Canonical knowledge (derived from Wikipedia)

‘Canonical knowledge’ it is not a canonical concept so far, or at least there is not enough scholarly production that can be put forward to support it. Therefore, it could not be a DBpedia entity, since it cannot be the topic of a Wikipedia article (which are the source of DBpedia entities). The picture below represents the LOD cloud, that is, a collection of linked and open datasets hosted at Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN). In the very center of the cloud is DBpedia’s dataset.


Open data cloud

LOD cloud diagram

As an interpretation of this diagram, I will claim that data contained in the cloud are becoming canonical data, just because they occupy the place they occupy, i.e. just because they are hosted at the DataHub from the Open Knowledge Foundation. I will also allege that a correct combination of such canonical data becomes canonical knowledge, as it may be illustrated by this example of data mashup made by SIG.MA.

This perception of ‘canonical knowledge’ is related to the traditional notion of ‘canon’, as explained by Margaret Rouse (2007):

In the early Christian church, the ‘canon’ was the officially chosen text. In The New Hacker’s Dictionary, Eric Raymond tells us that the word meant ‘reed’ in its Greek and Latin origin, and a certain length of reed came to be used as a standard measure. In some knowledge areas, such as music and literature, the ‘canon’ is the body of work that everyone studies.

GR Kress (2003:173) relates ‘canonical knowledge’ to school curricula, books on the shelves of libraries, and other authority channels:

In the former era knowledge was assessed case by case, and that which passed muster was admitted to the status of canonical knowledge. Whether in the form of school curricula, or of the books on the shelves of libraries, or the `knowledge’ disseminated by the organs of the media, or knowledge emanating from anyone of a multitude of public institutions, it was clear what was and what was not knowledge.

The concept ‘canonical knowledge’  is also connected to the theory of ‘Western canon’ that was developed by Harold Bloom in his 1994 book The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages. This a summary taken from Wikipidia:

[In this book Bloom defends] the concept of the Western canon by focusing on 26 writers whom he sees as central to the canon. It includes the “greatest works of artistic merit.” Such a canon is important to the theory of educational perennialism and the development of “high culture“. The idea of a Canon has been used to address the question What is Art?; according to this approach, a work is art by comparison to the works in the canon, or conversely, any aesthetic law to be valid should not rule out any of the works included in the canon. In practice, debates and attempts to define the canon in lists are essentially restricted to literature, including poetryfiction and drama; biographical and autobiographical writings; philosophy; and history. A few accessible books on the sciences and mathematics are also included.

Bearing all these arguments in mind, we may conclude that Wikipedia is becoming a central source for ‘canonical knowledge’. Anybody ready to discuss this position?

Further readings


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.