Thursday, September 18, 2008

Booknotes, something different

I have been thinking more on how to unlock notes and quotes from books. Instead of underlining I am using a spreadsheet (tabular data, easy to reuse, reformat when i figure out what's next).

Many ideas can be accurately tagged with 2 opposing ideas. I am going to use this quote from Ron Paul's book The Revolution (p. 61)

To those that argue that we cannot allow the states to make decisions on abortion since some will make the wrong ones, I reply that that is an excellent argument for world government – for how can we allow individual countries to decide on abortion or other moral issues, if some may make the wrong decisions? Yet the dangers of a world government surly speak for themselves. Let us therefore adopt the constitutional position, one that is achievable and can yield good results but that shuns the utopian idea that all evil can be eradicated.

Let's imagine that we are trying to tag this in the same way that or Flickr uses tags.


In the tags for this one quote you can see already the trouble with being able to tag ideas and having them all in a communal pool. One person may see this as something that reinforces their pro-life stance, another may see it as reinforcing their pro-choice stance, another may disagree with a finer point and have a whole 3rd take on it (ex. it is not a final yay or nay since it allows it in states). Standard views on tags would be so cluttered they would not be as helpful as they are on It wouldn't be totally so, for example the above quote would have more pro-life, more states rights tags. But I think there would still be more clutter than in previous applications of tagging.

But I kinda like that it would be cluttered. Maybe there is some good in having them grouped. I have always hated dichotomies. I think that most all divisions into 2 categories are false because there are usually many more choices and shades.

But more harmful than the limitation of choices, it makes you think of the 2 ideas as separate, sitting on opposite sides of a battlefield with swords drawn and words prepared to fire. The substance of what the sides care about, the soldiers protect behind them. The differences become what we focus on, separating people that care about the same thing more and more. But the enemy across the field is a mirage. Each army of believers protects what they care about, they keep it at their backs and they have their backs to each other. Conservatives & liberals, creationists & evolutionists, Nikon people & Canon folks, Deadheads & Death Metal rockers, All sides of a coin, heads & tails. As tired as the coin analogy is, it is my favorite. We take the analogy for granted just like we take the oppositions for granted. 2 sides, heads and tails, the coin spinning, makes people think of a choice between 2 things. But it is two sides of the same coin. The analogy rarely makes people think of the coin's weight as you hold it in your hand, how it was forged, the ridges on the edge (or sometimes not), that place on the circumference where there is no chrome, the imperfections and age when you really look at it.

The coin has substance. It is complex. The side you are looking at is only your perspective. No matter which side you look at you are still playing with a fucking coin.

So what i wonder is, if there is a way to bring ideas together that are valued by both sides of an argument to remind them that they are both interested in the same thing. Us vs Them is a very natural human way to think about things. But I think it is often fed by a mass of people together, and by individuals that want the difference to remain. Or maybe that want the other side GONE, not realizing that it would damage what they really care about to have them gone. Photography would not be served by having Nikon wiped away and Canon remain. Our government would not be served if all the conservatives said "Hey you are right!" and all become liberals.

So when you get people to see the substance of the issue instead of the differences in the sides, what do we do now?

First, further dispell the false dichotomy. Not just show the shades but show the relationship to other things. When I think of ideas, I think of a web or piece of string mashed and balled up. Things are related and may be connected on a couple main threads but also touch other ideas in ways you never expect or could predict. They should be allowed to connect like that. A tree structure isn't enough.

But again the question, what about those connections where ideas and the people that brought them there have their backs to opposite sides of the same coin?

I'm not sure, but I want to keep thinking on it.

Akk its 1am. Night!

1 comment:

Brian said...

Cool thought thread, dude. I like your examination into the reality of things. The fact that the dichotomy that we see and feel in the world, in life, in literature, is false. Like in your previous poist, I want to side with your brother that a pristine, perfect book is much better than a color-coded, marked up one...but the truth for me is that the really perfect book has some dog-eared pages at the very minimum...rough around the edges has much more to say.