Signposting Elsewhere’s Rest Stops: On Humane Access to Information on the Ways and Places of Knowing

1. Introduction.

Maybe I managed to miss it completely, but I only now understood what “didn’t sit right” when I’ve been taught the search and study of ways of knowing in theory of knowledge (anthropology).

The purpose of a way of knowing, consciously or subconsciously, is to get to somewhere. That somewhere may be in ideal, a place, a person, a community, a website, an ideology or utopia. And yes, once you’re getting somewhere you’re only shifting to another way, or call the same way a new name; But it’s normally a place, a goal, not a way that we’re striving for. And being rational/mature means to set goals and figuring out a way to get to somewhere.
The realization that that somewhere is a way in itself changes nothing. We need a destination, and we need a way to get to that destination in the form of articulated words. In other words: we need access to ways and destinations, and information on how to get to them. That is, IMHO, the meaning of liberty, of freedom: choosing a way and a destination, once provided enough information to choose between them – for there are plenty.

2. Freedom of articulated access.

But these days and age, it seems more than merely freedom. It seems as a privilege of those who have enough time and money to gain access to this information.* And it shouldn’t be this way, of course. We’re flooded with information, with ways, but without actual knowing or full agreement of a destination/way. Most things aren’t clear. We’re lacking vision. There’s an information overload. Right?
Well, I don’t think so. It’s not vision, not knowing, not access or time we’re lacking, but a rest stop. Even if only to reconsider what seems to be our filter failure.

“It is a sense of critique that is not negative, necessarily, except in the particular way that the Frankfurt School understood negativity – a way which I think is really worth remembering and holding on to. It is critique in the deep sense that things might be otherwise. There is much of the Frankfurt School that I have never embraced, but that sense of critique as freedom project is important. There was certain amount of work, and there even still is a certain amount of work in that freedom project that oppositional… Precisely because of the kind of tightening of the internet around us all; precisely because we are now in the matrix in such relentlessly literal way that there is some really new tropic work that has to be done in this figure”. [The Haraway Reader, p. 326-7]

3. In favor of rest stops in information architecture.

This is where, IMHO utopia, vision, exit right and lack of judgment meet. I believe that a rest stop should be a judgment-free zone, a place only to reevaluate one’s way and destination based on evidences gathered up to that point. Hollaback! is a rest stop. So’s Slippery Slope. News site’s aren’t; they obey the well-known (and old) rules of the news genre. Hollaback!, as an example, is genre free: we publish stories, reports, poems and art, free of judgment to all – even to the harassers themselves, who are well shielded under the veil of ignorance. We don’t tell anyone how to read this information, we’re only monitoring the place to be judgment-free. ** The rest is almost done by itself: reevaluation of means, ways, access and destinations is done by our readers.

Enlightenment doesn’t mean “to know all”. Neither ideology, nor confidence.  But if we are to live in/with this information highway, and to make good use of it in order to strive towards better reality by democratic means, we need rest stops – not presidential speeches or candidate/party’s platform.

“But it can quickly become banal, and mainstream, and comforting. The cyborg may be an alibi that makes the technoscientific bourgeois figure comfortable, or it may be a critical figure”. [ibid., p. 327]

Thankfully, we already have few dozens who know how to build and maintain rest stops in a critical manner. But we need more.

*I may sound a bit over-simplistic here; I’m not. I don’t think that if everyone will be exposed to the same information the same way they’ll all think the same way I do. But with all so many ways to evaluate knowledge and knowing these days, we need to create “rest stops” to knowledge, to reevaluate the way and the destination. Also, it’ll be fucking awesome if these rest stops won’t only occur after a trauma in a national scale.

**Which takes a lot of effort and time in itself.


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