The node is the elemental unit of the Principia Cybernetica Web. It corresponds to a single web "page" or hypertext "document" (in World-Wide Web terminology for hypertext) or "page", containing links to other documents. A node is the
most general entity of Principia Cybernetica, and everything is ultimately a node. The concept is similar to that of an object in
so-called "object-oriented programming'. Objects can contain both data and programs or procedures, and react to 'messages' being sent to them by performing the associated commands. (For the simplest type of objects, which contain no procedures (such as web pages), the only command understood is: show the data (text, graphics, ...) contained.)
In principle, each node is assigned at least one node type which represent
different semantic and pragmatic categories, but this is not really implemented yet. Node types include not only
the more traditional elements of textual development (e.g. books,
chapters, paragraphs), but also more logical entities (e.g. definitions,
expositions, examples, refutations, bibliographic references, descriptions
of events), and non-textual entities (e.g. illustrations, diagrams, data
This most general description of a node, however, is not always the most
useful. Indeed, while a most general node type is allowed, most of the
textual development in the Principia Cybernetica network will take a similar form, described
by the standard node type. Standard nodes will be almost entirely
textual, containing the following components:
- The English name for the node, perhaps multiple words or
a short phrase, e.g. "Evolutionary Theory".
- An internal code, a unique identifier perhaps selected
arbitrarily and limited (generally not more than 8 characters) because of computer implementation, e.g.
"EVOLTH". On the Web server, the filename is complemented by a suffix like .html or .GIF in order to show the type of file. The filename with suffix forms the last part of the URL address of the node. (e.g. URL : http://cleamc11.vub.ac.be/EVOLTH.html)
- Author: (optional)
- List of names of the people who contributed to the node, with links to the author's home page if one exists, or author's email address otherwise.
- Collaborative Status: (not fully implemented)
- Logical flag indicating the "collaborative
status" of the node. There are three possible values: Consensus(nodes authored by the full editorial board),
Individual(default for standard nodes), and Discussion(default for annotations). See: Consensus Building
- The last revision date of the node, and, if different from the former, the date of creation. (later, this could be
expanded to a rather complex structure detailing the revision history of
the node, including which authors changed or added which parts at which
- Parent Node:
- One or (rarely) more
nodes which link to this node as "up" or "hierarchically superior" (for the hierarchical structure, see Web Organization).
- Child Nodes: (optional)
- Complementarily, a set of nodes this node links to as "down" or "hierarchical inferiors".
- Synopsis: (optional)
- Brief text (typically a single sentence) offering a definition or summary of the main idea in terms of other nodes. Short, without explication. May contain
embedded anchors to other nodes.
- Unlimited length text containing a full
explication of the node, possibly divided in subsections with different headers. The typical length is one half to two printed pages. Generally contains links to other nodes mentioned in the text, and in particular to the child nodes; may contain analogies; examples; graphical illustrations
or applications; and a list of
bibliographical or web references (generally at the end of the page).
Copyright© 2000 Principia Cybernetica -
Referencing this page
C. Joslyn, F. Heylighen,
Apr 6, 2000 (modified)
Aug 1993 (created)