EventWeb, Information and Experience

Ramesh Jain writes:

Gutenberg legacy has influenced WWW more than anything else. Current WWW is a web of documents. The Web was initially designed to allow researchers to share their research papers and then it took of to include all kind of applications. What is interesting is that we still think about everything on the web in terms of documents. We create documents and post them on the web. The basic unit of a document is considered a page. So we author these pages that may contain images and even video, but we think only in terms of pages.

Our search engines are designed based on Information Retrieval approaches. IR approaches were developed to create an exhaustive electronic index for large documents the kind that you find at the end of a book and were adopted for WWW by assuming the Web to be a collection of documents. When you type in keywords, all that the search engine is really providing you is a list of documents in which these keywords appear. Obviously, there is much work that goes on in identifying basic words that should be used and in what order the documents should be presented to you. But lets not get bogged down by the details the fundamental fact remains that the Web is viewed by a search engine as a collection of documents. And we love search engines and depend on them so much because our (logical) view of the Web is the same a collection of documents.

Humans are interested in what happens in real world. Of course abstractions of real world are essential for communication of information. But for experiencing, people want to get as realistic information as possible. That is the reason that though people may know about an event and its consequences by reading about it or hearing about it, they still want to see it (in video). You can read lyrics of a song or even read the musical notes, but that is not a substitute for enjoying a concert in fact not even a dvd of a concert is usually a satisfactory substitute for the real experience.

If you think carefully, there are so many events happening in the world that you would love to attend. These events range from personal events in family to international events, sporting events, official activities, and so on. Now we have tools, different types of sensors including those for audio, video, temperature, pressure, and other sensory mechanisms commonly used by humans that can capture the environment of an event and can reproduce it at remote places. Technology is advancing rapidly in making tele-presence possible. We are now at a point that we can start thinking of building an EventWeb a web that uses events as the basic node rather than a document.

EventWeb will require different thinking than the document centric thinking that we currently use.

He adds in a subsequent post: “DocumentWeb, or the WWW for documents, became successful because it allowed democratization of document creation and democratization of document access. When it became easy to create documents that could be easily put on the web and tools became available to access these documents using any computer, the exponential growth of WWW started. Can that be repeated for events to fuel the growth of EventWeb? I believe the answer is yes. There are enough tools to start capturing and posting events on the web and accessing those such that the process can start. And once the process starts, the virtuous cycle will start resulting in better tools for posting events and for experiencing those. I believe that the bottleneck is not the technology; it is our legacy thinking.”

Here are excerpts from other posts [1 2 3] elaborating on some of the ideas:

Information and experiences are important part of human life. Experience is the basis of our understanding of objects, thoughts, and emotions through the senses. We experience the world using our five senses: vision, sound, smell, taste, and touch. All our concepts are essentially formed using these senses, through our experiences. Abstraction allows us to communicate and share our experiences. Abstractions are the mechanisms that we learn to assign symbols or names to our experiences. The mechanism of abstraction is essential for learning and the mechanism of assigning specific symbols to our experiences is facilitated by human languages. In fact, languages evolved to standardize symbols and this standardization resulted in enhancing communication among people. Next development was the idea of building hierarchical and complex structures of abstractions to build complex concepts related to the experiences that we gain through our senses. This resulted not only in communicating our immediate experiences bet also relating our experiences to other past experiences and experiences of others. This resulted in starting of building the knowledge base in the society. The great advantages offered by these abstractions, symbolization, and building of symbolic structures resulted in the virtuous cycle that continues until today and will continue as long as society of intelligent beings exist. These knowledge structures later became the basis of storage and distribution of knowledge and are still the prominent mechanisms used for communication, storage, and distribution of knowledge using language.

Information and experience are closely related to each other. As humans, we experience the world. Events and objects in the world are first experienced using our senses and then are abstracted for communication, storage, and for relating those to other experiences using knowledge structures build in our head as well as build by the society based on societal experience. Obviously, the societal experience starts with individual experiences, but is the assimilation of all such individual experiences and further abstractions of those.

In information centric environment the emphasis is on capturing essential aspects of situation and use them to communicate. In several cases, like in information theory, the major emphasis is on minimizing the amount of resources to represent the situation. On the other end, in an experiential environment, the emphasis is to use appropriate amount of resources to provide a compelling “better than being there” experience to a user. The emphasis is on providing a high quality experience using appropriate sensory data and presentation mechanisms. One sees efforts in this direction in some of the three-dimensional and realistic movies like the one presented in Epcot center and such places. Here they use multiple senses to create a realistic experience.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.