Re: [unrev-II] Towards a DKR - A Recommended Generalized DKR Approach.

From: Bill & Sharon Bearden (
Date: Tue Jan 25 2000 - 08:53:49 PST

From: "Bill & Sharon Bearden" <>

On Context and People Centered Design

Using context in the development of information systems (ISs) is a topic near and dear to my brain. On 1-Jan-2000, I began a
to write a book about what is wrong with current information systems and how upcoming technology (mainly better networks and more
immersive UIs) and "People Centered Design" will enable the development of a system I call "People, Places, and Things". People,
Places and Things (see #1 below) are 3 of the 4 dimensions to my definition of context. The fourth is obviously Time but including
it in the title makes the name less

For years I have worked supporting users in a standard, garden variety Information Systems department. And I developed the usual
"users are stupid" attitude that one gets when working in this environment. But many of my users were actually not stupid. So it
occured to me that maybe the problem was the ISs.

About 3 years ago, I started making notes. Often I have focused on the differences between computers and humans. Perhaps the most
important difference is that people are very good at handling what seems ambiguous. Computer hardware can not deal with ambiguity.
It converts everything to very unambiguous binary.

So how do people do it? Do they just make up information to fill in the holes? Of course not. People can deal with ambiguity
because of shared context. Implications, surroundings, and even the time of day limit the possible meanings of messages and make
them understandable. Our ISs should be at least context freindly.

But true "People Centered Design" requires that we go beyond context and try to understand other aspects of human information
processing. In my second post to this discussion ( I listed a few of these
aspects. One thread goes something like: people make lists of things - people treat lists of things like one thing - therefore,
process must operate on a list of things the same as it would on one thing. Another is: people categorize things - categories of
things are really lists of things - therefore all processes must operate on categories.

But more to the point: people communicate about things - therefore communications must be "context enabled". This is what I call
"Contextful Communications" and it is probably the payoff idea. All forms of communication (real-time or store-and-forward)
irrespective of content (video, audio, text or any combination) are tagged with a context (again that means People, Places and
Things (and time)). Assuming a communications system that is truly integrated with an IS, we have something that
could enhance the productivity of people in organizations. Throw in an immersive UI that pulls all this together and it might even
provide a very positive experience for the user (see #2 below).

My interest in all this is the design of business ISs. For me, that means things like Inventory and Accounts Payable systems. (I
don't know nothing about birthing no knowledge :-) Getting to participate in this discussion has been incredibly enlightening. It
sounds like we may actually get to build something. Maybe today is the day I finally get around to downloading JDK 1.3.

Bill Bearden

#1 - People Places and Things (and time) - People is obvious. Places includes both physical places and processes. Things are data.
All Things operate the same way. Note that People and Places are both types of Things.
#2 - Immersive UI - I recommend Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's book Flow to everyone. In chapter 4 he states that Flow is likely to
occur in activities that bring along with them an alternate reality. I look forward to flow producing ISs.

> From: Rod Welch <>
> To:
> Subject: Re: [unrev-II] Towards a DKR - A Recommended Generalized DKR Approach.
> Date: Monday, January 24, 2000 11:27 PM
From: Rod Welch <>

Roy has done some interesting work on a proposal to NSF for an open
source capability centered on the idea of Context to support Enterprise
Management, which fits the DKR model...


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