Evelyne Viegas, a student in the MSIM program here at UW, is doing an independent study with me this summer on the semantic Web and collaborative software, and as part of that, she and I have established a semantic web discussion group that meets at the Third Place Bookstore (and cafe and pub) every couple of weeks. This is the academy we always dreamed about: books, beer, coffee, and camaraderie. And people come!
First of all, how cool is it that bookstores here provide social space for community events? Not just a place to buy coffee, but a space for events. Third Place alludes to the place other than home and work, where people congregate for sustenance and community. Is it accident or irony that Amazon, the slayer of independent bookstores, sits high on a hill overlooking Seattle, home of a vibrant ecology of independent bookstores?
But i digress. Half a dozen to a dozen would-be and actual semioticians gather every other week to explore the manifestations of meaning on the Web, and how to encourage and capitalize on it. Last night's topics ranged across:
- the slippery boundary between authoring and metadata creation
- SLATES as organizing principles for Web 2.0 (see my earlier post)
- Ranganathan's categories (Personality, Matter, Energy, Space, and Time)
- virtual economies
- derived ontologies and electronic warrant
- RDF as the love child of Platonic logic
- ORKUT.COM (you need an invitation... sniff)
- Dogear, social bookmarking in the enterprise from IBM
- Michael Braley and Geoff Froh's enterprise tagging MSIM capstone project
- The Strength of Weak Ties (or, why people should share bookmarks on needle point , knitting, and USB 2.0 devices).
- and more....
Most troubling question of the evening (Michael Braley):
Is Myspace the leading manifestation of semantics on the Web?
It is certainly among the most popular... in fact, this past week, Marshall Kirkpatrick reports that US visits to MySpace led all other sites for the first time. Yikes!
Finally, the award in the category of If-you-can't-define-it-you-don't-really-know, goes to Kevin O'Halloran, graduate of the the iSchool and currently at Microsoft, who offers the following definition of irony:
a measure of the distance between text and subtext
OK... i think I got it. Finally.
Now... what would MySpace for grownups look like?
image: Seattle's skyline at night, taken from a pier on Alaska Way on a crisp evening in July