Hey Brother, Can You Spare a Paradigm?

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Posted by Michael Wendorf on February 28, 1999 at 22:02:05:

Dear Turkotekkers:
I doubt Thomas Kuhn would see a paradigm in
the rug world much less a paradigm shift due to the
Internet. Kuhn's theory is predicated on a paradigm
being understood as a collection of beliefs shared by
scientists, or in this case perhaps by ruggies. I
understand this to mean that there are some basic
agreements or shared principles about how issues and
problems are to be understood. Kuhn argued that such
paradigms or other implicit belief systems are
essential to our ability, or the ability of science,
to evaluate and provide criticism. I think our own
experience in these Salons and our real world
experiences demonstrate that there is no such
paradigm in the rug world. We cannot even agree on
how to describe the technical structure of a rug and as
soon as we begin to evaluate a rug as art, ...well,
just watch the fur fly. This is, of course, inherently
subjective and not "science."
For there to be a paradigm shift or a revolution
there must be an anomaly to subvert the existing para-
digm or tradition of evaluation. Assuming, for the
sake of argument, we could agree on a paradigm or
method of evaluation the question would still remain:
does the Internet provide an anomaly to subvert that
paradigm and create a crisis or other tension that
leads us to evaluate or even talk about rugs in a
different or new way? Does the Internet cause anyone
to think that the old rules, again assuming we could
agree on what the rules are, have failed and that
a new method or set of rules is needed to evaluate
rugs? I do not think so.
In the typical paradigm shift there are new or
unsuspected phenomena that cannot be explained by the
existing paradigm. Has the Internet exposed any such
phenomena? Have the old rules failed? These seem
almost silly questions when we look at EBay and what
goes on there. It's just electronic commerce.
Has Turkotek or any other Internet forum exposed
such phenomena with regard to rugs or any other subject
area? I am unaware of an example. Turkotek is a nice
place to talk about rugs, but I don't think we have
come close to establishing, much less shattering, a
There is no question but that the Internet has
and will continue to change and influence commerce.
The more interesting question is whether it will be
just commerce, or whether through sites such as this
one the Internet will facilitate a deeper understanding
and appreciation of rugs and other areas of interest.
I think the possibilities presented to us for sharing
information are very bright indeed. But I think the
proverbial jury is still out on that. Kuhn here would
probably sound a cautionary tale. In his view, the
developmental process is one of evolution from
primitive beginnings through successive stages that
are characterized by an increasingly detailed and
refined understanding of nature. But in his view,
this is not a process of evolution toward anything.
I think the same conclusion could be reached
concerning the Internet, rugs and rug studies. So much
relevant information is long lost forever. Our
understanding and evaluation is limited by what we've
seen and not seen. The rug world in particular is
heavily dominated by commercial interests and by
dealers and collectors who both tend to draw sweeping
conclusions based more on insubstantial experience and
information and less on the sort of hard research,
examination and evaluation on which a paradigm, new or
old rests. Would you trust the commercial interests
that Jerry referenced, and who will be responsible for
many of the innovations on the Internet, to establish
the parameters of a rug studies paradigm? I think it
more closely approximates a new form of marketing than
a new paradigm.
I hope we and others use the Internet for what it
can be. But I am not holding out my hand expecting a
new paradigm. Thanks for the provocative topic.
Take aim and fire when ready.
Michael Wendorf

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