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2. Websites

Giorgio Buccellati – January 2022

An epistemic system

Websites are a prime example of a structure embodying a digital epistemic system. In principle, it can be hosted on an individual computer and need not be posted on the world wide web. In other words, it is not necessarily a “site” accessible online. There is however, not other term that refers to this type of system, and, de facto, that is the only embodiment that is actually in use.

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Nature and potential of a website

Websites are ubiquitous nowadays:

And yet little critical thought has gone into an analysis of their nature and structure, especially as to how they can be used for scholarly purposes. This is the issue I intend to confront here, in two ways.

(1) In this chapter, we will look critically at the nature and structure of a website, especially for the organization and communication of knowledge.

(2) In the next chapter we will see how a theory of digital discourse can implement a website’s full potential in ways that go beyond currently established canons.

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Databases and narratives

digital narrative, typically formatted with HTML or XML codes. Tabulations, on the other hand, are in common use through spreadsheet programs.

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formal interface and eipctemic content surface ~ deeep ??

We will look first at the formal interface, u. e. the mechanics of a website as an operating system, i.e., at the way in which a website functions concretely.

Next, we will study the structure pf the epistemic content of a website as an epistemic system, i. e., a channel for the organization and communication of knowledge.

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In a nutshell

What follows in this chapter is a detailed and complex analysis of the nature of a website. In a nutshell, the gist of this analysis may be summed up under two topics.

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(1) Information and argument

The primary goal of current websites is to provide access to information. Queries are at the core. The
effectiveness of a website lies in how readily one can find an answer to a question.

see already under heuristics?

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(2) Parts and whole

Essential to a website, as it is to any given text, is the basic correlation between the component parts seen in their singularity and the whole which they constitute. This correlation is epistemic in the sense that it is constitutive of any knowledge that the text or the website intends to offer: one reads the parts in the sequence intended by the author and the sequence as such defines the whole; but at the same time one looks at the component parts in and of themselves, re-organizing the sequence according to one’s own explicit choices into alternative sequences, expanding one’s reach to other texts as well (and their sequences).

In today’s standard websites, however, the perception of the whole has lost its centrality and so it has, more generally, in the current mindset. Authors make no explicit effort to showcase the very existence of the whole in a website, and consequently there is no reason for a reader to discover a whole that is not made explicit in an existing website. As a result, there is a growing dichotomy between the parts and the whole.

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