RE: [unrev-II] Semantic Community Web Portal (Formality Harmful)

From: Simon Buckingham Shum (
Date: Mon Sep 17 2001 - 08:18:41 PDT

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    RE: [unrev-II] Semantic Community Web Portal (Formalit

    At 10:48 PM +0200 9/13/01, Gil Regev wrote:
    One of the most troubling aspects that Shipman and Marshall note is the following:
    An example of this interference is McCall's observation that design students have difficulty producing IBIS-style argumentation even though videotapes of their design sessions show that their naturally occurring discussions follow this structure [Fischer et al. 91]. A physiological example of the interference that making tacit knowledge conscious can cause is breathing (also from McCall). When a person is asked to breath normally, their normal breathing will be interrupted. Furthermore, chances are that introspection about what normal breathing means will cause the person's breathing to become abnormal -- exaggeratedly shallow, overly deep, irregular.

    ...I also have rather anecdotal experiences of the same kind. If this is gloabally true than we should avoid creating tools that mimic the way we think. Did you find the same aspect in your research?


    1. <;-> It's not clear to me that we can ever create tools that are fast and flexible enough to *really* mimic the way we think. Hard+Software have got a little way to go yet! </;->

    2. What we *can* create are tools that talk back to us very fast (Schön's "reflection in- and on- action") so that we can see more clearly the inchoate thoughts we're struggling to articulate, or the world that we're modelling.

    3. A key thing is whether we're talking single or multi-user situation. If single user, there's only one cognitive stream to worry about. In collaborative settings, there's a lot more going on cognitively *and* socially, and it's here that early attempts essentially failed in the use of IBIS and derivatives like McCall's PHI (Procedural Hierarchy of Issues), from which that quote is taken. The dynamics are more complex, and people had no training at all - a key point.

    4. There's a "representational literacy" issue here that must be taken seriously: powerful new ways of representing ideas (eg graphically; hypertextually) must be learnt. Fluency takes time to develop.

    5. It's here that facilitation a la Jeff Conklin seems to kick in, coupled with the more disciplined templates and world modelling associated with Compendium, where appropriate. Someone else starts things off, lowering the adoption/literacy threshold. Others may then decide to learn and practise, once they get the bug and experience it themselves. This is how you combine tools that talk back fast with the group setting and get a more coherent, indexed result (in contrast to a whiteboard of scribbles that are deeply meaningful now and to this group, but will fade in the future and be impenetrable to others).

    6. So, to go back to your question, my mission in life *is* still to create cognitive tools, knowing that they'll always be too slow really, but trying to find ways to mirror thought processes and idea trajectories. Take McCall and Shipman's argument seriously, but not so seriously that it discourages you from continuing! They built a lot of cool, influential tools, but with less emphasis on the user training/craft skill aspects that Dialog Mapping etc focuses on, and so never saw sustained adoption.

    7. Doug's H-LAM/T augmentation framework is as relevant as ever: it's the synergy between all these elements that's needed, not just an amazing A, and you don't learn LAM without some T! (H-LAM/T: Humans using Language, Artifacts and Methodology, in which they are Trained)


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