Re: Let's talk strategy (was: Re: Web Reliability)

Steve Rose has made a strong distinction between access to knowledge
and persuasive discourse. It is an interesting distinction because it
perhaps underlies some of the discussion of the future of the web.
However, I suggest it is a distinction without a difference. ALL knowledge
presentation is instrumental, designed to persuade others of the validity
of an argument. There are no neutral "facts" or "theories". The use of
presentation technologies to communicate effectively is common to all
discourse. If there is a distinction to be made it is in the intentions
underlying the communication -- is the intention primarily to benefit
the communicator and not the recipient? -- is the intention to persuade
without the recipient being aware of mechanism (subliminal advertising) --
and so on. These are largely ethical questions about the use made of the
technology. All communicators have a common interest in effective

The enhancements to the presentation capabilities of the web made by
Nescape have been generally welcome to all those attempting to present
complex materials effectively. The "errors" that have been made through
extensions that do not fit a future coherent model are minor and readily
corrected, as have been past "errors", by making them a depreceated
component of future standards. This is a common feature of all issued
standards -- the real world rarely conforms precisely to the standard.
What one can ask, is that material written strictly to the standard is
interpreted correctly, and that material that uses non-standard features
is understood to be a potential source of problems.

>The perspective of the WWW organization seems to be that it is important
>to provide accessibility to the wealth of human knowledge.  From this
>perspective, standards are critical -- and the primary emphasis is on
><strong>information and its meaning</strong>.
>In my opinion, this is NOT the primary perspective of private companies
>such as Netscape, Sun etc.  It is not just that these companies want to
>sell products (which is their business) -- it is that they have a
>fundamentally different perspective on what the WWW is about, and what it
>can do or should do.  From the commercial perspective, the importance of
>the WWW is in its ability to offer <blink>controlled
>multimedia interactivity</blink>.  Advertisers want to be able to present
>a message to customers in the way that it will be most effective (whether
>the goal is getting them to buy, or just to promote a certain image of or
>understanding of the company).
>The key here is the goal-directed nature of business communication.  It
>is intended to persuade, not just inform.  The fancier tools that can be
>provided, the more persuasive the communication will be (at least in the
>thinking of many companies).
>So, there are two main groups of people trying to using the same vehicle,
>the WWW, for totally different purposes: to provide access to
>information vs. using a variety of tools to serve specific needs of
>business marketing.

Dr Brian R Gaines               Knowledge Science Institute
                                University of Calgary         Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
403-220-5901  Fax:403-284-4707

Received on Sunday, 30 July 1995 13:15:14 UTC