Digital Culture

Very cool: from BoingBoing

Very cool: from BoingBoing
Neal Stephenson launches a Wiki to explain his new novel
Inpsired by Quicksilver, his giant doorstop of a new novel, Neal Stephenson has put up a wiki where his readers can collaboratively annotate the ideas in the book:
My own view of the Metaweb is pretty straightforward: I don't think that the Internet, as it currently exists, does a very good job of explaining things to people. It is great for selling stuff, distributing news and dirty pictures, and a few other things. But when you need to get a good explanation of something, whether it is a scientific principle, a bit of gardening advice, or how to change a tire, you have to sift through a vast number of pages to find the one that gives you the explanation that is right for you. Generally this is not a problem with the explanations themselves. On the contrary, it seems as though a lot of people like to explain things on the Internet, and some of them are quite good at it. The problem lies in how these explanations are organized.

We have been looking for a way to get an explanation system seeded for a long time, and it occurred to us that a set of annotations to my book might be one way to get it started. At first, the explanations here will be strongly tied to characters and situations in QUICKSILVER and so may be of only limited interest to those who have not read the book. However, with a few clicks we might move on to more general explanations. For example, Robert Hooke and Robert Boyle appear as characters in QUICKSILVER, and so early on we might see annotations concerning specific things that they are shown doing in the book. But later these might link to explanations of Boyle's Law. Such an explanation need not refer to QUICKSILVER in any way, and so it could be useful to, say, a high school student who has never heard of me or my book but who needs to understand Boyle's Law and why it is important.

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