MIT IAP 2000
Knowledge Systems 101
From Alexandria to Hitchhiker's Guide

All sessions will meet in Room 56-154 from 5:00-7:00 PM
No enrollment limit or advance sign up.
Participants are welcome at individual sessions (series).

Moderator: Mary Hopper, Postdoctoral Associate, Comparative Media Studies

Multimedia presentations, lectures and discussions about past, present and future conceptualizations of knowledge systems. Topics will include ancient systems like the Library of Alexandria, modern visions such as Bush's Memex and Nelson's Xanadu, major disciplinary systems available on the Web, as well as idealized notions found in popular science fiction. Various frameworks for understanding the issues surrounding knowledge systems will be developed for consideration.

Bring your dinner and enjoy a light hearted and wide ranging tour/discussion. Also, please bring your own examples of knowledge systems of the past, present or future and share them with the rest of the participants in the sessions.

Session 1: Imagined Futures
Tuesday, January 18, 2000, 5:00-7:00 PM

Multimedia clips and readings about Knowledge Systems found in popular science fiction (e.g. Computer in Star Trek, Encyclopedia Galactica in Asimov's Foundation, Hal 9000 in Clark's 2001, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy etc.). These examples will serve as the stimulus for an exercise to develop a systematic framework for describing the types of objectives, technologies and organizational structures found in idealized systems. This framework will function as a working standard against which current systems such as the Web will be compared during the remaining sessions in this series.

Session 2: Knowledge Navigators
Wednesday, January 19, 2000 5:00-7:00 PM

Come see real and imagined knowledge systems of the past. The tour will begin with ancient systems like the Library of Alexandria, and range through modern examples. The highlight of this session will be viewing a number of hard to find film clips showing famous "knowledge navigators" beginning with Vannevar Bush, and including Nelson, Engelbart, Apple's original clip, and others. Again, these examples will also be used as the foundation of an exercise to elaborate a systematic framework for describing the types of objectives, technologies and organizational structures that exist in real and idealized systems.

Session 3: The State of the Web
Thursday, January 20, 2000 5:00-7:00 PM

This session will use multimedia and presentations to introduce the real systems that currently constitute the Web and it's relatives. The first part of this session will necessarily focus on introducing factual information about the reality of today's systems in terms of content, functionality, technologies, and sociological/organizational infrastructures. Then this session will introduce detailed descriptions of a variety of "global disciplinary knowledge systems" in the sciences and humanities to illustrate what real systems look like. Participants in the projects will describe how they function, why the projects developed the way they have, and how (or if) projects can remain viable. The major focus of the discussion will be on discrepancies between what we have now and notions of what we would like our knowledge systems to look like in the near future.

Session 4: Can we get there from here?
Friday, January 21, 2000 5:00-7:00 PM

This session will be the finale in which the prior sessions will be reviewed, then a heated, but moderated, discussion will be encouraged on the degree to which we are where we should be, what types of problems prevent us from realizing our idealized notions, where we should try to go, how we should get there, if we should get there, when we are likely to get there and exactly what concrete approaches can be developed to help us progress along the way more effectively. The session will be framed within a design exercise centered around a " hypothetical MIT project" to address the discrepancies between our existing global knowledge system and the framework for an ideal global knowledge system developed during the other sessions in this series. Special attention will be given to determining what role MIT itself should/does have to play.

The IAP 2000 On-line Guide