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XML, stylesheets and Maya culture


Where's the connection between the ancient culture of the Mayas, the web-language XML and stylesheets? For an answer let's first time-warp back to 1989. Tim Berners Lee 'invented' the WWW and shortly afterwards the markup-language HTML surfaced -- created for the inter-human communication. For this means HTML was an ingeniously simple language by which thoughts easily could be transformed into pictures and given a shape. But soon HTML showed to be insufficient for being handled by machines. Machines don't understand the semantics of pictures, and HTML unifies shape and semantics of a website into one document. Therefore XML was developed which follows the paradigm of structurized documents. Content, structure and shape are separated. XML has the content and an XLS-stylesheet covers the shape of a modern web-document. But alas, this thought of splitting-up a piece of information into content and shape isn't new at all. The Mayas already were knowladgeable of this strategy/technology. On March 21st and September 23rd the shadows cast by the sun reveal a winding serpent at the pyramid of Kukulacan at Chichen Itza -- proof of the aforementioned strategy. The information to be carried, the serpent, represents the XML-document. The sun and the pyramid's architecture constitute a kind of stylesheet, which gives structure and shape to the serpent. Now -- are the Mayas the founding-fathers of the paradigm of structurized documents?


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Hey, in english please!

If your edit it to english, I can tell you to make it appear on the front page :-)

But you can also write a short abstract in english, and copy the german text to the comments section.

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one-time only service of translation ;o)

Ok, as I liked h-man8's idea a lot, I threw an english-stylesheet over it and transformed his german text into the proper shape to be published on Ethno::log's frontpage. Here's his german 'Urtext':

Was hat die Kultur der Mayas mit der Websprache XML und Stylesheets zu tun ?
Um die Antwort zu erhalten, soll hier ein kleiner Zeitsprung zurück ins Jahr 1989 erfolgen. Tim Berners Lee entwickelte das WWW und kurz darauf folgte die Websprache HTML. Geschaffen für die Kommunikation zwischen Menschen war HTML eine genial einfache Sprache um seinen Gedanken in Sprache und Bild Form zu geben. Doch für die maschinelle Weiterverabeitung erwies HTML sich als unzureichend. Maschinen verstehen die Semantik von Bildern nicht, da HTML sowohl die Form als auch die Semantik einer Webseite in einem Dokument vereint. Deshalb entwickelte man XML, dass dem Paradigma der strukturierten Dokumente folgt. Inhalt, Struktur und Form werden dabei voneinander getrennt. XML übernimmt den Inhalt und ein XSL Stylesheet sorgt für die richtige Form eines modernen Webdokuments.
Dieser Gedanke der Aufspaltung einer Information in Inhalt und Gestalt ist nun nicht ganz neu:
Die Kultur der Maya besass diese Erkenntniss schon. Wenn am 21. Maerz und 23.September die Schatten der Sonne auf der Pyramide Kukulacan in Chichen Itza eine sich herabwindende Schlange erscheinen lassen, offenbart sich diese Erkenntniss eindrucksvoll. Die eigentlich zu transportierende Botschaft,das XML Dokument, ist hier die Schlange. Die Sonne und die Architektur der Pyramide dienen hierbei als eine Art Stylesheet, welche der Schlange
Form und Struktur geben. Sind nun die Mayas die eigentlichen Gründer des Paradigmas der strukturierten - dokumente ?

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Oral History as XML

Well, I guess that not only the Mayans have invented this strategy of separating form and content. Think about oral history -- the content is handed down through time, but each narrator gives the content a new, original shape. Same with mystic teaching, I'm particularly thinking of Zen-buddhism -- all its texts are nothing but 'worthless' content which has to be given shape by a teacher, like by the abbott of a Zen-monastery and the like. All in all, the strategy of separating content and shape may be one of those basic-structures located deep down in the structure of our minds and of the universe itself, about which Claude Lévi-Strauss spoke ... ;o)

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Thanks for posting your idea, we were already talking of thursday.

I agree with zephyrin, that the mayans are one example for "structurized documents"mayan system. I did already mention, that you could view this as a worldwide system. But it's not structuralism, as zephyrin said. The structure in the structuralism of levi-strauss is containing subconscious patterns, which are influencing our culture. And - at least with levi-strauss - they are worldwide and as far as I know meant to be unchangeable.

Now, this is a different thing now. It's about human communication, about the worldwide capacity of humans to create something, something which contains information, and to create conscious . WE create the structure, WE create the patterns.
Maybe this creation of information always involves content, sctructure and shape. It would be interesting now to prove this assumption, and to build a methodology (inspired by information science) to split information in those parts, and to analyse them. Regardless of which kind the information is: A HTML-Document, a printed book, art, speech, signs etcetera.

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Deep Structures

Lévi-Strauss has ("has" as he's still alive -- and still going strong since ...) the vision that there are structures in the cosmos, which are (partly?) reflected in the structures of our brains -- Humans discover those cosmic structures and put them to good use by creating new structures on the basis of the 'deep structures'. In our case the 'cosmic deep structure' would be the abstract principle of divided content and shape.

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Yes, that could be a possible junction between those ideas.

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