Setting Out Clearly the Challenge for Web 4.0 Search and Social

Credit: StoryLabs

Credit: StoryLabs

Many of you who read Transition Consciousness will already know my friend Gunther Sonnenfeld, who is a both a colleague and collaborator on various projects and also a great supporter and practitioner of Holonomics. Gunther develops technologies that improve information systems (to include all forms of media, all types of data, as well as crypto-currencies), and designs platforms that enable organisations to innovate with a strong social conscience.

In his latest article Where Web Content Meets True Network Intelligence Gunther takes my work on “knotworks” and explains how this applies to Web 2.0 and the shift into Web 3.0.

Credit: Faveeo

Credit: Sonnenfeld

It is a really important article explaining what the current limitations are with search engines and content strategies, and provides an explanation for how Gunther and colleagues are helping the most cutting edge social networking organisations evolve. As he writes:

Currently, the Internet and the social web is primarily composed of what our colleague Simon Robinson has coined as ‘knotworks’, which are top-down, pyramidal, more command-and-control networks predicated on the more traditional concepts around ownership, as well as funneling people and information into specific domains. Knotworks reflect the inadequacies our current economic system, which is also why so many media, journalism and advertising models struggle to provide value to customers and end users.

I would really strongly urge you to read Gunther’s article and really try to grasp the core insights Gunther is explaining around content, context and curation. As he points out, Google itself can be thought of as a knotwork, since the algorithms are not able to provide exactly what I would like to discover, but are what Google and Google’s lifeworld (if I can validly extend this concept) would like me to discover.

A few weeks ago I had the following exchange on Facebook with James Soutter where we explored the question ‘Are brands the ego of organisations?’

James: What we call ‘ego’ in an individual is the image that we create of ourselves as we grow up – mostly a rather toxic cocktail of self-importance and self-pity (which are really just the flip-sides of each other) – which we come to believe is ‘who we are’. The purpose of the ego is to differentiate and distinguish ourselves; to provide ourselves with a simple, sanitised narrative which ignores our limitations and contradictions; and to justify our sense of entitlement. But what ego is to individuals, so ‘brand’ is to organisations – the process of creating a brand exactly mirrors the way we develop an ego, and its priorities are the priorities of the ego. Which, if you think about it, has to be.

Simon: Very interesting reflection James – I am using the term “customer experiences with soul” to help people have deeper reflections on how they currently experience a brand and what the potential is to develop deeper and more meaningful experiences. It’s a bit of a tough conversation as I have found so many different definitions of “ego” so this is something I need to define more fully to explain this direction for brands.

James: Simon, that’s a very nice phrase, ‘customer experiences with soul’ – especially if, by ‘soul’, we mean the real identity of an organisation, ‘that which it is’ (which, in Henri’s terms, we could call the ‘to be’ of the organisation; the archetype which can never come fully into manifestation, and which is as present in the organisation’s unconscious ‘Shadow’ and contradictions as it is in its self-awareness).

Taking Appearance Seriously Henri BortoftJames is referring to Henri Bortoft, who will also require little introduction to most of you. I feel that in Henri’s last book, Taking Appearance Seriously: The Dynamic Way of Seeing in Goethe and European Thought, we find an extremely clear outline of a hermeneutical problem (the problem of meaning) which can be applied directly to the challenges of moving from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0.

There are two hermeneutical philosophical questions Henri addresses, and these are the question of unfinished meaning and the question of multiple meaning. For those of you who wish to really dive deep into this question, there can be no substitute from a close reading of Henri, and a good starting point would also be to read my recent article Is This A Crisis of Consciousness or a Crisis of Meaning. In this article I would like simply to state the questions and why I feel they relate to what Gunther is drawing our attention to.

In the common sense world view of how we understand what someone has written, we create a division between what the author had in mind and the subjective understanding in the reader’s mind.

However, this creates a number of immediate problems, namely that we can not jump into the mind of the reader and check that it is an exact reproduction of the original meaning. Given that readers do understand the same text differently, how are we to know which of these interpretations is the ‘correct’ one?

(Just as an aside, I still remember my student days where two of my friends I shared a house with were English Literature undergrads. They came home with tales of how students’ work would be absolutely destroyed if they did not agree with the interpretation of certain lecturers. This is a very real issue indeed.)

For me, the great discussions of our times on algorithms and search and big data are sorely missing an understanding of the event of understanding. Admittedly this is not an easy concept to grasp in the first instance, and it does not reduce neatly to a list of three, five or seven steps or points.

We need an expanded level of consciousness to reach the event of meaning, where we do not objectify meaning into units of data to be analysed computationally, but to go upstream into the happening of meaning, a phrase Henri used to alert us to the appearance of meaning, that point where meaning appears.

When you are in an upstream mode of consciousness, meaning is not separated from understanding, there is in fact a unitary act of meaning/understanding. Henri describes this in the following way:

The meaning does not appear first, and then we understand it. Understanding is not a response to a meaning which is there already; it is the appearance of meaning. So we can say that the appearance of meaning is the happening of understanding.

There is a huge hermeneutical switch of perspective in which the subject is not now seen as the interpreter, but as a recipient in which the meaning appears.

This expansion of consciousness allows us to see single activities which are simultaneously both causes and effects. Aristotle drew our attention to this notion of actualisation and potential in relation to the building of a house, with the builder building and the house being built. It is a dynamic way of seeing unit within events.

Credit: Faveeo

Credit: Gunther Sonnefled

So if we come back to Gunther’s article, in Web 3.0 we find authentic filtering, curating, community rebuilding, rebundling, co-curating and refining. I stress the word authentic since these have to be done without ego, either in the individual or within the organisations brand and business models, otherwise it will simply be counterfeit.

I love the way Gunther has taken the concept of knotworks are extended the notion into knitworks. If ego is at play, two entities will never truly be woven into each other, it will be like trying to knit oil and water together. It’s not going to happen.

I also really like the way Gunther draws out the notion of ego-challenging when we have networks, since networks are necessary but not sufficient if we are ever to go beyond web 3.0 into 4.0. In this stage we will need to be hermeneuticians. we will need to expand our consciousness and develop not only the dynamic way of seeing, but we will need to able to translate the dynamics way of seeing into much more profound algorithms than even the most advanced we have today.

That is the challenge for Web 4.0. We need to be able to go upstream into the happening of meaning, and then someone will have to work out how we can take our computers with us.

Related Articles

The Unbearable Lightness of A.I.

Is This A Crisis of Consciousness or a Crisis of Meaning

Book review: Taking Appearance Seriously: The Dynamic Way of Seeing in Goethe and European Thought

People, Platforms and Purpose: Gunther Sonnenfeld Discusses Business Design and the Future of Work

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