I once read that (fictional) readings are not meant to be listened to the whole time, but intended to inspire your mind to great creativity: you pick up a topic, a sentence, a subtext, a vibe, and let it take you from there, transform it into something else. This mornings panel session on Social-Dokument Networks is similar to that: As it goes on, questions pop into my head, answers and half-answers, that only relate to the speakers marginally.

As Daniel Pitti starts to explain the meaning and function of social-document graphs, showing an example of a digital tool serving to illustrate ties and relations between different people in his network-project, I find myself wondering, why is it, that the most used picture in modern society – wheather in the humanities, the natural and social sciences, or (as I like to call it) advertisement pseudo science (You know, the guy on TV wearing scrubs, explaining how glucose supposedly improves your brain-work), is this one: a net.

Pitti’s document-networks are archival records, designed to document people living in their individual, social environments and in relation to others. Each personal entry shows several forms of a person’s name, all their lifedates, gender, country of origin, and a description. Each person can also be displayed within a circle of all the people they’re associated with. Clicking on one of the connections, that name will be the centre of another circle, with her or his personal contacts.

I’m thinking of a net with knops and connections between the knops: a simple metaphor used everywhere: connections between people, connections between knowledge, between atomic elements, different pillars of a strategy, forms of energy. Or, naming the obvious: the interNET.

Agnès Simon‘s, our second presentor’s project, contains a similar network-idea: not providing new research, but a new gateway to access research quickly, is an important issue for her and her colleagues work. By gathering and reorganizing information on essays, books and people of authority, they’re creating a semantic web, providing connections and links to other entrys and sources. Finally, Kerstin Arnold, who works for the Archives Portal Europe, introduces to us a network system linking archives, providing and making usable archival data as well as connecting archive professionals for multi-level improvement of archives.

„How can these projects be connected“, an attendant of the panel session wants to know. Maybe, I figure, the whole net-metaphor has to do with it, after all. Or, more nicely phrased by Daniel Pitti: „What does all cultural heritage have in common? – People! People are the key piece to this.“ If that is true, myspace, facebook, twitter & co. are the greatest achievement of modern society. He also finds: „It is a long held human dream to go in one place and find anything there is to know.“ Come to think about it, that really is something I desire. So is that it, the answer to my original question? Is it the amount of knowledge, the many knops in the net, that make it such an effective, overused picture? Or rather the connections, thin ties that help us understand the links between all of this? And is it that nets catch things, or do they let slip important information?

Some early morning thoughts…

(ms)