The Land of the Four River Banks
PART ONE: THEORY
Giorgio Buccellati – April 2021
The theory of a website seen as an epistemological venue explores the nature of a website and its structure as the locus where knowledge can be articulated and presented. There has been no effort as yet to define this theory explicitly, nor is there an implicit understanding that may serve as a shared set of presuppositions for its implementation.
This website, 4banks.net/hub, is a preliminary effort aiming to formulate the theory explicitly, while serving at the same time as a concrete example of what the theory envisages. In this light, the website unfolds an argument discursively, but framing it in a form that is distinct from that of a standard analog publication.
We will accordingly look at a website not only as an epistemological channel, but also as a linguistic and literary construct, and we will study it accordingly with the corresponding tools of analysis. This approach helps us to focus on the fundamental issue of producing and relating to a website as a structural whole.
In developing the theory, I will distinguish five major aspects as follows (see also the side bar to the left).
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- System(s). – I first inquire into the nature of what constitutes an epistemological system, i. e., a distinctive channel for the organization and the communication of knowledge, whether in a digital or an analog format. Two subsystems have developed, one dealing with data and the other unfolding a narrative.
- Websites. – The difference between the two epistemological subsystems has become more accentuated with the advent of websites, and this has resulted in an even sharper distinction between informational and epistemological domains, with exclusive preference being currently given, in the case of the latter domain, to the data-based subsystem over the narrative-based subsystem. I describe here what the nature and structure of a fully integrated epistemological website ought to be.
- Digital discourse. – The notion of digital discourse refers to such an epistemologcally oriented website.
Configuraion. We must first provide a structural analysis of a website seen as a linguistic and literary construct. This allows an unsuspected new approach to the perception of the website as an organic, structural whole. To this end, we will identify its essential constituents and the modalities that characterize them. This type of analysis focuses on the formal configuration of the elements, and thus at the surface structure of a website, seen in relationship to its deep structure.
Frame. The deep structure of an epistemological website is built on the systemic interlacing of multiple layers of narratives and data. It is a theoretical model, not currently in use, which the 4banks.net cluster aims to implement. Such analysis highlights the synergy among the websites' modalities, a phenomenon that gives a website its uniquely dynamic quality. It also offers a solution to the problem of adverse cognitive impact as is found when websites remain only at the level of surface structure.
- Digital thought. – The proper implementation of a website as digital discourse affords a level of human control over digitality such as is not normally pursued as a primary aim, particularly because of the great significance that one currently attaches to artificial intelligence. Digital thought requires a new type of commitment to the construction and fruition of the digital medium.
- Digital humanism. – The epistemological dimension of a website conceived as digital discourse, which in turn makes digital thought possible, leads to an appreciation of digital "humanism" seen as an avenue for infusing new meaning to technology. This is in contradistinction to digital "humanities," which, in current practice, focus on technology as the ultimate goal.