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From semantic web to hermeneutic web
With the world wide web, has emerged 22 years ago what now appears to be the reticular society that disrupts the economy of data, to the benefit of industrial groups that have become planetary in less than ten years and to the detriment of European economies which failed to develop industrial policies to meet the challenges neither at national level nor in the context of the European Union.
Although the web was invented at CERN, it is in North America that its consequences were drawn, and this is under the influence of feedback loops, favorable to its business model, that the web has evolved – in a sense that deeply denatured it, to the point of transforming it into an instrument of hyper-control and of enforcement of a purely computational governance on everything.
In spring 2014, and in the wake of the effects caused by the revelations of Edward Snowden, Tim Berners Lee and the W3C launched the “Web We Want” initiative. Following this momentum, IRI proposed to its partners (Cap digital, France Televisions, Strate Design School, Institute Mines – Telecom, W3C) to dedicate its ninth edition of the New Industrial world Forum to the hypothesis of an overhaul and a reinvention of the World Wide Web under the French translation “la toile que nous voulons” – toile (the web) that can be perceived henceforth both as the spider trap and as the projection screen of a better future.
Since its origin, and under the pressure of an economic sector becoming dangerously hegemonic, the Web has evolved into an increasingly computational vision, focusing excessively on automation implemented for the benefits of business models which may be weakening social service structures, and may prevent the development of a reflective and deliberative practice, therefore aware of the networked digital instrumentality – not to mention the aspects revealed by Edward Snowden.
This issue poses a triple challenge: economic, political (ie also military) and epistemological. When Chris Anderson in 2008 launched the debate on the challenges of big data, which was then called the data deluge, he proclaimed the “end of theory”. This view undoubtedly true in fact in some fields, is undoubtedly wrong in law – the difference between the fact and the law stands the question we asked in the New Industrial World Forum 2014 under the title “the digital truth”. The end of theory is the automatic and entropic closing of knowledge – that is, its statistical annihilation.
We do not only oppose Chris Anderson’s standpoint with an abstract right argument. We add that the automation of the web will only be beneficial if it is augmented by a hermeneutic – that is a neguentropic – function, capable to trace disputes, polemics and controversies and to organize the deliberative collective individuation process by designing a new type of social networks inspired by Simondon’s concept of individuation and relying on a new graphic annotation language.
This 2015 edition of our Forum, which will take place immediately after the UN conference on the limitation of climate change, will affirm the necessity and the possibility to re-develop the web so that it is explicitly designed to increase the neguentropic potential of humanity, instead of submitting all singularities and possibilities able to sustain deliberate bifurcations to a systematically entropic computational model.
The challenge is that of a struggle against the massive entropy which is the advent of Anthropocene, as well as that of the re-opening of a European future based on the revival of a European industrial policy – beyond Airbus and the TGV as well as beyond the storytelling of big data.