life imitates art imitates life

Oscar Wilde once said Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life. I beg to differ. I think it’s more of a vicious circle (or a glorious circle, depending on how you look at it.) It’s an equal-opportunity borrowing situation. Life imitates art. Simultaneously art imitates life. Each feeds into the other, each repetition coming up with more complexity in the process.

Take movies for example. A certain movie may come up with a novel way of robbing a bank. The story writer did not come up with it in a vacuum. (S)he has access to volumes of prior art both fictional and biographical to base or build up the story on. (S)he just added a twist to it, albeit a novel one never encountered my anyone else before. Someone with a bank-robbin-itch sees the movie, thinks it’s a brilliant idea. Then (s)he proceeds to add a few of their own twists to it, maybe as simple as using different numbers of people, or something more advanced like adding a new technique to opening up the safe. The bank then proceeds to get robbed. (S)he may or may not end up getting caught. The story about the robbery then proceeds to get published. Thereby being consumed into the creative minds of millions of other people. Some of whom may be movie script-writers.

The movie “Firewall” was just released. I just read about a real-life robbery apparently inspired by the movie. I don’t know particulars about the actual robbery. What I am certain of is that someone will create another movie or a book, picking up particulars about that robbery and add details of their own. It would be fun to have this tracked and look at the results, like 20 years down the line. Maybe a good use of the cross-reference engine that I’ve been thinking about creating. More on that later.

This doesn’t just apply to movies though. It applies to all kinds of art. You just have to sit down and think through the art pieces you really like, read up on the history of that art or the biography of the artist. Eventually, I’m sure, you’ll find a link to something in real life that the art was inspired by. And eventually, you’ll find a link to something in real life that the art inspired. And so it goes.



relevance, classification and folksonomy

I recently attended a long now seminar by Clay Shirky on classification. He started with the difficulty of digital preservation and then went on to why prevalent categorization schemes don’t work in the long run. The recording of the seminar will probably be available at the long now site if you missed it. He posts his writings on his website as well.

The gist of his talk was that heirarchical classification as prevalently used today, in libraries, directories etc are a result of a core group of people modelling the usage behaviour of a larger group of people, which, in the long run messes up and miscategorizes things. The key to doing better classification is to have the larger group do the modelling itself, using degenerate linking between things, sort of like tags for flickr tags. In fact he actually proposed tags / folksonomy and free-text search engines as providing better value. You will have to view/listen to his talk to figure out the pitfalls of classification and the benefits of folksonomy. I’ll probably do a bad job of reporting it here.

I agree with all he says. However, I’d like to add that the primary purpose behind classification whether it’s heirarchical categories or folksonomy, is to be able to find and recall things easily later on. There are other benefits you can get but that’s beyond the scope of what I’m proposing. The desire or need to find things is driven by one key concept among many, the context you’re coming from and the relevancy of what you’re trying to find to that context. So, the question is what do we know about relevancy? Have studies been done on it to come up with theories of figuring out what relevancy is, how we understand it, how it works, how we can use it?

Google started on the right track with it’s page rank algorithm. That’s one kind of relevancy. Expanding on that, relationships between things/resources are more important to relevancy than the resources themselves. What about source of the resource, or the time it was created, or the context in which it was created. Context is harder to track though. That’s another science in itself. In fact, if we start tracking the value and composition of relevancy, it will feed into understanding context. And vice versa.

This article begs to be updated in the near future.