Metaweb: Event Search?

Recent tech news is that Google has puchased Metaweb. Very interesting for any post-structuralist tech heads is that Metaweb has been developing a search engine that searches for what it calls ‘entities’ and what most post-structuralist philosophers would call ‘events‘, Dan Nosowitz’s description:

Essentially, it views keywords, the way we search now, as an inferior search method to what it calls “entities.” Words can vary in meaning, refer to different things, have different levels of importance or relevance at different times, and often return inexact results. So Metaweb has created a constantly growing database, or directory, of 12 million “entities,” which are really just persons, places, or things, and all the different ways you might refer to them. Wording isn’t so important with Metaweb, it’s the end meaning that matters.

Once Metaweb figures out to which entity you’re referring, it can provide a set of results. It can even combine entities for more complex searches–“actresses over 40” might be one entity, “actresses living in New York City” might be another, and “actresses with a movie currently playing” might be another. Instead of searching through that jumble of keywords, Metaweb would just connect you to those three entities, and file down your results.

The “end meaning”, hey? The difference between ‘wording’ and ‘end meaning’ is precisely what Deleuze investigated in one part of his PhD work published as The Logic of Sense.

‘Wording’ implies an easy relation between a well or resource of meaning that only has to be properly accessed by sense-making mechanisms. This structuralist approach assumes a meaning and then goes and finds examples of it through algorithmic (or intuitive, for the human cognition machine,) ‘categorical’ pattern recognition.

The ‘end meaning’ is something else. The importance here is the use of ‘end’ which implies a temporal process. Deleuze argued that ‘sense’ is actualised as the movement between at least two series (signifier and signified). Deleuze’s proposition is a stripped down version of what happens in reality as he goes on to trouble the structuralist dance between signifier and signified with a materialist variation so that ‘sense’ (any meaning, in identity, reference, etc.) is not the transcendental over-determination of a categorical structure, but the immanent actualisation of a feedforward loop.

Think of a marriage. The sense of ‘this marriage’ is the actualisation of relation of futurity (this marriage in the future present) that emerges from the present materiality (this house, this couple, these bodies, this argument/kiss/dinner/etc.) as it circulates as and within the present materiality. This is still far too simplisitic however, because there isn’t just one sense that can transcendentally unify all others; rather, there is a baroque multiplicity of senses and correlative events, all immanent to different temporalities (this life, this career, this dinner, this week).

This is very exciting as it signals a shift from the linguistic algorithm fetish of existing crypto-humanities researchers of the web to a far more complex appreciation of meaning or ‘sense’ where meaning is produced as a process and not simply accessed from an over-determining ‘meaning’ structure. It is a move from a web searchable only in terms of its categorical generality to one organised around an immanent specificity (i.e. what Deleuze and Guattari called haecceitties).

4 replies on “Metaweb: Event Search?”

  1. Harold Garfinkel’s ethnomethodological studies take as their topic of investigation the methods and procedures by which people assemble, recognise and display the haecceities of “immortal, ordinary society” in and as the work of going about their everyday activities. You might be interested in reading this:

    Garfinkel, H., & Wieder, D. L. (1992). Two incommensurable, asymmetrically alternate technologies of social analysis. In G. Watson & R. M. Seiler (Eds.), Text in context: contributions to ethnomethodology (pp. 175-206). Newbury Park, CA, London, and New Delhi: Sage.

  2. Hi Bryn! There is a massive cross-over between all this and ethnomethodology. I’ll check it out.

    Hi Rob, I just sent you an email! Derrida chapter is cranking.

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