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Networked truth

It’s three in the morning in the US. I am in the Zurich airport, waiting for my flight to Helsinki. I am high on Dramamine. All of which will help explain why at the moment it seems plausible to me to say: Truth is a property of networks.

I can only guess at what I mean, starting with the obvious: Rather than thinking that truth is a relationship between the propositions we believe and the way the world is, such that the propositions represent the world, in the networked world the truth is argued for and connected via links. For all but the most mundane of truths, the network of conversations gives us more shades, nuances, and reasons to believe. Which leads me to think that if truth isn’t an emergent property of networks, then understanding is.

It is, of course, an unowned, self-contradictory, unsettled truth that is too big to be contained by any individual. It is outside of us and among us. It is gained not by trying to contain it but by traveling through it.

Of course, the fact that I’m traveling at the moment has no effect on my choice of metaphors.

And the fact that I’m dog tired has no effect on my decision to post this instead of letting it melt in the light. [Tags: ]

6 Responses to “Networked truth”

  1. on 13 Apr 2007 at 9:59 amvaspers the grate

    I like poetic posts like this, and when I do it, the more abstract symbolic, oracular posts, I get a lot of compliments and encouragement.

    Have been seeing some “cluetrain is wrecked” verbiage out there on Twitter and blogs, that the “promise was based on ideals that have not come to pass” and other lame whining and misunderstanding.

    Some complain that blogs and Twitter decrease their humanity or whatever they think they have, by being so shallow, trivial, etc.

    Wankers all. I defend and fight for Cluetrain All The Way.

  2. on 13 Apr 2007 at 12:06 pmlars

    I really don’t think the cluetrain is quite dead, yet, ten years later.
    Quite the contrary. They were 50 years early.
    Let’s fill the void.

  3. on 13 Apr 2007 at 2:18 pmadrian chan

    i dont know much of truth, but i believe it exists in airports!
    i think michel foucault once said that truth was nothing but the opinion of the majority. insofar as networks seem to prevent the emergence of institutional power, centralized power, the “truth” they give rise to emerges on the basis of its own claims, rather than on a claim to authority. but there is a problem with networks and truth i think: speed. speed foreshortens our ability to weigh, to measure, judge, etc…. crowds have speeds, mobs have speeds, airplanes have speeds. thought travels with speed, and in networks, can spread mighty fast–regardless of its value, or claim.
    airports are good. they are good for reflection. thanks for reflecting!


  4. […] David Weinberger articulated some thoughts of truth understanding being a property of networks. In his own words: Truth is a property of […]

  5. on 14 Apr 2007 at 11:13 pmBen Tremblay

    I don’t normally point to individual documents in my “Website” URL, but given your “Truth is a property of networks” resonates at a number of levels.

    There’s a potential confound at hand here that isn’t as insididious in French; there’s a dramatic difference of tone between “véritée and fait that isn’t similarly tangible with “truth” and “fact”. (I think Solzhenitsyn touched on that in “Gulag” … something about pravda.) And we almost never use “facticity”, so that’s no use.

    With natural systems there is a fact or there is not … the nuance of “truth” really doesn’t enter in at all.

    The reason I bring this up is that 6 times 7 is 42, but 42 is … well … depending on how one reads “Hitchiker’s Guide” … and that’s my point: “fact” is a matter of sheer facticity but “truth” depends on complexities of meaning that are comonplace (inescapable) in human affairs but never present in a spreadhsheet.

    As I’ve essayed, truth is the product of sentience. Fact is a matter of sheer existentials. The truth matters because we care … things have meaning for us. When we lose our sense of meaning, when we don’t care, only facts come into play and we are finally reduced to spreadsheets.

    Hint: “discourse” surpasses “debate” because its processes hinge on valuation of subjectivity and narrative. I got onto this tangent while working on “taxonomy of movement” in ethology … facts are points, but “truth” is more like a constellation of trajectories around some shared strange attractor. Or something.

    “Sleep is for the weak”, I read recently. heh …

  6. on 16 Apr 2007 at 8:18 amDavid Weinberger

    As many others have pointed out, facts are odd constructions, stripped-down beliefs designed to be impervious to doubts — and the social reasons for doubting. They do what they do. But to make them the bedrock of truth seems to me to paralyze truth. That’s why in the next post I amend this one by talking about understanding instead of truth.