not be interpreted and evaluated independently of the social fabric from
    which they emerged and with which they were, and are, bound up. A
    discussion about the concept of knowledge in the context of electronic
    networking should at all times also be a discussion about the kind of
    society electronic networking is enabling, or not enabling, us to build;
    the kind of life it furthers, or excludes.

    Wishing us all a fruitful exchange,

    Christoph Nyiri


    Bearman, David, "Archiving Electronic Documents: A Report of a
    Proposal", _EJournal_, vol.5, no.2, December 1995.

    Birkerts, Sven, _The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an
    Electronic Age_, Boston: Faber and Faber, 1994.

    Hedstrom, Margaret, "Understanding Electronic Incunabula: A
    Framework for Research on Electronic Records", _American Archivist_,
    vol.54, Summer 1991.

    Nyiri, J.C., "Electronic Networking and the Unity of Knowledge". In:
    Stephanie Kenna and Seamus Ross, eds., _Networking in the
    Humanities_. Proceedings of the Second Conference on Scholarship and
    Technology in the Humanities held at Elvetham Hall, Hampshire, UK,
    13-16 April, 1994. London: Bowker-Saur, 1995, pp.253-282.

    Stephen L. Talbott,  _The Future Does Not Compute: Transcending the
    Machines in Our Midst_. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.,

 From hh
Date:         Fri, 26 Jan 1996 22:11:07 +0100
Reply-To:     Knowledge and Networking <MII-CKCN@LS.UNIVIE.AC.AT>
Sender:       Knowledge and Networking <MII-CKCN@LS.UNIVIE.AC.AT>
From:         Kristof Nyiri <nyiri@LUDENS.ELTE.HU>
Subject:      Nyiri Elvetham Hall paper

From: Stephanie Kenna and Seamus Ross, eds., _Networking in the
Humanities_. Proceedings of the Second Conference on Scholarship
and Technology in the Humanities held at Elvetham Hall,
Hampshire, UK, 13-16 April, 1994. London: Bowker-Saur, 1995,
pp.253-282. Copyright: The British Library. The present
electronic text is made available to the participants of the

J.C. Nyiri (Budapest):

Electronic Networking and the Unity of Knowledge*1*

It is a paradoxical feature of electronically mediated
communication that it seems both to unify and to fragment one's
knowledge of the world. Already the telegraph-based newspaper on
the one hand purports to bring together information from all over
the globe and from various domains of experience, but is on the
other hand a mosaic of unrelated reports. The radio enhances
simultaneity; but it also fosters randomness and evanescence,
lessening the listeners' ability to form an ordered picture from
out of what they have heard. The apparently all-encompassing
diversity of information provided by satellite TV, both verbal
and visual, from local gossip to global news, results in a motley
of views and messages entirely disconnected.

Texts appearing on the computer screen are of course meant to add
up, and to a significant degree indeed do add up, to a coherent
and unified whole. I say "computer screen", referring both to the
isolated word processor, possibly with a CD-ROM drive attached,
and to the workstation enmeshed in a network. In what follows,
too, I will not always discriminate between the two. From our
present point of view, there obtain important similarities
between them. Both provide access, even if not on the same scale,
to an immense amount of information - data, texts, images,
increasingly also sound. They enable one to study reference
material in a breadth hitherto inconceivable, and in a depth not
practicable in the conventional printed medium (Feeney and Ross
1993: 5f.). For the scientist and the scholar they offer access
to a body of literature very few libraries could furnish. They
even herald the promise of re-opening avenues between distinct
specialties, of "break[ing] down the line between the 'two
cultures'" (Papert 1980: 38), of reintegrating knowledge in the
classic university spirit (Gregorian 1992), indeed of a "unified
documentary universe" and of the "intercomparing of alternative
points of view", as Nelson formulates it (1992: 44ff.). They
offer escape, as it has been put, from the "pitifully small
corner of the cognitive world we live in" (Gregorian 1992), from
the "relatively arbitrary corner of one's informational
environment" (Haefner 1985: 32).

However, both the isolated computer and the networked one, the
latter to a vastly greater degree than the former, possess
features which appear to amplify, rather than to alleviate, the
difficulties of finding one's way around the labyrinths of
knowledge. The knowledge stored in computers is physically never
present, except for the tiny segments one has on one's screen.
Knowledge is not there, like in a book, or in a library, to be
*looked up* (Illich: 1991: 37ff.); it is there to be *retrieved*.
Retrieving relies on *searching* - beyond a certain mass of texts
this holds even for the isolated word processor with a single
user and with all files punched or copied into it by that user.
Directed hierarchical searching presupposes that information, on
the disc here, or on the net out there, is already properly
structured and ordered - a presupposition rapidly losing
plausibility as more novel research areas are approached. The now
fashionable idea of treating all retrievable information as mere
raw material out of which users might freely establish their own
preferred hypertext structures is an acceptance of the fragmented
state of knowledge, not a solution to the problems it creates.
Automated searching - with keywords or combinations of keywords -
is a notoriously poor method, especially in the humanities where
meaning almost entirely depends on context. Here the observation
that textual database searches conceal as well as reveal what it
is one learns (Heim 1987: 214) is certainly apt. And even if the
search is successful - in the sense that one has either found
something one had vaguely hoped one might find or has discovered
some unanticipated new connection - one has no satisfactory way
to tell how and where the information found fits into some
overall pattern, or indeed if there is such a pattern. When
reading or browsing through a book, when walking along the
shelves of a library, or even when flipping catalogue cards, one
gains a sense of orientation the electronic medium does not
provide (Grabar 1992).*2* For one's knowledge to be in any sense
unified, one somehow has to know what one knows, has to have a
survey, an overview, a memorized pattern of one's knowledge. One
has memory images of certain important passages; one recalls the
pattern of text on a printed page, or the location of a volume in
a library. When texts are read or scanned on the screen, such an
overview will hardly emerge. We may be amused when we learn that
the early printers made intense efforts to imitate the
handwritten codex both in letter form and in layout, but I still
find it more than remarkable that the really successful
electronic reference materials today go to great lengths at
simulating the printed manual (Jaynes 1989), the manuscript page,
or even the physical library (Bolter 1992: 100). It seems that
the unifying potential of electronically mediated communication
must in some respects rely on the unifying capacities of the
printed book. It seems also to be true, however, that for quite
some time now these capacities have shown signs of exhaustion. We
might say that due to this exhaustion, and due in particular to
questions posed by the advent of the computer, the nature of
*knowledge* has once again become an issue. The issue is a
characteristically philosophical one: in it factual difficulties
*and* conceptual paradoxes intermingle.*3*

The issue of knowledge is of course just one among the many
philosophical themes that are invariably referred to in
connection with the emergence of computers and electronic
networking. The notion of the self, of rationality, of meaning,
of reality, to mention just some of the most conspicuous ones,
all make their appearance here. The issue of knowledge, however,
seems to manifest a particular directness. The feeling that now,
once more, or at last, all the knowledge there is could and
should be brought together, is a very real one - and real is the
despair when perceiving that the idea of over-all knowledge is
ever more elusive. By comparison those self-important analyses
according to which our notions of, say, what a "text" or an
"author" or indeed "reality" is, are today undergoing a process
of radical change, sound somewhat affected, though they are
certainly not without substance. At another level of course our
entire approach to the philosophical issues emerging with the
practice of networking are excessively self-reflective. A reason
for this is that the issues in question are quite unmistakably
*prefigured* in the history of philosophy ever since Nietzsche.
Philosophical analysis here seems to have anticipated
technological developments (Nyiri 1990). And the reason why those
issues have been prefigured in philosophy is that some of the
fundamental problems bound up with electronic networking had been
prefigured by problems bound up with the so-called late age of
print. More generally, they have been there, in alternating
forms, during the entire history of the technologies of
communication. To that history we must now briefly turn.

According to the by now well-established and widely accepted
orality/literacy paradigm,*4* a paradigm that is increasingly
felt to provide the proper broad setting in which to discuss the
phenomena of electronic word processing and electronic
networking,*5* there are four main phases into which the history
of the modes of storage and communication of knowledge divides.
These are the phases, first, of *primary orality*; secondly, of
*alphabetic writing*, with a long prehistory of pictographic
writing systems; thirdly, of *typography*; and lastly, of
*secondary orality*, that is, of electronic audio-visual
communication. The knowledge possessed by society is either
practical ("knowing how") or verbal ("knowing that"), the latter
basically presupposing the former. Practical knowledge is passed
on by demonstration, drill, and imitation. Verbal knowledge is
passed on by the handing down of texts. In a primarily oral
culture, texts are preserved in memory; they are cast in
formulaic form to ensure ready recall. Presenting them means *to
make them up* anew, again and again, from those formulas. There
is no author, and no original version. The notion of textual
identity makes sense to a limited degree only, since there is no
way to compare any two presentations,*6* nor indeed any two
passages of the same presentation; the *juxtaposition* of
utterances spoken at different times is not attainable. Members
of oral societies learn by hearing and think by speaking; their
thoughts belong to the community, thinking is dialogue.

With the emergence of alphabetic writing, the critical scrutiny
of texts becomes possible.*7* As Goody puts it: "The shift to
writing emerges as a driving force towards a more formal concept
of evidence, and in a certain sense of truth itself...
contradiction takes on a different dimension when the text is
available as an instrument of comparison" (Goody 1986: 154, 163).
In their written-down form, oral narratives invite reflection and
interpretation. The transition from oral to written formulation
gives rise to the genre of the *philosophical aphorism*:
Heraclitus and Parmenides still compose for an illiterate
audience, they have to think up memorable formulas, but their
thinking already shows the influence of the logic of writing
(Havelock 1983). Written language permits a syntax of
abstractions: thoughts become visual objects. They are distinct
from the agent who thinks: thus arises that very *distance* of
the cognitive subject to its own mental contents, that very
intellectual space, in which conceptuality and reflection can for
the first time unfold; the abstract notion of a *knower*, a
*soul* with cognitive capacities, appears (Havelock 1963).
"Writing" becomes an important metaphor in philosophy (Curtius
1990: 304ff.). Plato applies it in a disparaging spirit when he
has Socrates say that written records can never impart wisdom;
that can only be achieved by speech "written in the pupil's soul
with knowledge" (_Phaedrus_ 276 A). Aristotle (_De anima_, III,
4, 430 a 1) says that an unthought thought is like "characters
... on a writing-table on which as yet nothing actually stands

Early manuscript culture, however, was still predominantly oral.
Since word division was unknown, texts had to be read out loud
before their meaning could be understood. Word separation was
first adopted on the British Isles. This was, as Saenger puts it,
"not the result of conscious paleographic reform but an
accidental result of the traumatic contact in Ireland between the
ossified literary traditions of late Roman antiquity and the oral
culture of the illiterate Celts. ... eighth-century Saxon and
Celtic priests, living on the fringes of what had been the Roman
Empire, had a weak grasp of Latin and needed spaces between words
to recognize them in order to pronounce liturgical texts
correctly as they read aloud" (Saenger 1982: 377). With word
separation, written lines became "a series of comprehensible
images intelligible to the reader without syllabic pronunciation"
(Saenger 1982: 377). Lines and pages could now be scanned for
reference consultation; memorization based on the pattern of the
visual page became possible. Silent reading evolved throughout
the Middle Ages. By the thirteenth century, the spread of
individual heresies was one of the consequences. Before that, as
Saenger puts it, "if one's intellectual speculations were
heretical, they were subject to peer correction and control in
the very act of their formulation and publication" (Saenger 1982:
399). As scholars read faster and used a much greater corpus of
writing, another consequence was, by the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries, the creation of larger university libraries, and the
growing demand for manuscript books.

Book printing, then, was an answer to existing needs and
tendencies; but it also vastly amplified those tendencies. Only
with the advent of the printed book did the cognitive
consequences of literacy fully unfold. The printed page was
easily scanned, silent reading became the rule, texts were there
to be looked up, knowledge appeared available, objective,
*contained* in books. At the same time, knowledge was centred
around the knower: the scholar was *surrounded* by his books,
they belonged to him, they even accompanied him on his journeys,
an image enhanced by that astounding new invention, the portable
book; thinking ceased to be heard, to be public, it proceeded, as
philosophy now saw it, in the privacy of the thinker's mind, the
internal unity of which could hardly have been suggested without
the impression of an external unity of the world of books.
Earlier, as long as books were copied manually, the overall
coherence of the existing literature had been inconceivable,
since copies even of the same work increasingly differed from
each other. Texts became interspersed by comments if copied by an
expert scholar, impaired by mistakes if copied by an unqualified
clerk. The notion of authorship remained blurred. Printing
however could produce thousands of identical copies; mistakes
were, with every new edition, progressively eliminated; a
community of scholars all over Europe worked on the same texts,
gradually establishing a firm framework of categories, names, of
historical time and geographical space; descriptions, findings,
discoveries could be increasingly compared with each other, maps,
diagrams, illustrations, figures and calculations reproduced; the
modern ideal of a unified knowledge emerged.

Every age of course does feel the need to bring together the
knowledge society possesses. In libraries the documents of
learning are physically amassed, permitting, in principle, access
to all there is to know. By contrast, encyclopaedias present
distilled overall accounts of knowledge. As Bolter (1991: 89)
observes, these become particularly necessary when there occurs a
specific scarcity or a specific abundance of information. The
latter was the case in late antiquity, then again after the
twelfth century, and of course ever since the invention of book
printing. Both libraries and encyclopaedias face the task of not
just presenting, but also *organizing* information, a task that
becomes increasingly difficult as the complexity of knowledge
progresses. Early encyclopaedias could rely on relatively simple,
and generally accepted, mythological, theological, or educational
patterns. Thus the encyclopaedia of Martianus Capella was
organized along the structure of the seven liberal arts; that of
Vincent of Beauvais along the six days of creation, a method also
adopted by Thomas of Cantimpre, whose _De naturis rerum_ served
as the basis of Conrad of Megenberg's very successful German
translation of 1350, _Buch der Natur_. This is how Conrad begins:
"Got beschuof den menschen an dem sehsten tag nach andern
creaturen und hat in beschaffen also, daz seins wesens stuek und
seins leibes gelider sint gesetzet nach dem satz der ganzen
werlt", man shares certain principles with other creatures, since
those principles had already been operative during the earlier
phases of creation (Konrad 1861: 3). Conrad's book treats of
everything from the scull of man through edible fruits through
signs of pregnancy to precious stones; his descriptions are
crude, certainly not sufficient to convey any expertise; the
knowledge he offered might have appeared as, but could not
possibly have been, a coherent guide to his readers. The belief
that there existed a unified body of knowledge, some of it
written, as the metaphor had it, in the books of men, and all of
it engraved in the book of God, of Creation, of Nature, was vivid
all through the Middle Ages, and was merely reformulated by
Descartes and Leibniz in the seventeenth century and Bolzano in
the nineteenth; however, the conditions to build up a unified
framework of ideas were simply not given before the age of the
printed book. And by the eighteenth century it became clear to
most that the rapidly expanding world of knowledge could actually
not be fitted into that framework. The ideal of unified knowledge
had been a genuine one during that fleeting moment of history,
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Before that, it was
unfounded; and after that, unattainable. Bacon, in the Second
Book of his _Advancement of Learning_, could confidently survey
and systematize the existing state of knowledge, pointing out
gaps and suggesting ways to fill them in. Less than a century
later Fontenelle announces the publication of research results by
the French Academy saying that those consist of "details detached
from, and independent of, each other". But he adds that those
results might one day add up to a whole. "Plusieurs verites
separees", he writes, "des qu'elles sont en assez grand nombre,
offrent si vivement a l'esprit leurs rapports et leur mutuelle
dependance, qu'il semble qu'apres avoir ete detachees par une
espece de violence les unes d'avec les autres, elles cherchent
naturellement a se reunir" (Fontenelle 1966: 278f.). Another
fifty years go by, and d'Alembert, though very much inspired by
Bacon, rejects the idea of a definitive synthesis of all
sciences. As he writes: "Le systeme general des sciences et des
arts est une espece de labyrinthe, de chemin tortueux ou l'esprit
s'engage sans trop connaitre la route qu'il doit tenir"
(D'Alembert 1893: 66). Now d'Alembert points out that matters are
different when it comes to the project of an encyclopaedic
ordering of knowledge: "Ce dernier consiste a les rassambler dans
le plus petit espace possible, et a placer, pour ainsi dire, le
philosoph au-dessus de ce vaste labyrinthe, dans un point de vue
fort eleve d'ou il puisse apercevoir a la fois les sciences et
les arts principaux; voir d'un coup d'oeil... C'est une espece de
mappemonde..." (d'Alembert 1893: 67f.). However, d'Alembert goes
on: "On peut ... imaginer autant des sytemes differents de la
connaissance humaine que des mappemondes de differentes
projections; et chacun de ces systemes pourra meme avoir, a
l'exclusion des autres, quelque avantage particulier" (d'Alembert
1893: 68). D'Alembert does not, any more, believe in the
possibility of a unified and unique description of our knowledge
of the world. But he has no reason to doubt the givenness and
unity of the world itself. The world is an ordered whole of
causes and effects, governed by immutable laws. The book of
nature is there - even if it cannot be once and for all
translated into books of men.

Not independently of its emphasis on the crafts, the French
Encyclopaedia allotted a great space - eleven separate volumes -
to illustrations. This was unusual, even if typography had of
course from the very beginning provided a suitable setting for
the reproduction of woodcuts and etchings. Before the age of
printing, pictures and diagrams played only a limited role. In
pre-literate times, by contrast, pictures obviously fulfilled an
indispensable function in the storage and communication of
collective knowledge. But while drawings and pictograms could
describe states of affairs and convey ideas, they could not
preserve exact verbal formulations.*8* With the emergence of
phonetic writing, pictures receded into the background. They
could still, however, function as mnemonic devices. The Romans
used simple pictures, called *emblems*, to help them overcome the
inherent visual deficiency of their scripts (Saenger 1982: 372):
they recalled specific parts of a text by remembering the
particular emblem placed against it in the margin. In early
medieval manuscripts illustrations helped readers to find the
part of the text they were looking for. Applied in this manner,
pictures had a merely auxiliary function; and even that was lost
with the introduction of word separation. As Saenger points out,
this invention gave written Latin an ideographic value without
sacrificing the inherent pedagogic advantages of a phonetic
alphabet (Saenger 1982: 377). Pictures now ceased to be needed as
visual aids. And prior to printing they could not become aids to
the communication of knowledge. Since they were inevitably
distorted in the copying process, information could not be
preserved by them. With the advent of printing this changed. But
even then, texts could be manipulated with much greater ease,
both by the author and especially by the printer, than could
pictures. Experimenting with visual representations, as in the
case of the art of painting, may have been regarded by some as
akin to the investigations of the natural sciences (McCorduck
1992); but scientists themselves had to prefer text to pictures.
Illustrations played, on the whole, a subordinate role; and
pictures as *vehicles of thinking* played almost no role at all.
Sometimes this was felt to be a possible loss. Thus Bacon wrote:
"Aristotle saith well, 'Words are the images of cogitations, and
letters are the images of words.' But yet it is not of necessity
that cogitations be expressed by the medium of words. For
whatsoever is capable of sufficient differences, and those
perceptible by the sense, is in nature competent to express
cogitations" (Bacon 1974: 131).
This is the issue Richard Lanham today confronts when he says
that scholarly argument should use images "to think through,
conceptualize, problems rather than simply to illustrate
solutions arrived at through other means" (Lanham 1992); or the
issue Michael Ester addresses when he speaks about "arrangements
of images as a way to think" (Ester 1994). The Lanham reference
is to the perspectives opened up by the possibility of
manipulating images on the screen. But already in the late age of
print the programme of a better integration of text and images
appeared as a conceivable aim, say, to Otto Neurath. "Frequently
it is very hard", he wrote, "to say in words what is clear
straight away to the eye. It is unnecessary to say in words what
we are able to make clear by pictures" (Neurath 1980: 26).
Neurath was working towards an "International System Of
TYpographic Picture Education", abbreviated as *isotype*, an
interdependent and interconnected system of images, to be used
together with *word languages*, yet having a visual logic of its
own. Isotype would be two-dimensional*9*, using distinctive
conventions, shapes, colours, and so on. Neurath particularly
stressed that the elaboration of this picture language was meant
to serve a broader aim, that of establishing an international
encyclopaedia of common, united knowledge (Neurath 1980: 65 and
111) - the "work of our time", he said (Neurath 1980: 65) - and
in this connection he specifically referred to the French
Encyclopaedia which "gave a great amount of material and a great
number of pictures, but there was only a loose connection between
them" (Neurath 1980: 109).

That any description of craft activity has to rely particularly
heavily on illustrations must be obvious, since the kind of
knowledge to be conveyed here consists largely not of theoretical
knowledge about the way things hang together, but of practices
and skills. Illustrations have to *show* how things are *done*.
It might be very difficult to give a verbal description of, say,
how a particular instrument is handled; a picture however will
easily explain it. But although illustrations are indispensable
for conveying practical knowledge, they are seldom sufficient.
The acquisition of skills presupposes imitation in the context of
some master-apprentice relationship, requires drill and practice.
And it appears that skills play a role not only in the crafts,
but in science, too. As John Ziman writes: "The fact is that
scientific investigation ... is a practical art. It is not learnt
out of books, but by imitation and experience. ... The young
scientist does not study formal logic, but he learns by imitation
and experience a number of conventions that embody strong social
relationships" (Ziman 1968: 7-10). Indeed it was perhaps the main
discovery of twentieth-century philosophy that *all* knowledge,
ultimately, is based on practical knowledge. Certainly this is
the common message of both Wittgenstein and Heidegger.*10* Now
one can acquire dexterity in several practices; but one cannot
summarize different practices into a whole. The idea of a unified
practical knowledge does just not make sense. Nelson seems to
believe that books do, or did, in some sense embody a "unified
literature", since they have an "equitable basis" in the "paper
world". "Because books are compatible", writes Nelson, "they can
be read with the same equipment, and they meld into a common
literature" (Nelson 1992: 50). But of course books cannot be read
with the same equipment. Each requires the equipment of a
specific training, of a particular practice. By the eighteenth
century this was already perceived; a clear articulation of the
problem was however hampered by the apparent uniformity of the
world of books - the appearence Ted Nelson is still today taken
in by. But with the immense growth in the mass of printed
material, with the increasing complexity of knowledge, and not
independently of the impact of the telegraph-based newspaper, by
the end of the nineteenth century the myth of a unified world of
written texts began to fade. The first great figure to see
through that myth was Nietzsche.

To register the impossibility of achieving an overview of the
world of texts means to lose the ground for a belief in the unity
and coherence of that world. It means renouncing faith in a
single correct perspective; it means accepting the legitimacy of
holding multiple points of view with respect to the same subject,
of letting context take precedence over denotation; ultimately it
means giving up the idea of definite meanings and objective
truths, indeed giving up the idea of the unity and givenness of
the world itself.*11* This is the stance Nietzsche takes - I
deliberately avoid the term "position" in the case of a
philosopher whose style so intensely suggests the determination
not to have a position. Nietzsche not only rejects bookishness -
"we moderns" he says, are but "walking encyclopaedias" (Nietzsche
1980: 1,273f.) - he also quite consciously eludes the magic of,
and turns against, the *objektive Schriftsprache*, "objective
written language" (Nietzsche 1980: 7,48);*12* he propounds a
philosophy which, significantly, detects in grammar and language
the source of metaphysics, of that "prejudice of reason" which
forces us to assume "unity, identity, permanence, substance"; and
he argues against the "old conceptual fiction that posited a
'pure, will-less, painless, timeless knowing subject'" (Nietzsche
1980: 6,77f. and 5,365). Nietzsche's philosophy is formulated in
short aphorisms, a genre forced on him by his failing eyesight,
by the necessity to think without writing, but also a form of
composition which allowed him to avoid casting his ideas into a
systematic mould and allowed his readers to form their own
versions of Nietzschean texts. Several such versions are
incorporated in Robert Musil's novel _The Man Without Qualities_,
with the different versions adhered to and voiced by different
characters. The title _Man Without Qualities_ itself can be
interpreted as an allusion to Nietzsche's - and of course Ernst
Mach's, and Sigmund Freud's - repudiation of the metaphysical
unity of the ego. To the man without qualities there corresponds,
as Musil puts it, "a world of qualities without a man to them"
(Musil 1968: 199).*13* Musil had contemplated a career as a
philosopher - he earned a doctorate in philosophy with a
dissertation on Mach - but eventually found that he could not
formulate his ideas in the framework of a treatise; that he had
to employ the indirect means of narration and dialogue,
exploiting all the potentials of relativization and retraction.
He died without having finished the novel. The immense number of
draft chapters he left behind are fraught with cross-references,
forming a complicated network. The Musil papers have recently
been published - on CD-ROM, accompanied by software that allows
the user to do justice to the compexities of a text for which the
medium of print was, obviously, no longer adequate. Incidentally,
Musil was acutely aware of the fact that the major communication
technology of his time was becoming insufficient for the required
task of intellectual organization. In a review article of
Spengler's _The Decline of the West_ Musil speaks in 1921 about
"the volume of the social body" having become so immense "that
its susceptibility to influences no longer survives". As he puts
it: "No initiative is able to penetrate the body of society
across broad fronts, and to receive feedback from its totality"
(Musil 1978: 1057f.). In 1925 Musil reviewed with great interest
a work which had a new technology of communication for its
subject: Bela Balazs's _Der sichtbare Mensch_, "The visible man",
a book dealing with the aesthetics of the *film*.

A fascinating parallel to Musil is his countryman and younger
contemporary Ludwig Wittgenstein.*14* Although Wittgenstein was
an obsessive writer, he had a problematic relation to written
language, especially to written language in its fully developed
form: the printed book. Already in the preface to his
_Woerterbuch fuer Volksschulen_ Wittgenstein had complained about
the distorting effects of typography; and his reluctance to
*publish* his writings is of course notorious. Here also come to
mind his poor orthography; his anachronistic predilection for
having people read out loud texts to him; the common observation
that his favourite readings he really knew by heart; the aphorism
and the dialogue as conspicuous stylistic features of his
writing; and his inability or unwillingness to put together what
one would call a *treatise* in the modern sense. "It was my
intention at first", he writes in the preface to his
_Philosophical Investigations_, "to bring all this together in a
book", with the aim "that the thoughts should proceed from one
subject to another in a natural order and without breaks." But he
had to realize, he continues, that he would never succeed "to
weld [his] results together into such a whole", that even the
best he could write "would never be more than philosophical
remarks" and that "this was, of course, connected with the very
nature of the investigation. For this compels us to travel over a
wide field of thought criss-cross in every direction. - The same
or almost the same points were always being approached afresh
from different directions, and new sketches made."*15*
Wittgenstein's method of composition was a rather peculiar one.
He first wrote down his remarks in small pocket notebooks.
Subsequently he copied them into large manuscript books, making
selections and changes in the process. These manuscripts were
then again edited, some remarks left out, but the bulk of them,
once in a while, dictated to a typist. What now followed was
thinking with scissors, reminiscent of film cutting - going to
the movies was, incidentally, Wittgenstein's favourite
distraction. He cut up the typescripts, arranged and rearranged
the cuttings, having some of the arrangements typed again at some
later stage. If at the time the word processor had already been
introduced, Wittgenstein could have made good use of it.
Fittingly, there now exists an electronic edition of
Wittgenstein's published writings, with accompanying software;
and an electronic edition of his huge unpublished *NachlaŠ* is in
preparation (Stern 1993).

[Nyiri, "Electronic Networking...", PART II]

By the mid-century, then, decades before the advent of personal
computers and electronic networking, it has become a
philosophically admissible thesis that the world of knowledge was
too immense to permit any kind of overall grasp, and that,
consequently, the supposition of a single reality was
meaningless. Thomas Kuhn's very influential book _The Structure
of Scientific Revolutions_, published in 1962, ostensibly dealt
with the incommensurability of successive scientific paradigms,
but it was understood to imply a thesis both diachronic and
synchronic to the effect that divergent scientific theories
should be interpreted as constructions of different worlds of
objects, rather than as competing explanations of one and the
same world. Five years earlier Gaetan Picon, in the introductory
essay to the popular collection he edited, _Panorama des idees
contemporaines_, a collection immediately translated into several
languages, registered a feeling of disorientation effected on the
one hand by the idea of indeterminacy in quantum mechanics,*16*
and on the other hand, again, by the "growing specialization".
This, as he put it, "eloigne de plus en plus de toute image
ordonnee du reel. Au monde succedent les mondes" (Picon 1968:
17). "[D]ecentre", wrote Picon, "le systeme de la connaissance"
(Picon 1968: 18), and: "Le monde a eclate en mondes
irreductibiles, qui vivent d'une coexistence sans communication
ni hierarchie (Picon 1968: 28)." When Nelson Goodman published
his _Ways of Worldmaking_ in 1978, he could speak of a "movement"
"from unique truth and a world fixed and found" to a "diversity"
of truths and a "multiplicity of worlds", and refer to Ernst
Cassirer's work from the twenties and thirties as one of the
earlier stages of that movement.

A work reassessing the Kuhnian notion of a paradigm in view of
the current proliferation of scientific fields was Diana Crane's
book _Invisible Colleges: Diffusion of Knowledge in Scientific
Communities_, published in 1972. As she put it: "An idea that is
rejected in one specialty may be accepted in another. ... The
existence of hundreds of fields, growing and declining, linked to
some extent by concepts that have proved useful in several areas
and with no clear-cut boundaries between them, permits both rapid
diffusion of ideas and also the coexistence of mutually
incompatible ideas if applied to different research topics"
(Crane 1972: 39). The term "invisible colleges" in Crane's book -
a term that first seems to occur in the Boyle--Hartlib
correspondence - refers to informal groups of scientific elites
through whom the communication of information both within a field
and across fields is directed. The members of research areas,
Crane found, "were not so much linked to each other directly but
were linked to each other indirectly" through the "highly
influential members" belonging to the elite (Crane 1972: 49).
These prestigious figures "were surrounded individually by
subgroups of scientists who looked to them for information. They
in turn communicated intensively with one another" (Crane 1972:
52). As Crane, quoting another researcher, writes: it is through
"the central scientists" that "information may be transferred to
all other scientists in the network" (Crane 1972: 53). The
reference here is of course to social, not to electronic networks
- what from our present point of view makes Crane so interesting
is that the findings she accepts immediately invite a
reformulation of her questions in terms of today's networking
practices. Is it still the case, we will have to ask, that
members of the scientific elite occupy a central place in the
channelling of information? And is it still the case - to take up
another of Crane's themes - that geographical distance affects
"informal communication patterns" (Crane 1972: 63ff.)? At the
time Crane wrote her book, computerized information retrieval
systems were already operating. She was sceptical about them;*17*
she obviously believed that no electronic search procedure could
ever replace the filtering activity of scientific elites - and it
is, again, inevitable to ask if such scepticism can still be
justified in view of today's networking potentials. A relatively
new practice in Crane's time was the circulation of unrefereed
papers, and it can come as no surprise that she was sharply
critical of it. So again, in these days of e-mail and anonymous
ftp, it might be timely to reflect upon Crane's opinion: "The
information science specialist who is primarily concerned with
facilitating the transmission of information may be surprised to
find that the scientist does not entirely share his concern with
speed. The function of the scientific paper that has been
refereed and published in a journal is only secondarily to convey
information. Its primary function is to serve as a statement of
knowledge that has been evaluated and declared acceptable by the
scientist's peers" (Crane 1972: 122).

Let us, then, take up these points. At first I shall continue to
focus on the sciences. *How* scientists communicate is,
obviously, a *topic* for the humanities, and in particular for
philosophy. And the impression one gains is that although
scientific communication has been speeded up by electronic
networking, its basic patterns have not thereby changed. Physical
presence and personal connections still matter - electronic
networking amplifies cooperation between those who would work
together anyway. As it has been put: The screen replaces the
blackboard.*18* Members of the scientific elite still rely on
each other for information and read each other's preprints, only
of course those preprints now need not be printed. The mass of
unrefereed publications flowing into the ocean of unmoderated
discussion groups, or even into anonymous ftp directories, does
not interest the elite, and does not help those who do not belong
to it. And this is what one would expect, given that it is not
lack of unevaluated information, but lack of relevant knowledge,
and often of course lack of talent and sound judgment that
impedes the work of the majority, and it is lack of personal
connections that might render high-quality work ineffectual. In
fact electronic networking enhances, rather than lessens, the gap
between the elite and the masses in science. As LaszlĘ Babai
writes: "E-mail is capable of creating an *ultracompetitive
atmosphere* on a much grander scale than any medium before"
(Babai 1990: 11). An e-mailing of important research results "may
give unprecedented information advantage to a well chosen,
sizable, and consequently extremely powerful elite group. The
group of recipients ... may be fully capable of making rapid
advances before others would even find out that something was
happening. Although such elite groups belong to the very nature
of the hierarchy of scientific research ..., their sheer
intellectual force combined with the information advantage makes
them look from outside like an impenetrable fortress" (Babai
1990: 12). E-mail, then, amplifies the difference between the
scientific elite and the rank and file. Perhaps this is good for
science. However, a danger to the elites themselves is that e-
mail might affect their cognitive styles in ways which could, in
the long run, result in *degeneration* - for two reasons. First,
because the speed of e-mail is pernicious to absorbed reflection.
"Those favoring quiet work", writes Babai, "pull the plug."*19*
Secondly, because, as Babai puts it, "the *diversity of thought*
that now exists" might not be "preserved in the era when
intellectual fashions are dictated by the strongest" (Babai 1990:
11f.). Lack of diversity within a field, let us add, would lessen
the probability of there emerging similar approaches in different
fields, and thereby inevitably aggravate the difficulties of
communication across field boundaries.

The most comprehensive arguments in favour of electronic
publication have of course been advanced by Stevan Harnad. "The
whole process of scholarly communication", Harnad wrote in 1990,
"is currently undergoing a revolution comparable to the one
occasioned by the invention of printing. ... The potential role
of electronic networks in scientific publication ... goes far
beyond providing searchable electronic archives for electronic
journals." Harnad saw e-mail networks becoming the carriers of
"that vast *prepublication* phase of scientific inquiry in which
ideas and findings are discussed informally with colleagues
(currently in person, by phone and by regular mail), presented
more formally in seminars, conferences and symposia, and
distributed still more widely in the form of preprints... It has
now become possible to do all this in a remarkable new way that
is not only incomparably more thorough and systematic in its
distribution, potentially global in scale, and almost
instantaneous in speed, but ... unprecedentedly interactive."
Scholarly inquiry in this new medium, called "scholarly
skywriting" by Harnad, would be relieved from what in fact
appears as the greatest drawback of communicating in print:
*viz.*, that with "the slow turnaround time of conventional
publication, by the time the literature takes up a theme that we
had in mind when we published something, we may no longer be
actively thinking about it" (Harnad 1990). However, as Harnad
emphasizes, relevant comments are unlikely to emerge from an
unstratified group of network users. He proposes the introduction
of a "vertical", peer expertise, quality control. This would be
"a pyramidal hierarchy of e-mail groups, the height of each
depending on degree of expertise, whether in a subspecialty, an
entire discipline, or even an interdisciplinary field" (Harnad
1990). The pyramid metaphor suggests the possibilities of
overview and unification; yet Harnad's vision of an elaborate
hierarchy of scientists strikes me as utopian. Science is
characterized by competition *and* by monopolies; it is neither
entirely democratic nor entirely feudal. A hierarchy of groups is
"neither necessary nor desirable", as Andrew Odlyzko puts it in
his e-mail essay "Tragic loss or good riddance? The impending
demise of traditional scholarly journals" (1993), an essay
otherwise very much influenced by Harnad's ideas. Odlyzko
envisages an "almost totally uncoordinated and uncontrolled"
electronic scholarly exchange system. Grafted unto this system
would be some kind of "editorial and refereeing structure" which
however, as Odlyzko sees it, would be spontaneously evolving
rather than brought into being by some deliberate act. What
mechanisms would there be, under such conditions, to foster
coherence within a broader field? Odlyzko touches on two such
mechanisms. First, the trend toward "a much more collaborative
mode of research"; and secondly, the development of "information-
gathering software programs ... that will make it possible to
pursue intelligent search strategies".

Now there might be scientists to whom the prospects of a highly
collaborative mode of research appear as a threat rather than as
a promise. And the promise of intelligent search programs seems
to rest on illusions rather than on actual achievements -
illusions to which I have already referred and to which I will
return presently. But first let me shift my attention from the
sciences to the humanities. And let me begin here by restating
the obvious: *viz.*, that humanistic scholarship profits
tremendously from the easy electronic access to, and handling of,
texts, pictures, and sounds. Let me also acknowledge however that
various developments bound up with electronic publishing and
electronic networking are not at all conducive to what one would
regard as the humanist's actual enterprise.*20* Some of the most
important incongruities have been admirably exposed by Oleg
Grabar, in October 1992, at a conference the proceedings of which
many of you will be familiar with. I think most of us would agree
with his dictum that scholarship in the humanities is "a solitary
venture by individuals operating alone", and that "the humanist-
scholar's world is that of silent libraries". And surely Grabar
is right in saying: "It *is* useful to know whether a given word
exists in Plato or whether Dickens quotes from the Bible, but the
same mechanisms of availability cannot (or should not?) be used
to read a whole Platonic dialogue or an entire nineteenth century
novel. Yet it is the latter which is truly important, while the
former is but a convenience" (Grabar 1992). However, I do not
think Grabar is right in his main contention that "information in
the humanities is largely finite and mostly known", and I find
pertinent but misleading his related observations according to
which the difference between a scholar and a learned man is that
the former is able "to modify the character or the quality of
whatever one knows, to affect its understanding", and that the
task of humanistic scholarship is "the evaluation of information
and the expression of that evaluation". Recall what I tried to
demonstrate earlier, namely that in the humanities by the end of
the nineteenth century both the evaluation and the expression of
information had become a problem, that the very concept of
knowledge had become a contested one, and that the linear mode of
composition was felt to be inadequate long before the
technological means of an alternative mode became available. Thus
while I share John Haeger's scepticism, voiced at the conference
just referred to, as to "whether computer assisted techniques and
computerized resources will actually improve the quality of
humanistic scholarship, or affect its economics in a positive
way" (Haeger 1992), I would underline that in various humanistic
disciplines the conventional techniques have led to a state of
crisis. To recall my earlier examples: For decades Musil
scholarship had been in an impasse from which it was freed by the
potentials of an electronic edition of Musil's works; and
Wittgenstein scholarship has for a long time now been in a
stalemate condition from which perhaps the realization of an
electronic edition of the *NachlaŠ* will relieve it. But of
course here again it is quite essential to emphasize that these
new techniques are unlikely to become fruitful unless combined
with the conventional ones. Thus no electronic search will locate
Musil's allusions to Nietzsche where they are formulated in
paraphrases - only a reader of Musil with a thorough and
intelligent knowledge of Nietzsche's work will become aware of
them.*21* And Hintikka is justified in seeing a "clear danger
that Wittgenstein research, or part of it, will be directed by
the increased reliance on computers into philosophically
unimportant directions" (Hintikka 1991: 197). I absolutely agree
with David Stern when he says: "An electronic edition of the
complete works [of Wittgenstein] will be an invaluable research
tool, but it will be no substitute for a printed complete works;
both will be needed" (Stern 1993: 504). A more general
formulation of the same point would be: Electronic libraries are
likely to become an invaluable aid to scholarship, but they will
be no substitute for the physical library. And a last related
point: not only will the madly proliferating specialist
electronic bulletin boards and discussion groups be no substitute
for scholarly exchange, but neither are they, in the humanities,
of any direct scholarly use - though as a *subject* they are
clearly relevant. Patterns of communication have always
constituted a topic for the humanities; the new electronic
networking pattern constitutes a new topic, and is in itself
hitherto unknown information.

Drawing towards a close, let us step aside for a moment and cast
a glance on this new topic from the point of view of social and
political communication. What counts as fragmentation from one
perspective can be seen as decentralization from another.
Whatever the nature of knowledge circulating in electronic
networks is, that knowledge is, ideally, accessible from
anywhere. From the point of view of a sociology and politics of
science, this is an essential factor; and it is quite crucial
from the point of view of democratic politics as such. In view of
today's overall centralizing tendencies in politics and social
organization, to maintain decentralizing counterbalances is in
the elementary interests of democracy.*22* I would not go all the
way with Bolter's eloquent arguments for the inevitability of the
utter fragmentation of knowledge in the sciences and the
humanities, and indeed of the utter hypertextualization of the
cultural canon, but I certainly find the idea illuminating that
"just as our culture is moving from the printed book to the
computer, it is also in the final stages of the transition from a
hierarchical social order to what we might call a 'network
culture'. ... However, the end of hierarchy is not the end of
social structure. ... individuals [still] form groups" (Bolter
1991: 232). The formulation recalls a favourite passage of mine
from _The Postmodern Condition_, where Lyotard, in his inimitably
slack style, writes: "T[he] breaking up of the grand narratives
... leads to what some authors analyze in terms of the
dissolution of the social bond and the disintegration of social
aggregates into a mass of individual atoms... Nothing of the kind
is happening; this point of view, it seems to me, is haunted by
the paradisaic representation of a lost 'organic' society. ...
each [self] exists in a fabric of relations that is now more
complex and mobile than ever before. ... a person is always
located at 'nodal points' of specific communication circuits,
however tiny these may be" (Lyotard 1984: 15).

The political information electronic newsgroup users retrieve
from a decentralized network is of course in no sense
comprehensive. But this is not felt to be a drawback, since the
knowledge seeked is from the outset circumscribed and concrete,
and readily accommodated in day-to-day practices. By contrast,
the knowledge scientists and humanistic scholars strive after is
by its nature ramified, broad, and abstract. That the unification
of such knowledge is not possible in the medium of print, is by
now clear. And I have tried to show that the electronic medium
itself can greatly increase the fragmentation of knowledge.
Indeed for Bolter the idea of a meaningful unity of knowledge is
one to be altogether discarded. "The computer", he writes,
"provides the only kind of unity now possible in our culture:
unity at the operational level. Hypertextual publication can
accommodate all the mutually incomprehensible languages that the
intellectual world now speaks, and this unification of technique
must serve as the consolation for the lost unity of purpose"
(Bolter 234). And in fact the notion of a comprehensive unified
knowledge must be found illusive once one realizes that any
branch of knowledge is invariably embedded in particular
practices, and that therefore, as Gordon Baker argues
interpreting Wittgenstein, a single perspicuous representation of
different language games is not conceivable (Baker 1991), or, to
put the same point differently, that a comprehensive and unified
knowledge could not be *subjectively represented* - no mind could
serve as its focus, no person could embody the sum of necessary
skills. However, the argument I tried to present here has also
indicated possibilities inherent in electronically mediated
communication which might operate *against* the trend of
fragmentation. Let me, by way of conclusion, reiterate the two
main points. First, the "mutual support of language and
picture"*23*, and, more still, interactive multimedia,*24* can to
a significant degree convey the *practical* dimension of
theoretical knowledge. They give "visual proximity to conceptual
connections", as the Feeney--Ross report has put it (1993: 20) -
indeed even a kind of tactile proximity. Complex information
which when cast into the mould of the linear text becomes
impossible to grasp in a comprehensive formula, might easily be
taken in at a glance or absorbed in a single harmony when
presented in the media of images and sounds. Secondly, printed
texts, when supported by electronic versions of the same, can be
studied more thoroughly and comprehensively than when available
on paper only. When hypertext, multimedia, and networking are
*added* to the printed book, the possibilities to achieve a kind
of overview of knowledge, to maintain its *relative* unity, are
heightened. I do not believe the library of the future should
lack books. John Haeger had used the formula: "While the idea of
a 'national digital library' is tantalizing, it is not yet
persuasive" (Haeger 1992). Let me end by saying that I find the
idea abhorrent. My dream of the library of the twenty-first
century is a dream of vast *physical* libraries, even if only a
small number of them: with miles of widely branching out free-
access shelves, with many millions of volumes which could only be
studied if in fact visiting the collection - or else of course by
switching on a computer anywhere in the world. For this immense
material would be, even if not entirely, but at any rate
progressively, accessible through the network, too - accessible
to those who through familiarity with real books*25* and real
libraries will be capable and motivated to aspire to an
autonomous and comprehensive orientation in the world of

[Nyiri, "Electronic Networking...", NOTES and REFERENCES]


*1* I am indebted to Seamus Ross for constant support and
encouragement during the time this paper was prepared. Also, I
would like to acknowledge the stimulation I received from Tibor
Vamos, Computer and Automation Institute, Hungarian Academy of
Sciences, and from the working group _Electronic Networking and
the Philosophy of Culture_ at the Internationales
Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften, Vienna.

*2* In the electronic medium "there is no sense of the text as a
mass of material ... wherein the reader's 'place' can be located
at some point in space, as there is with the printed book"
(Conner 1992: 19).

*3* There have been suggestions to the effect that the step to be
taken here is that of distinguishing between knowledge on the one
hand and mere information on the other (Bell 1979, Dretske 1981,
Gregorian 1992). I think that step is necessary, but not
sufficient. One might accept, for instance, the distinction
Daniel Bell makes - "By information I mean data processing in the
broadest sense ... By knowledge, I mean an organized set of
statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or
an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through
some communication medium in some systematic form" (Bell 1979:
168) - and still be uncertain about the extent to which, say,
experimental results can be "transmitted" in "systematic form",
or "statements of facts" unified into an "organized set",
especially when the "communication medium" is a computer network.

*4* Its definitive formulation was given in Ong (1982). The main
studies leading up to Ong's synthesis are McLuhan (1962),
Havelock (1963), Goody and Watt (1963), and Eisenstein (1979).
For a more detailed survey of the literature cf. Nyiri (1994).

*5* See Heim (1987), Harnad (1991), Nyiri (1991), Bolter (1991),
Brent (1991), Conner (1992).

*6* Cf. esp. Lord (1960).

*7* Morpurgo Davies (1986) makes a strong case against the
position, held by Havelock in its most radical form, according to
which the adoption of alphabetic writing fosters cognitive
changes not made possible, or not promoted, by pre-alphabetic
writing systems. As Morpurgo Davies shows, it is just not the
case "that once the shift from pictographic to non-pictographic
has been accomplished scripts inevitably tend towards the
alphabet". She also argues against the idea that "the development
or the interiorization of the alphabet ... is in fact responsible
... for a complete change in the modes of thought of the users".
Critical thinking, then, would depend on the availability of a
system of visible signs, but not necessarily on that of
alphabetic writing. The debate bears on the question whether
"critical thought" is endangered by the proliferation of icons,
images, etc., on the computer screen (cf. Tuman 1992: 265ff.); it
is not central, though relevant, to the main argument of the
present paper, *viz.* that unless electronic information
retrieval is complemented by studies conducted within the
conventional written medium, a further fragmentation of knowledge
is likely to ensue.

*8* But cf. note 7.

*9* "The writing or talking language is only of 'one expansion' -
the sounds come one after the other in time, the word-signs come
one after the other on paper, as for example the telegram signs
on a long, narrow band of paper. The same is true in books - one
word over another in the line under it has no effect on the
sense. But there are languages of 'two expansions'" (Neurath
1980: 60).

*10* Cf. Nyiri (1988) and chapter 9 of Nyiri (1992).

*11* The inference from the loss of truth to the loss of faith in
the givenness of the world is, strictly speaking, not stringent;
but it is the usual move in philosophy. Thus Husserl: "Die
Relativitaet der Wahrheit zieht die Relativitaet der Weltexistenz
nach sich" (Husserl 1900: 121), *the relativity of truth leads to
the relativity of the existence of the world*.

*12* The definitive monograph on Nietzsche as a philosopher of
the orality--literacy tension is Fietz (1992).

*13* "Man lebt heute geteilt", writes Musil, "und nach Teilen mit
anderen Menschen verschraenkt; was man traeumt, haengt mit dem
Traeumen zusammen und mit dem, was andere traeumen; was man tut,
haengt unter sich, aber noch mehr mit dem zusammen, was andere
Menschen tun; und wovon man ueberzeugt is, haengt mit
Ueberzeugungen zusammen, von denen man nur den kleinsten Teil
selbst hat" (Musil 1970: 875).

*14* For details see Nyiri (1977).

*15* In an earlier version of the preface, dated August 1938,
this "field of thought" ("Gedankengebiet") is indeed
characterized as one in which thoughts form a complicated
*network* of relations ("die Gedanken ... in einem verwickelten
Netz von Beziehungen zueinander stehen").

*16* To which today the ideas of chaos theory and of non-
computable complexity are added. "While uncertainty has always
been a part of human experience", as Tibor Vamos writes,
"scientific results in our current age imply that a unifying
theory is out of reach, probably forever". The "success of the
probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics" and Goedel's
results leading to "the concept of non-computability" together
conveyed the impression that "researchers were exploring the
outer limits of science". Computers, Vamos stresses, "played an
important role in this process" (Vamos 1993: 57ff.). Cf. also
Vamos, _Computer Epistemology_, where the author stresses that
"[t]he Age of Reason's ways of thinking were inherently
deterministic" and highlights the question "whether uncertainty
is an inherent feature of the phenomena, i.e. it is ontological
or only due to the momentary or generic lack of knowledge and
would be certain from God's eye (epistemic)" (Vamos 1991: 32-36).

*17* As Crane writes: "The automatic text analysis procedures
yield disappointing results... The problem apparently lies in the
variety of ways in which terms can be used in scientific
documents. Many such uses will be irrelevant to the query of an
individual scientist. ... [It] would appear ... that more complex
procedures involving the use of multiword concepts that reflect
document content more fully would be superior, but this proves
not to be the case" (Crane 1972: 126f.).

*18* Vladimir Gribov and Julia Nyiri, personal communication.

*19* Communication by e-mail certainly brings back some of traits
of *orality*. Cf. Nyiri (1994), and most recently Leslie (1994).

*20* A dramatic summary of the dangers the science of *history*
might have to face with the increasing reliance on electronic
information resources is given by Ross (1993).

*21* I owe this point to Moritz Csaky.

*22* On a different level of course the question has to be asked
if the progressive *loss of privacy*, inevitably bound up with
electronic networking, is entirely conducive to democratic
discussion. When thoughts, once articulated, are irretrievably in
the public realm, the consequence might be that certain thoughts
will *not* be articulated. Electronic networking in a sense runs
counter to the psychology of silent reading.

*23* Cf. Yokota et al. (1984: 204 and 206): "once how to
interpret a picture is hinted by words, the picture often becomes
much more informative than any linguistic expression. -
Consequently, mutual support of language and picture is the most
desirable for human communication, which is also the case for the
communication between men and computers. ... the linguistic data
determine the universe of discourse about the field and in turn
the interpretation of the pictorial data".

*24* "Textuality can cease to be the predominate mechanism of
information delivery when electronic mechanisms are used. Now
photographic and reconstruction images, video, audio, and data
visualisation can be used alongside text to build a multi-media
presentation of arguments" (Ross 1994).

*25* Very pertinent here is a message dumped into SHARP-L ("Study
of the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing", SHARP-
L@IUBVM.BITNET) by L. Gregory Bloomquist (GBLOOMQ@ACADVM1.
UOTTAWA.CA): "for me one of the problems with the present CD as
opposed to book in terms of function is that for those of us
brought up in a book culture (ALL of us, I assume, on this list),
we know how to look for information beyond the hypertext links,
but ... a person NOT brought up in a book culture ... does NOT
necessarily know that there is anything else to look at!"

*26* It was only after having presented this paper that Alston
(1993) came to my attention. "Without bothering to examine the
basis for our contemporary obsession with computers and the
interminable novelty of every new piece of software which
promises undreamt-of opportunities to perform a variety of tasks
simultaneously", writes Alston, "we have decided to reconstruct
our libraries on a new model. That model presupposes that the
information which libraries have traditionally supplied is
somehow more meaningful in electronic form, and therefore capable
of being stored, interrogated, and transmitted to any part of the
globe. ... [T]he research library remains the only available
model enabling the simultaneous consultation of a wide variety of
materials. ... [A]t precisely the point in time when scholarship
has begun to accept the principle of the unity of knowledge and
the value of interdisciplinary research, we are bent upon its
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 From hh
Date:         Tue, 30 Jan 1996 17:18:30 +0100
Reply-To:     Knowledge and Networking <MII-CKCN@LS.UNIVIE.AC.AT>
Sender:       Knowledge and Networking <MII-CKCN@LS.UNIVIE.AC.AT>
From:         Kristof Nyiri <nyiri@LUDENS.ELTE.HU>
Subject:      E'Hall text note



"Electronic Networking and the Unity of Knowledge" by J C Nyiri
     reproduced with permission from "Networking in the
     Proceedings of the Second Conference on Scholarship and
Technology in
     the Humanities held at Elvetham Hall, Hampshire, UK, 13-16
     1994" edited by Stephanie Kenna and Seamus Ross, copyright
     Library 1995, ISBN 1-85739-064-4, Bowker-Saur. Copies of the
book may
     be ordered from Customer Services Department, Bowker-Saur,
     House, Maypole Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex RH19 1HU,
UK, fax +44
     1342 330198, email