Reposted Thinking About Tools For Thought: Episode 005 – Interview with Chris Aldrich by Andy Sylvester (thinkingabouttoolsforthought.com)

Links from today’s episode:

And for the crazy rhetoric and note taking nerds:

Early Philosophical Texts

  • Aristotle, Topica, written about 350 BCE Venice, 1495.
  • Aristotle, Rhetorica, written about 350 BCE. Basel, 1529.
  • Cicero, De Oratore, written about 46 BCE. Northern Italian manuscript about 1450.
  • Cicero, Topica, written about 44 BCE. Florentine manuscript, about 1425-30.
  • Seneca the Younger, Epistulae morales, written 62-65 CE. French manuscript, about 1175.
  • Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, written about 100 CE. Paris, 1542.
  • Macrobius, Saturnalia, written about 430 CE. Central Italian manuscript, about 1475.
  • Boethius, De topicis differentiis, written about 480-526 CD. English manuscript, about 1275.

Renaissance Handbooks

  • Rodolphus Agricola, De formando studio. Antwerp, 1532; composed 1484.
  • Desiderius Erasmus, De ratione studii et instituendi pueros comentarii totidem. [Paris, 1512].
  • Philip Melanchthon, Institutiones rhetoricae. Wittenberg [1536].
  • Philip Melanchthon, Rhetorices elementa. Lyon, 1537.
  • Desiderius Erasmus, De duplici copia verborum ac rerum. Cologne, 1540.
  • Petrus Mosellanus, Tabulae de schematibus et tropis…. In Rhetroica Philippi Melanchthonis. In Erasmi Roterdami libellum De duplici copia. Paris, 1542.
  • Joachim Camerarius, Elementa rhetoricae. Basel, [1545].
  • Henry Peacham, The garden of eloquence: conteyning the figures of grammar and rhetorick. London, 1577.
    • One of the first handbooks in English
  • Philip Melanchthon, De locis communibus ratio. Augsburg [1593].
  • John Brinsley, Ludus literarius: or, The grammar schoole; shewing how to proceede from the first entrance into learning, to the highest perfection. London, 1612.
  • [Obadiah Walker], Of education: especially of young gentlemen. Oxford, 1673.
I may have broadened the discussion that some of the intended audience on tools for thought may be showing up for, but I can never resist introducing people to mnemnotechniques and research on orality, anthropology, or the history of commonplaces.

I provocatively (with only a modest amount of wickedness) put forward the idea that a rock is as good a tool for thought as Obsidian.md or Roam Research.

Read Transclusion and Transcopyright Dreams (maggieappleton.com)

In 1965 Ted Nelson imagined a system of interactive, extendable text where words would be freed from the constraints of paper documents. This hypertext would make documents linkable.

Twenty years later, Tim Berners Lee took inspiration from Nelson's vision, as well as other narratives like Vannevar Bush's Memex, to create the World Wide Web. Hypertext came to life.

I love the layout and the fantastic live UI examples on this page.

There are a few missing pieces for the primacy of some of these ideas. The broader concept of the commonplace book predated Nelson and Bush by centuries and surely informed much (if not all) of their thinking about these ideas. It’s assuredly the case that people already had the ideas either in their heads or written down and the links between them existed only in their minds or to some extent in indices as can be found in the literature—John Locke had a particularly popular index method that was widely circulated.

The other piece I find missing is a more historical and anthropological one which Western culture has wholly discounted until recently. There’s a pattern around the world of indigenous peoples in primarily oral cultures using mnemonic techniques going back at least 40,000 years. Many of these techniques were built into daily life in ways heretofore unimagined in modern Western Culture, but which are a more deeply layered version of transclusion imagined here. In some sense they transcluded almost all of their most important knowledge into their daily lives. The primary difference is that all the information was stored visually and associatively in the minds of people rather than on paper (through literacy) or via computers. The best work I’ve seen on the subject is Lynne Kelly’s Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture which has its own profound thesis and is underpinned by a great deal of archaeologic and anthropologic primary research. Given its density I recommend her short lecture Modern Memory, Ancient Methods which does a reasonable job of scratching the surface of these ideas.

Another fantastic historical precursor of these ideas can be found in ancient Jewish writings like the Mishnah which is often presented as an original, more ancient text surrounded by annotated interpretations which are surrounded by other re-interpretations on the same page. Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia have a good discussion of this in their book Annotation (MIT Press, 2019).

page of Jewish text with Mishnah in the center and surrounded by various layers of commentary in succeding blocks around it
Image of a super-annotated page of Torah from chapter 3 of Annotation (MIT Press, 2019) by R. Kalir and A. Garcia

It would create a more layered and nuanced form of hypertext – something we’re exploring in the Digital Gardening movement. We could build accumulative, conversational exchanges with people on the level of the word, sentence, and paragraph, not the entire document. Authors could fix typos, write revisions, and push version updates that propogate across the web the same way we do with software. 

The Webmention spec allows for resending notifications and thus subsequent re-parsing and updating of content. This could be a signal sent to any links to the content that it had been updated and allow any translcuded pages to update if they wished.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:38PM

In this idealised utopia we obviously want to place value on sharing and curation as well as original creation, which means giving a small fraction of the payment to the re-publisher as well.We should note monetisation of all this content is optional. Some websites would allow their content to be transcluded for free, while others might charge hefty fees for a few sentences. If all goes well, we’d expect the majority of content on the web to be either free or priced at reasonable micro-amounts. 

While this is nice in theory, there’s a long road strewn with attempts at micropayments on the web. I see new ones every six months or so. (Here’s a recent one: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqrvNoDE35lFDUv2enkaEKuo6ATBj9GmL)

This also dramatically misses the idea of how copyright and intellectual property work in many countries with regard to fair use doctrine. For short quotes and excerpts almost anyone anywhere can do this for free already. It’s definitely nice and proper to credit the original, but as a society we already have norms for how to do this.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:46PM

Transclusion would make this whole scenario quite different. Let’s imagine this again… 

Many in the IndieWeb have already prototyped this using some open web standards. It’s embodied in the idea of media fragments and fragmentions, a portmanteau of the words fragment and Webmention.

A great example can be found at https://www.kartikprabhu.com/articles/marginalia

This reminds me that I need to kick my own server to fix the functionality on my main site and potentially add it to a few others.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:59PM

We can easily imagine transclusions going the way of the public comments section. 

There are definitely ways around this, particularly if it is done by the site owner instead of enabled by a third party system like News Genius or Hypothes.is.

Examples of this in the wild can be found at https://indieweb.org/annotation#Annotation_Sites_Enable_Abuse.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 03:04PM

Read Wheel of the Year - Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org)
The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans, consisting of the year's chief solar events (solstices and equinoxes) and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as "quarter days" and the four midpoint events as "cross-quarter days", particularly in Wicca. Differing sects of modern Paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.
Bookmarked Linguistic Profiling by John BaughJohn Baugh (Black Linguistics: Language Society and Politics in Africa and the Americas (Routledge))
The concept of "linguistic profiling" is introduced here as the auditory equivalent of visual “racial profiling.” We ultimately argue that linguistic profiling is more finely tuned to diversity among Americans than are dissatisfactory racial classifications that have been used in the courts and for controversial...
Thinking a bit this morning about the cognitive biases involved in dialect differences and how they impact racist ideas and help effect racist policies. John Baugh’s work on linguistic profiling seems like a good place to start. 
Bookmarked Independent Together: Building and Maintaining Values in a Distributed Web Infrastructure by Jack Jamieson (dissertation.jackjamieson.net)

This dissertation studies a community of web developers building the IndieWeb, a modular and decentralized social web infrastructure through which people can produce and share content and participate in online communities without being dependent on corporate platforms. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate how developers’ values shape and are shaped by this infrastructure, including how concentrations of power and influence affect individuals’ capacity to participate in design-decisions related to values. Individuals’ design activities are situated in a sociotechnical system to address influence among individual software artifacts, peers in the community, mechanisms for interoperability, and broader internet infrastructures.

Multiple methods are combined to address design activities across individual, community, and infrastructural scales. I observed discussions and development activities in IndieWeb’s online chat and at in-person events, studied source-code and developer decision-making on GitHub, and conducted 15 in-depth interviews with IndieWeb contributors between April 2018 and June 2019. I engaged in critical making to reflect on and document the process of building software for this infrastructure. And I employed computational analyses including social network analysis and topic modelling to study the structure of developers’ online activities.

This dissertation identifies how values of import to IndieWeb’s community are employed in designing its material architectures as well as community policies. This includes an ongoing balance between supporting individuals’ agency over personal design decisions and a need to maintain commensurability for the sake of interoperability. In many cases, early decisions about this balance have contributed to barriers for certain types of participants. Yet, those who can cross those barriers experience a lack of stabilization in IndieWeb’s infrastructure as a means of achieving richer engagements with technology. By studying design activities as longitudinal and situated within broader infrastructures, this dissertation describes how changing situations and a variety of influences affect possibilities for articulating values through material engagement, offering insights about how to support positive and healthy relationships with technology.

Liked a tweet by National Museum of Australia (Twitter)
Earlier this evening I bought a copy of Neale & Kelly’s new book Songlines: The Power and Promise (First Knowledges), so obviously I can’t wait for this exhibition to come to the US! Perhaps LACMA might pick it up?
Acquired Songlines: The Power and Promise (First Knowledges) by Margo Neale, Lynne Kelly (Thames & Hudson)

Songlines are an archive for powerful knowledges that ensured Australia's many Indigenous cultures flourished for over 60,000 years. Much more than a navigational path in the cartographic sense, these vast and robust stores of information are encoded through song, story, dance, art and ceremony, rather than simply recorded in writing.

Weaving deeply personal storytelling with extensive research on mnemonics, Songlines: The Power and Promise offers unique insights into Indigenous traditional knowledges, how they apply today and how they could help all peoples thrive into the future. This book invites readers to understand a remarkable way for storing knowledge in memory by adapting song, art, and most importantly, Country, into their lives.

About the series: The First Knowledges books are co-authored by Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers; the series is edited by Margo Neale, senior Indigenous curator at the National Museum of Australia.

Forthcoming titles include: Design by Alison Page & Paul Memmott (2021); Country by Bill Gammage & Bruce Pascoe (2021); Healing, Medicine & Plants (2022); Astronomy (2022); Innovation (2023).

I bookmarked this earlier in the year, but noticed this afternoon that it had been released yesterday. I bought a copy immediately so I can start reading it this evening after dinner. I’ve got high hopes for it with respect to memory and anthropology. 

It’s only available for shipment from Australia at the moment, so I opted to purchase it from Amazon in digital form so I could start reading it right away.

Read A Skeptical Farmer’s Monster Message on Profitability by Chris BennettChris Bennett (AG Web)
Adam Chappell was a slave to pigweed. In 2009, several years prior to the roller coaster rise and fall of commodity prices, he was on the brink of bankruptcy and facing a go broke or go green proposition. Drowning in a whirlpool of input costs, Chappell cut bait from conventional agriculture and dove headfirst into a bootstrap version of innovative farming. Roughly 10 years later, his operation is transformed, and the 41-year-old grower doesn’t mince words: It was all about the money.
Interesting to read this after hearing the experimental anthropologist Scott Lacy talk about farming technologies in Africa earlier this morning in Anthropology and the Study of Humanity. The African farmers described sounded much more in touch with their needs and their land than the majority of American farmers apparently are. Based on this, it almost sounds like Big AG has been doing to the industry what ride sharing tech companies are trying to do elsewhere, they’re just doing it with different tactics.
 
Somehow AG Web seems like the sort of journal I ought to check in on occasionally. 
Read - Want to Read: The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis (House of Anansi Press)
Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? Anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the world's indigenous cultures.
In Polynesia we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In the Amazon we meet the descendants of a true Lost Civilization, the people of the Anaconda. In the Andes we discover that the Earth really is alive, while in the far reaches of Australia we experience Dreamtime, the all-embracing philosophy of the first humans to walk out of Africa. We then travel to Nepal, where we encounter a wisdom hero, a Bodhisattva, who emerges from forty-five years of Buddhist retreat and solitude. And finally we settle in Borneo, where the last rainforest nomads struggle to survive.
Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. For at risk is the human legacy -- a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.
Read - Want to Read: Work: A History of How we spend our Time by James Suzman (Bloomsbury Circus)
A revolutionary new history of humankind through the prism of work by leading anthropologist James Suzman
Work defines who we are. It determines our status, and dictates how, where, and with whom we spend most of our time. It mediates our self-worth and molds our values. But are we hard-wired to work as hard as we do? Did our Stone Age ancestors also live to work and work to live? And what might a world where work plays a far less important role look like?
Read - Reading: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture by Lynne Kelly (Cambridge University Press)
Chapter 5: Animal and plant knowledge in oral tradition
Finished chapter 5: Animal and plant knowledge in oral tradition
Some fascinating research here

  • 35.0%
Read Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters (National Museum of Australia | nma.gov.au)

Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters was an Aboriginal-led exhibition that took visitors on a journey along the epic Seven Sisters Dreaming tracks, through art, Indigenous voices and innovative multimedia and other immersive displays.

Previously on show at the National Museum of Australia, 15 September 2017 to 28 February 2018

I would liked to have seen this exhibition. Hopefully it will travel.

Dr. Lynne Kelly’s research on history, indigenous people, and memory, and a dovetail with Big History

David Christian, Fred Spier, Bill Gates, Big History Institute, and other Big History researchers and thinkers, if you’re not already aware of her, allow me to introduce you to researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly. Her work dramatically expands our understanding of pre-literate societies’ learning, memory, and particularly collective learning. Further, it makes for a strong and fascinating story that could not only be integrated into Big History; it provides links between modern and pre-modern humans and ties deeply into ideas of origin stories, mythology, and early religion; and it provides actual methods for improving student’s memories and particularly that for history.

I think her work has some profound impact on the arc of Big History, particularly with respect to Threshold 6, well into Threshold 7, and continuing into the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In true big history fashion, her thesis also touches heavily on a broad array of topics including anthropology, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, history, and education.

A broad, reasonable introduction to her work can be had in CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s  recent podcast interview.

Another short introduction is her TEDx Melbourne talk:

A solid popular science encapsulation of her work can be found in her book The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus Books, 2017).

A more thorough academic treatment of her work can naturally be found in:

With some work, I think her research could become a better foundational basis for a stronger bridge from threshold 6 into threshold 7 with dramatic impact on how we view origin stories, mythology, religion. It also has some spectacular implications for improving pedagogy and memory within our educational systems and how we view and use collective memory and even innovation in the modern world.