[okfn-discuss] What Do We Mean by Componentization (for Knowledge)?

Prodromos Tsiavos p.tsiavos at lse.ac.uk
Thu May 3 10:27:19 BST 2007

thanks for the very detailed response Rufus :)


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Rufus Pollock" <rufus.pollock at okfn.org>
To: "Prodromos Tsiavos" <p.tsiavos at lse.ac.uk>
Cc: "okfn-discuss" <okfn-discuss at lists.okfn.org>
Sent: Thursday, May 03, 2007 12:15 PM
Subject: Re: [okfn-discuss] What Do We Mean by Componentization (for 

> Prodromos Tsiavos wrote:
>> I think that Rufus's essay is particularly important for informing the 
>> way in which we design solutions to support OK artefacts. All I would 
>> like to add is that we may want to think of adding a fifth principle (or 
>> make a variation of the incremental principle) so that we focus more on 
>> the properties an OK artefact itself should concentrate:
>> For instance, I would add that the Open Knowledge artefact should always 
>> be potentially unfinished or open.
> Interesting. This seems to be a distinct but related meaning to open 
> meaning 'open to alteration' (this would relate to the way in which some 
> people tend to put out finished pieces of work under a no-derivatives 
> license).
>> In the first version of the essay it is not clear to me, whether Rufus 
>> refers to 'open' under incremental in terms of open participation or 
>> 'open' in terms of an artefact that is susceptible to continuous 
>> improvements/ additions. I guess that the more 'completed' or
> Open here means open as in the open knowledge definition: 
> http://okd.okfn.org/. I was suggesting that knowledge development 
> generally would display these features but they are particularly relevant 
> (and work best) in relation to open knowledge development. To take the 
> code analogy: both open and closed source firms release packages but the 
> system delivers best when you are dealing with F/OSS but you get the full 
> advantages of decentralization and componentization (transaction costs are 
> zero).
>> 'self-standing' an artefact is, the less it is possible to be an OK 
>> artefact. I would even go to the extent of arguing that the way the
> I'm not sure I entirely understand you here. I think any piece of 
> knowledge (artefact/resource that is nonrival) can be open but you might 
> say that the less reusable the resource is the less it matters whether it 
> is open.
>> artefact is structured frames subsequent OK development interactions: for 
>> instance the way in which the artefact is atomized (it is not all 
>> artefacts that are atomized in the same way or even are susceptible to 
>> atomization) to a great extent influences the development routines.
> Absolutely that is something I wanted to go into greater detail about. I 
> see a definite spectrum with some areas of knowledge much more amenable to 
> this componentization compared to others. The classic examples where it is 
> hard to componentize is narrative prose. It is generally not possible to 
> take the start of one novel, the middle of another and the end of the 
> third, stick them together and get anything resembling a decent new novel. 
> In essence the problem is that narrative prose is highly coupled (to use a 
> bit of terminology from software architecture): when you change one thing 
> it generally has large knock-on effects elsewhere (anyone who has tried to 
> tweak and old essay for republication elsewhere will know this all too 
> well).
> Something similar is true about music to a lesser extent though of course 
> music can be incorporated into other types of works (such as films) and we 
> do have whole genres based on sampling -- though the gluing effort even 
> there is very substantial (perhaps this may be changing see the example 
> given in [1][]).
> Film provides an interesting example because here, though the finished 
> product may be highly coupled, there is significant scope for 
> componentization and atomization earlier on the production process. I 
> remember Adnan talking about the process being developed at deptford.tv 
> where one group of people would shoot footage, others would divide it up 
> into 10-30s segments which they would tag and annotate with metadata and 
> then others would come along and combine the segements into documentary 
> films.
> [1]: http://blog.okfn.org/2006/05/22/knowledge-packaging-for-content/
> Overall I guess I current see a spectrum that looks like:
>    Suitability for Applying the 4 principles (esp. componentization)
>  Low       Narrative Text (Novels, Essays etc)
>   |        Music
>   |
>   |        Film
>   |
>   V        Databases
> High       Code
>> To state it differently, is it enough to focus on the development process 
>> as if all artefacts are capable of being subjected to OK principles? Is 
>> the development process going to 'contaminate' the artefact and make it 
>> open or are there properties in an artefact that make it a bad candidate 
>> for OK development? and if there are such properties, are they essential 
>> or accidental?
> I think the question of the development process and whether the artefact 
> is open are to a large extent orthogonal -- though as I said above I think 
> this development process works best when the artefact is open. So I think 
> you can apply this process to artefacts that are not open without 
> 'contamination' though just as we are seeing growing tendencies towards 
> F/OSS I believe we will see a growing tendencies towards open 
> knowledge.[2]
> [2]: http://blog.okfn.org/2006/11/06/open-knowledge-drives-out-closed/
>> In overall, I would be very interested if someone disagrees or has a 
>> different take on the whole issue or even thinks that the point is so 
>> obvious that there is no need to discuss it at all.
> Absolutely, and thanks for writing such a detailed reply.
> ~rufus
> PS: I will be away and out of email contact for around the next 10 days 
> ... 

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