The Space Between Things
I guess it was around 1999 or 2000 when I received a book from a friend on the art of Chinese calligraphy.
I took a single art class in college (it was actually Aesthetics), and majored in English literature. Chinese calligraphy is as distant from my everyday thinking as – well, to be honest, I never think about it unless faced with it. But I read the book. And it blew my mind.
The author emphasized that equally important to the characters themselves were the spacings between characters. That mood or tone – context, in other words – could be conveyed by the space between things.
At the time, I was also reading Francis Ponge, and thinking about…well, about object-relational mapping. And I find myself returning to those thoughts – musty and dusty after years of neglect – as I consider books and the semantic web.
Because what is RDF but a statement about things and how they relate to one another?
And that relation is everything. That’s where the story is – how this thing links to that thing…AND WHY. Applied to books, this means that if our books are “open and webby“, then a term in one book could conceivably link to a concept in another. One book could contain access to millions of other books.
And we think we lose track of time when leaping into the Wikipedia hole.
And this would be accomplished with semantic markup. Interoperable semantic markup – rather than creating a standard that everyone will deviate slightly (and annoyingly) from, various markup languages will simply have to talk to one another…much as we use Google translate to write emails that can be comprehended in multiple languages. Yes, some meaning will be lost. But languages have a way of enriching one another also.