First Full Episode! - "The Endless Knot: An Introduction"

Here's the first full episode of the new web series:

In this video, I talk about the importance of connections, in particular how language, history, and thought are linked and interlinked. I also talk about interdisciplinarity, and why that's important. You can have a look at the show notes for links, image credits, and a full transcript.

This video was originally going to be a very short introduction, but I realised I needed to do a bit more to set the scene for the next few videos, especially episode 2 which comes out in a couple of weeks. You can see a quick glimpse of those videos as thumbnails towards the end of this intro video. Much of the ground I cover in this one I originally wrote about in the blog a while back, so if you want to see a slightly fuller account with lots of explanatory links you could read those. First is this one, in which I discuss the theoretical background to interconnectivity, and next this one on the importance of interdisciplinarity.

As I think is pretty evident, I've been deeply influenced by James Burke -- I remember watching his documentary series Connections and The Day the Universe Changed a long time ago, and I have since read his various books. I've also been delighted more recently to discover Stevyn Colgan and his very entertaining books Joined-Up Thinking and Constable Colgan's Connect-O-Scope, which also take a connective view of the world. In the video I mention Sebastian Seung's TEDTalk "I Am My Connectome", which is definitely worth a watch, and if you want to go further you can read his excellent book on this topic called Connectome. So the line of thinking that kicked this whole project off was putting together this connective principle on both the macro scale of history and culture and the micro scale of cognition, along with this linguistic idea of frame semantics which sees the meaning of words deriving not just from the words themselves but the way they interact with each other. By the way, the examples I used to describe frame sematics in the video are the standard textbook examples that I think many linguists use.

As for the interdisciplinarity stuff, well my graduate work was in a medieval studies department, which is an interdisciplinary programme that brings researchers together from many different fields (history, literature, religious studies, linguistics, music, art history, etc.) who all have an interest in the middle ages. So I'm very committed to the idea of crossing disciplinary boundaries, even if it means sometimes wandering away from your comfort zone and exploring someone else's turf. And that's kind of what I've done in this and my other videos to come. I'm bringing my background in historical linguistics and literature (primarily in medieval England) to a variety of other topics and places and times.

One last note for the curious and technically minded. As I indicate in the video, the core of the visual presentation I'll be using is based on the idea of the concept map, with a web of interconnected nodes to demonstrate the way words, concepts, and history are interconnected. I've played around with a number of different concept mapping and mind mapping softwares, but settled on TheBrain to keep track of all my research. TheBrain is an excellent research tool and I highly recommend it. The heart of The Endless Knot itself is a database of interconnected etymological and historical information I've been building using TheBrain software -- a sort of etymological dictionary grafted onto an encyclopedia. To visually represent this in the videos I use Inkscape to create concept-map-style collages of public domain and creative commons images to illustrate what I'm talking about. As you'll see in future videos, these collages can get quite visually elaborate. And to animate them for the videos I use the Sozi extension for Inkscape. Oh and the font I use is Daniel Midgley's Du Bellay, particularly appropriate since Daniel is a linguist and co-host of the excellent Talk the Talk radio show and podcast.

Well I'd love to hear what you think about all this, so feel free to leave a comment!