Curating ignorance, January 2014


A useful /interesting curation about curation. Tiny steps and the word is still as fuzzy as all heck but at least there is some indication that this work will slowly grow in importance.

I'm puzzling about what I tend to think of as story lines that, I am assuming the unconscious deploys to make sense of the erratic human who imagines he is in control of things. Story lines are seductive. They, to me at least, seem to filter ruthlessly. I have to make an effort to record or file stuff that my current story lines would reject. Learning how to work in a world that is, at one level, one of huge distraction but at the other one which tosses odd, disrupting, curious bits of ideas into my gaze. I'm not pretending I have any control over what judgements are made or why. I do know they are made and can be traced in my various logs, including here and in my DevonThink databases.


I've been dabbling with popular accounts of social neuroscience since I stumbled on Leonard Mlodinow's excellent book1. This morning I wanted to finish Firestein's little book and came across a quote, the gist of which I had known about, but this was particularly blunt:

… the brain is so poor an instrument for understanding how it works— at least through introspection. You can think about it all you want, and you will never get access to what your brain is doing computationally at any given moment. You only have access to a result, a behavior or a perception, that could have been reached in numerous indistinguishable ways. (p. 147)

What do I think I am doing on this Wiki? Hmmm. Making notes of things that come to mind (i.e. the unconscious reckons the conscious can deal with) is probably the smallest claim to be made.


I sent a bit of a probe out to some good colleagues about their ignorances, a draft set of questions. They all very generously replied. My draft qq via Firestein:

The questions (v 0.1).

  • What, in your field of interest, would you like to know now?
  • What, in your field of interest, do you think is critical to know (it could well be the same thing)?
  • Do you think some things are unknowable in your field? What?
  • Where are you currently stuck?
  • How do you talk about what you don’t know?
  • What was the state of ignorance in your field 10, 15, or 25 years ago, and how has that changed?
  • Are you often surprised? When?
  • What ignorance are you generating?

It's interesting, the gap or whatever to call it, difference perhaps between the sciences and the sciences of the social. I need to note that the questions came from the sciences and so are more organised around differently organised ignorance that that of social science.


This is one of those happenstance moments. To just think about curation is kind of silly. It's a bit like thinking about programming. You can think about these kids of things by thinking about programming something or curating something. As chance had it I revisited a TED talk given by Stuart Firestein and for the life of me I can't recall who passed this on (apologies absent donator). I got a copy of his book2, which is about ignorance and was taken by connections with ANT studies of how science is done along with a number of other ideas that are scattered across this wiki.

So my curation interests are now meshed with those about ignorance: curating ignorance.

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