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Monday, March 30, 2009

Steven Ericsson-Zenith's memeio project

Steven Ericsson-Zenith's account of his memeio project should be conveniently memorialized here as well, I think. I simply quote from his recent message to PEIRCE-L, omitting the earlier part of it on a related but different topic.

Steven says:

So now a note on the "memeio" project.

There is a lot of confusion around this project because whenever I talk about it people think it is some kind of publishing system. And it is, but publishing is the least of it. Unfortunately, a lot of technology has to be built and I work on it incrementally. Recently, in an attempt to accelerate the project, I have begun to fund an engineering team to do small parts of it that I specify. The project is the means by which I currently produce all of my own documentation except email. I hope to change that soon, but will have to have an iPhone client to satisfy that need.

When I first started to develop the project you may recall that I spent sometime exploring the issues of security and the first implementation used SQL and a traditional RDBMS. I ended up with a splendid schema to which I continue to refer but a system architecture that required an insurmountable level of effort to implement, just to get the foundations in place and have something useful.

A few years ago I changed direction, abandoned the first implementation and the project adopted the latest XML technologies. Now memeio is built upon an open source XML database for structured storage, XSLT for transformation of documents, XQuery with update for editing and analysis, and related technologies in browsers and Javascript. It is all cutting edge stuff and you need the latest W3 Standards and implementations of everything to make it work. However, since I am doing basic research this is not important. The important thing is that I am making incremental progress that is immediately useful to us here.

Recent engineering provides the functions to add comments, copy and proof edit, annotate documents from a web browser. I have to integrate the results of this engineering over the next few weeks when I find the time. This will enable me to produce decorated documents like the one at that enable comments, annotations and editor/ author editing. In addition, from engineering conducted last year, I can also now generate multipart decorated structured documents with tables of contents, navigation and references, concept glossaries and so on, not just a page at a time.

However, I am still some way from having the infrastructure I need to conduct the research and analysis I want.

Memeio has several related research goals. The one that I have been focusing on in the past year I call "Structured Text." In essence, this is a high resolution document schema that identifies concepts, statements, questions, explanations, asides, caveats, elaborations, formal structures ... and so on. This will lead to a language that is strict to author but more accessible to English readers. Think of it as a constrained English. Recall however that my interests are academic literature at one end of the spectrum and poetry at the other.

The longer term goal is a concept database. In that I am investigating whether or not concepts are denumerable. The goal here is to have a document description that is abstracted from language and target audience. So imagine a document that could be regenerated for children and adults, for people from differing cultural conventions and even languages (although I am not introducing this complexity, I have enough on my plate).

This relates to the overarching project goal of identifying what types of new digital document are available to assist human understanding, especially as it relates to the development and apprehension of difficult ideas.

When I have the technology to a sufficient level of critical mass in terms of technology then I will start to build a document database of structured text memeio documents. This will initially include the obvious interesting classic documents like from Locke, Peirce, etc...

I will also experiment with the ad hoc text of the PSYCHE-D archive and potentially Peirce-L and others, so that we can conduct some serious analysis of the content.

In addition, I now include a degree of behavioral analysis in this research. This extends my interest in reasoning about behavior in social networks and what one needs to show an individual to increase the probability of identified behaviors.

I don't know if this helps you any. and a memeio server both rely upon endless funding and regular transitions to new technologies to support the long term memory goals. Digital media does not survive for very long and technology dies quickly. If you have anything important that you want to keep I suggest you have it carved in stone, or failing that you print it out on archival paper with an ink in the visible spectrum that never fades.

There are concerns that are separate from the above that you also seek to address. These have to do essentially with the interface between people and technology. I'm working in this area too and to that end we continue my long interest in affinity categorization and conversational interfaces in which, from only a little initial data, the interface can lead you through a task.

The issue here is not "broadcast" but rather the existence of a convention, a "place" that people go to frequently. Email lists like Peirce-l work because people use their email clients on a daily basis.
There is somewhere to broadcast Peirce-l to.

There are frequent suggestions that we will move away from email to some destination based messaging like Facebook, I wish we would, but it would require a radical shift for the community to do so. It is the case that many people (at least, here in Silicon Valley) do communicate primarily via social networks today and hardly use email.

Obviously, I need more help :-)

With respect,
Dr. Steven Ericsson-Zenith
Institute for Advanced Science & Engineering


Ben Udell said...

I've taken the liberty of correcting "mimeio" to "memeio" in the post title. I do not expect generally to be correcting others' posts but in a case like this where it's important to be timely (in terms of search engines) with a key word like Steven's "memeio", I thought I'd jump in.

Jon Awbrey said...


Some of your desiderata about the requisite conceptual infrastructure are similar to design objectives that I've been working on for quite a while now.

One of the big issues has always been the problem of communicating between different conceptual frameworks, with the aim, just possibly, of integrating different conceptual platforms.

Well, I'm already having trouble thinking in these blog boxes, so I'll just go dig up some links to ideas that I've stored in various wiki caches.


Jon Awbrey said...

A few more thoughts on the problem of "Integrating Frameworks" (IFs).

When I think about IFs in historical terms, there are a couple of 19th-shading-into-20th Century systems that come to mind:

1. Peirce's triadic sign relations, that make it possible to imagine all intellectual interchange about whatever worlds you care to name taking place inside of one big three-column relational database table.

2. Riemann's manifolds, that would be there when Einstein needed them to correlate the otherwise discrepant observations that different observers make from diverse and sundry reference frames.

As it happens, there is a connection between these two ideas — there are triadic relations resting irreducibly at the core of both systems.