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The hypothesis of this page is that wiki revives oral culture. If this is true then it would make sense to look for oral strategies: TellStories, OnlyTalkWhenSomeoneListens?. [somewhere else is written "... remember one of my first experiences in WardsWiki, elaborating Wiki:ThelepLanguage, which was dominated by the positive experience of an audience giving a constant sympathetic TellUsMore?."]

This page is one of my pet projects; but if nothing happens to it by Fall 2004, you can wipe this crud. -- SunirShah

Yes, the question is: how far does the hypothesis carry us? "Dialogic" is a good term, because it contains "oral" but sets the level higher: wiki is not about TellStories (for cultural tradition and entertainment) but about TellStories (to add personal experience as a basis for a deeper dialogue). Wiki is little without dialogue. -- HelmutLeitner


Noble, J. and Biddle, R. (2002). Patterns as signs. In Proceedings of the European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Spain, 368-391. Available from http://www.mcs.vuw.ac.nz/~kjx/papers/e03.pdf

Ong, W. (1982) Orality and literacy. The Technologizing of the word. London: Routledge. As summarized by D. Reinking at http://www.coe.uga.edu/reading/faculty/dreinking/ONG.html

I'm taking http://www.mcluhan.utoronto.ca/course_col.htm now to fill out this page. -- SunirShah

 <anon> odd, wonder if there are stylistic giveaways [of when a page was written]
 <Sunir> there are
 <Sunir> like optimism, pessimism
 <Sunir> also, i find the particular links that are used are indicative of certain periods of time
 <Sunir> after all, we can only remember so much, and currently topical links are in our mind more than less topical.
 <Sunir> certain authors use certain links more frequently than others as well, especially their own, as they are pushing a viewpoint, threading and weaving it into the corpus
 <Sunir> further, less catchy titles get forgotten faster than ones that have some sort of mnemonic structure to them.
 <Sunir> and the less organized a page is, the less likely it will be used, until eventually it is organized properly. Then its usage increases rapidly.

"The TowerOfBabel? is the tragedy of CommunityForks" -- AdinaLevin

If CommunityMayNotScale, then communities may hasten to CommunityFork more often. If OnlineCommunities, especially wikis, operate as an OralCulture, each LabelVocabulary? will diverge so that they two communities will speak about the same ideas with differing terms. TwinPages were a naive attempt to bridge communities, but the pressure to distinct and individual communities will diverge the vocabularies. On the other hand, TwinPages also facilitate coherence between SisterSites. For sisters that are really two spaces for a single community, they may function adequately. Otherwise, expect labels to make little sense without their being a wider scoped CommonContext, like popular culture, industry jargon, or third party proper names.

This is yet another reason why a universal SemanticWeb mesh is impossible. People use different words for the same thing, and the same words for different things.

Just a few thoughts.

The "different words for the same thing, and the same words for different things" doesn't bother me. Even people using the same words for the same things mean something different. There is no human communication without a translation process between individual languages. Its a kind of "relativity theory" situation. We can't view things the same way, because we have different viewpoints - but we can understand how the views translate and how other people will see a scene from their perspective. One must learn to understand and handle the necessary transformation operations.


I am in complete agreement, but hence find myself in a quandry. Since I know of several examples where the same word is often used differently in different Communities, I find myself compelled to create a Glossary defining the way I am using it (almost for each audience!) Then, I have to decide whether to "in-line" the definition (at least the first time) or to provide a link to the Glossary. Neither approach has been satisfactory as a general rule, forcing me to tailor each page for each Audience. This (of course) conflicts with Wiki:OnceAndOnlyOnce principles, which also become an interesting impediment to effective communication when taken to the extremes such as the Wiki:YagNi which is totally meaningless to anyone that has not spent a lot of time at c2.

Which brings me to support your point that "One must learn to understand...". (In fact, this is a foundamental motive for people that appreciate WhatIsKnowledge). This does, however, take time and requires a considerable effort to get to know the Community. Given that wikis are now springing up like weeds, it becomes a daunting problem to master all of these nuances, which may be one of the reasons for the misunderstandings that may lead to flame wars.

I'm not sure just how to link these musings to the Understanding of Communities objective of meatball yet, so I would appreciate any views anyone may offer.

-- HansWobbe

Annotated bibliography

Diamond, Jared. Chapter 13 “Blueprints and Borrowed Letters: The Evolution of Writing” (pp. 215-238). In Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Herodotus. Book V. 55-58 (pp. 61-4); Book VI. 123 (p. 277). In Herodotus, Books VVII. Loeb Classical Library Series, No. 119. Translated by A.D. Godley. 1922. Reprint. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994.

Vansina, Jan. Chapter One: “Oral Tradition as a Source of History” (pp. 27-31). In Oral Tradition as History. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.


I remember a long time ago learning that an average person's active vocabulary is around 2000 words, and total vocabulary of 10000. What does it mean when a wiki's page count exceeds this number? I found MeatballWiki unwieldy at 2000 and impossible at 3000. WikiWikiWeb imploded at 4000 to the point of no return. Perhaps 2000 is the linguistic tipping point? -- SunirShah

CategoryCommunication CategoryJargon


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