Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Using Compendium as a research tool

The below is adapted from an e-mail exchange* with Helga Kocurek, who is doing a PhD in Philosophy at Massey University in New Zealand. She had read our paper on using Compendium for doctoral research, and had some questions on how to use Compendium for her work.

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I am a PhD student in philosophy and the only person around interested in using such technology. I have been looking for a long time for a good way to store/integrate/find again all the various notes I have taken. I have read your paper Hypermedia as a Productivity Tool for Doctoral Research and was wondering if you have learned any more about how to use compendium as a research tool for PhD work. (Or if you know web sources specifically for this purpose. All I have found is business oriented.

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I use Compendium in many ways, as well as help develop it and do research into its use. Is there some specific area(s) that you're interested in for PhD work?

For example, I use it to
- take notes on my readings and analyses
- keep track of tasks and action items
- store notes and maps from meetings
- prepare and give presentations
- query the database for quotations/citations
- mess around in random ways
- construct more formal maps relating concepts in various ways

Let me know what kinds of things you'd like me to expand on.

* * *


The two most important things at the moment are

- take notes on my readings and analyses
- prepare and give presentations

I have pieces of notes everywhere and it's absolute chaos.

I have tried various ways to organize to help my memory and to sort through relationships etc. I haven't found a system I am happy with. Each one seems to require me to keep some pieces somewhere else.

Part of my problem seems to be that the readings are very dense but link to all kinds of other ideas, are replies to this, use these assumptions, etc. Whatever I am doing now is completely inefficient. And all help that comes close is aimed at businesses, projects, etc.

I tracked down this site on Argumentation Schemes, but that seems to be focused rather on scientific or popular arguments based on evidence. I need to be able to find the logical structure, hidden assumptions, etc.

So if you have any ideas, or can point me to resources, I'd be glad.

* * *


First off, it's great you are looking to use Compendium in this way. I think it's a perfect fit.

Having said that, it's a little tough to give you hard and fast examples and pointers -- kind of like trying to advise someone how to write. Although it provides many aids to constructing maps, Compendium is essentially a free-form creative tool that you can use in any way you want (as opposed to a more structured program that prescribes how to do things).

So the way you use it for the purposes you describe is limited, really, only by your imagination. Personally I do all sorts of things, ranging from very informal to very formal. Some use very careful schemes of tags, link/node types, etc.; some are more stream of consciousness. Some evolve from one form to another, or mix up lots of things.

My preferences for using Compendium are for subject matter that falls into a few broad areas (that often overlap with each other): 1) material where the same ideas/concepts/images etc. might be meaningful in many different contexts; 2) material that I am going to reuse in different ways but that I want to keep 'together' in one place; 3) material that I want to put in a searchable repository even if I am not yet sure of the ways I might want to use it; 4) material that is going to be used or shared by groups of people trying to make sense of a situation; 5) material when I want a visual 'picture' instead of, or in addition to, a textual one. There are more areas but those seem like the most relevant to your query.

You could take a look at the examples linked from this page (which was itself generated from my 'PhD' Compendium database), like the items in the Presentations, Literature Notes, and Compendium Experiments sections. You might also get some ideas from http://knowledgeart.blogspot.com. Possibly following some of the links from Simon's Hypermedia Discourse page, or looking at some of the items in the Compendium Institute Showcase. Still another source for ideas would be the OpenLearn Compendium work.

Some other researchers in the Compendium community, like Simon and Mark Aakhus of Rutgers, could have some more ideas. Some of Simon's non-Compendium (or partially Compendium) work in hypermedia tools for scholarly discourse might also be of interest to you (e.g. Claimmaker and the forthcoming Cohere).

* * *


You are correct that I will need to find my own ideal way of using it. But I'd like to startup/general structure ideas. I have already used almost 4 full days researching this. And my PhD advisors don't like that sort of thing at all. They want traditional writing (I showed them a Cmap I made - and there were just blank stares). Since they want writing from me soon, I need to start efficiently and then tweak as I go along. So some questions are

1. Do I do one map for every paper I read?

2. If I compare 2 papers, do I first do 2 separate maps?

3. What I adore about Compendium is transclusion since my main research interest is connections between ideas. Is there a way to indicate which one is the original thought? or at least include a ref to the source?

4. The most important question. Once I put the time into this, how do I get a quick write up from it. The expectation is that I have a short write-up on anything I read. In addition, I need to do a MAJOR presentation at the MAIN philosophy conference for philosophy in the southern hemisphere. I have about 2 months to do that.

In other words, what I would really like help on is how to get started as fast and as efficiently as possible, and (as you have provided already) encouragement that it's worth the initial extra effort.

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> 1. Do I do one map for every paper I read?

That is generally what I do.

> 2. If I compare 2 papers, do I first do 2 separate maps?

I think that is a good practice. That way you can have maps that talk about any ideas you have about the paper on its own, and a map devoted to connections/contrasts etc. between two (or more). As you note below, with transclusions you can keep track of how, say, a quotation appears in the original paper (and any ideas you link to it there), then how the same quotation relates to others from other papers elsewhere. I do that kind of thing frequently.

> 3. What I adore about Compendium is transclusion since my main research
> interest is connections between ideas. Is there a way to indicate which
> one is the original thought? or at least include a ref to the source?

Transclusions are the heart and soul of Compendium, so you've come to the right place :-)

That is a good question about indicating which one is the original. At present there is no official way to indicate the original appearance of a node. However showing reference is easy, that is one of the main purpose of a reference node (especially, though not only, if you can point to a URL; then you can just click on that node to be taken to the original source appearance, which is quite nice). Alternatively you can put bibliographic detail in the contents (Detail) of the node. If you want to indicate which was the map where you first put a node, what I might do is link a Note node to it saying something like "original appearance of this node" or similar. You may not have noticed (and it isn't the greatest implementation yet) but there is a "Linking Info" button on the Views tab of every node, that shows what is linked to that node in each view it appears in. That way you can see at a glance which view had the "original appearance" item linked to the node of interest.

> 4. The most important question. Once I put the time into this, how do I
> get a quick write up from it. The expectation is that I have a short
> write-up on anything I read. In addition, I need to do a MAJOR
> presentation at the MAIN philosophy conference for philosophy in the
> southern hemisphere. I have about 2 months to do that.

Well. That is more a question of style than anything else -- i.e., how/what you write in a node and how you link them. There is no limit on how much text you put in the Detail pages of a node, so in theory you could write a whole paper in a single node (though without much formatting unless you embed HTML tags in the text, as I sometimes do). This approach might also appease your faculty and other interlocutors -- you can point to the "real" paper but also the extras that normal papers don't have -- your notes, connections to other ideas not in the particular paper, etc.

I also will structure some maps so that they follow a conventional outline format, then use them as the seed for a paper/write-up in Word or similar. For me personally, I do most of my writing first in longhand (I find I think better that way), so I don't really use Compendium as a writing source per se. Presentations are a different matter. For those, when I use Compendium as my presentation vehicle (as in, for example, this presentation), I sometimes do a great deal of visual shaping work within Compendium itself to create good presentation appearance and flow. See Maarten Sierhuis's presentation on the Mobile Agents work for another approach, where he uses Powerpoint slides as the background for Compendium maps in his presentations, so that he combines the virtues of both tools.

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thanks for all your advice. At the moment I have one more clarifying question. When you do the mindmap for each paper, you don't just summarize the paper but already evaluate/interpret it and link it to other ideas?

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I lied ;) I have more questions. Can I do a quick summary on the map directly or does everything have to be in some node? What's the best way to indicate that several authors are in the same camp, so to speak? Maybe in a separate map for authors? which then links to the maps of their papers?

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It depends. Sometimes a map is just a place I throw interesting quotations that I might use later; sometimes I do a summary; sometimes I throw in points of connection to other work or related thoughts.

Here is an example of a map where I actually created a summary of sorts. Here is one that has quotes and some thoughts in a more free-form way.

It really depends on what you are making a particular map for -- yourself, others, etc.

> Can I do a quick summary on the map directly or does everything have to
> be in some node?

I'm not sure what you mean by doing it on the map directly. There isn't a good way of typing onto the map background itself at present (though that's an interesting idea). So for now everything has to be in either the Label and/or Detail of one or more nodes.

> What's the best way to indicate that several authors are in the same
> camp, so to speak? Maybe in a separate map for authors? which then links
> to the maps of their papers?

That sounds good :-)

Not to sound like a broken record, but it really depends on the context and what you are trying to do (as well as your own personal preferences / style, as well as any constraints or expectations from others.

I often have maps that contain just a few nodes from a few sources, that are related to each other for some local reason, but those few nodes are transcluded in other places where they might have all sorts of other links. And there are maps that are just little tables of contents (of sorts) to other maps. For example, I have top-level maps for authors that I might have notes on several different works (Dewey, Schon, Aakhus, etc.), that link to individual maps for the different works.

* quoted with permission (thanks Helga).

Early Compendium catchphrases

The other day I passed some time by jotting down a few phrases that we've used over the years about Compendium as an approach. In this post I list some of the early ones, and give some definitions. Most of them are still valid even though they date from our pre-historical age (1992-1999). They include World Modeling, Conversational Modeling, First Be Useful, Value Now, Value Later, Granular Knowledge Reuse, Rapid Knowledge Construction, Representational Morphing, and Collaborative Sensemaking

World Modeling
Approximate birthdate: 1992

Unlike most of the other catchphrases here, which I came up with at one time or another, this one was the brainchild of Maarten Sierhuis and Rob van der Spek. It predates Compendium, though was one of the chief factors in its later emergence. World Modeling describes a framework for modeling work systems, or really any system. It was based on CommonKADS and Yourdon systems modeling, but extended by Maarten and Rob to incorporate ideas about the social dimensions of work systems in addition to the more technical aspects.

World Modeling prescribed four 'quadrants' to characterize a system -- Current Implementation (how the system existed in the real world at present, in all its messy detail), Current Essential (an abstract view of the way things currently work), Future Essential (an abstract view of the target state), and Future Implementation (the way things would really work in the target state). Each quadrant had a defined set of models you could build, such as Knowledge, Process, Timing, Problems, Opportunities, Resources, Communication, Objects, and Organization.

World Modeling has never received the full writeup it deserves (the world is still waiting, Maarten), but there are pieces in many papers, and a decent description here.

Conversational Modeling
Approximate birthdate: 1993

This describes the original idea for what we later called Compendium (Compendium as a name didn't emerge until 1997 or so*). It was a technique that combined elements of group process facilitation (based on IBIS and other approaches), structured modeling (based on World Modeling), and hypermedia repository building, intended for cross-functional teams engaged in work process and systems design. In fact, CM and Compendium were really born when I was messing around with QuestMap in a NYNEX meeting in 1993, and had the thought that its IBIS-based representation could be used as a tool to implement World Modeling.

We wanted to make system modeling something that you could do with non-experts, engaging them directly in the process (we were heavily influenced by ideas about Participatory Design) without them having to learn some arcane set of symbols and techniques. It mainly (at first) consisted of a set of techniques and templates to use with the QuestMap tool.

Conversational Modeling was first documented in a 1993 NYNEX Science & Technology Technical Memo (thanks to Philip Johnson who suggested the TM's creation**) which doesn't live on the web, but most of the ideas can be found here.

First Be Useful
Approximate birthdate: 1994

Compendium was born in a time -- the early 90s -- when the air was full of putatively transformative methods, slogans, and tools. It was the era of Business Process Re-engineering and similar approaches that promised re-invention of the workplace, heightened consciousness, and better communication. Grand claims were made for the application of ethnography, systems dynamics, action workflow modeling, discrete event simulation, and so on.

We were not immune to this, and indeed the original emphasis for Compendium was for BPR and other cross-functional teams engaged in work process design (see Conversational Modeling). But we did see that a lot of the other methods flying around required a huge investment in time, preparation, and expensive professionals before they yielded any benefit, and indeed often the claims as well as results stayed on the theoretical plane.

We wanted to provide something that, in contrast, could provide benefits, if more everyday ones, within the first few minutes of use, by (for example) helping to facilitate a meeting and get people on the same wavelength, capture action items, and start to build models, without any need for elaborate preparation or training. You could just start using it and it would be helpful right away, even if you weren't yet able to do the fancy stuff. So before making the grand claims, First Be Useful even in a humble meeting or planning session.

Value Now, Value Later
Approximate birthdate: 1996

In many ways this catchphrase is related to First Be Useful. But it especially referred to the hypermedia repository dimension of Compendium -- the idea that you were not only building models and representations that would be of use down the road, but also providing facilitative value in the moment -- helping to keep meetings on track, improving dialogue and shared understanding among the participants, and providing a visual focus that everyone could refer to.

The more and better you could employ the techniques we provided, the better able you'd be both to shape maps for immediate usefulness as well as downstream value (such as being able to retrieve information efficiently, track action items and issues over long periods of time, capture and utilize design rationale, and provide data to other tools and systems.

We thought "Value Now, Value Later" would be a compelling marketing-type statement, and maybe it would have been in more marketing-adept hands (for some reason, Compendium has attracted few -- ok, none -- people who are good at marketing).

Granular Knowledge Reuse
Approximate birthdate: 1996

Another idea related to what for me is the true heart and soul of Compendium -- the hypermedia aspect and particularly the idea of transclusion (the same idea/concept/node in multiple views). As described above, from the beginning we thought about building large-scale models of things like work systems, that would involve looking at something like a business process from many viewpoints and perspectives.

For example, we wanted to provide (a la World Modeling) ways to construct models of tasks, processes, knowledge, problems, opportunities, and so forth, in which the same elements (say, a particular person, task, or system) would recur over and over again. The hypermedia functionality let us copy a node from one view (say, a process model) and paste it another (say, a discussion about that process's problems) and have it be the same thing in both places. Even more, we could right-click on that item and see all the views it appeared in. As the overall set of maps got built up, these transclusions would increase in number, and the modeling approach and other techniques we came up with would help you keep track of, and get value from, all those appearances.

For example, we did a project (documented here) that involved constructing hundreds of models of tasks, systems, and processes for a Y2K contingency planning project. There were about 350 systems identified, each represented with their own node, that were transcluded in all the 300+ business processes and tasks they played a role in. Using Compendium techniques, we could quickly see which systems played critical roles in the business processes that could not be allowed to fail in the event of a Y2K problem (such as emergency communications).

Granular Knowledge Reuse was written about here.

Representational Morphing
Approximate birthdate: 1998

The birthdate of this phrase can be traced with precision. It came out of a dinner discussion at a Russian restaurant in Helsinki, Finland, in December 1998, with Simon Buckingham Shum, Michael Bieber, and Janne Kaipala, after a Hypertext Functionality workshop at that year's ICIS conference. We were talking about the kinds of techniques we'd been playing with in the area of Granular Knowledge Reuse (see above), especially some hacking around with QuestMap export files to create MS-Word, Visio, and other documents automatically.

The idea was that, unlike other modeling approaches that you'd have to manually create different sorts of representations from for different communities, we could automate that process so that you only did the manual work once (in Compendium), then could press a button and spit out a requirements document or set of data flow diagrams in another tool. Someone at the table (not sure who it was) described this as "Representational Morphing."

Simon and I wrote about this in a number of subsequent papers, including this one.

Rapid Knowledge Construction
Approximate birthdate: 1999

As we got better and better using the Compendium set of techniques with groups, we got very fast at being able to create templates, models, and other forms of representations, on the fly, with groups, in live settings. As mentioned earlier, we always had the goal of being able to jump into any situation and start adding value as quickly as possible, but doing so in such a way that more formal and structured uses of a group's work could be created and extracted at any point later on. So beyond just capturing a discussion, we also wanted to be able to create "knowledge" representations (structured ways of showing how ideas, concepts, etc. relate to each other) that could be used in structured models, by other systems and tools, and by later, possibly different, groups of people.

We wanted to describe what we'd come up with in a way that fit it into the then-very active Knowledge Management research community, distinguishing the particular contribution we felt (and still feel) we were making, especially since a common criticism of KM techniques was the so-called "capture bottleneck", that Compendium appeared to overcome. Rapid Knowledge Construction seemed a good name for this. It is written about here.

Collaborative Sensemaking
Approximate birthdate: 1999

Sensemaking, as written about by researchers like Karl Weick and Brenda Dervin, was an idea gaining momentum in the late 1990s, though it far predates that time. In fact, a paper by Dervin that I'd read in grad school in 1982 had always stayed in the forefront of my thinking about groups, tools, and communication. As we began the Conversational Modeling and Compendium work, it felt to me that we were making a contribution in the ability of not only individuals but groups to work together to make sense of their problem situation. Collaborative Sensemaking seemed a good way to describe this.

As far as I know, that term had not been used previously to when we first wrote about it here (may not be a live link any more; can also go here), though I have lately seen some new interest in it.

In a future post I'll write about some of the other Compendium catchphrases that came later. But the above now-hoary chestnuts encompass a lot of what we'd been trying to achieve in the early days -- and still.

* In fact, "Compendium" as a name was suggested by my wife Debbie in 1997 or so. It was during a time that Maarten and I were struggling to think of a better name for our approach than "Conversational Modeling," which no one liked (except us). All we had come up with were even worse alternatives, like "HIM" for 'Holistic Information Modeling' or something like that). I was sitting at our dining room table trying to think of something more accessible. I asked Debbie (who is not a computer- or business-type person), who was sitting on a couch across the room, what she thought a good name would be for something that allowed you to create collections of ideas that could be related to each other. She proposed "Compendium", and it stuck.

** It was this TM that convinced Maarten that the Conversational Modeling approach might be viable. Up until then, just hearing me talk about it, he predicted it would fail. Seeing it on paper seemed to make a difference.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Talking about outcomes

I have previously described the experimental sessions I conducted at the 2007 Compendium workshop as well as at Rutgers this spring. I'm currently engaged in analyzing the video and Camtasia (screen/audio capture) recordings of those sessions.

For this analysis, I am not looking at whether the subject practitioners were successful in the facilitated sessions they created and ran, or whether they were able to produce some kind of desired outcome or results. Rather, my purpose is to examine what aesthetic and ethical challenges they faced in the course of their work with the tools, representations, and participants.

The question of "outcomes" is an interesting one. Much research in the use of discourse and facilitation tools is on whether or not using the tool or approach led to better outcomes, such as higher quality solutions or increased participant satisfaction. Such research focuses on data that can be measured and compared to results achieved with some other approach. These are often used to make claims for the relative efficacy of the tool under study.

Personally I'm not interested in making or proving such claims for Compendium's efficacy. Such studies could be of value, but they only look at one (in my mind, rather thin) dimension. To me Compendium as an approach is a given. It exists, like newspapers, jazz recitals, or documentary films. Debating whether these "work" better or worse than other forms of expressive media, whether they are suited to produce particular outcomes, is possibly a worthy area but hardly exhausts the interesting subjects for inquiry. When it comes to Compendium practice, not "why do it?" but "what is it?" seems a far more generative question. What are the unique practices coming out of this particular medium?

But I am, in fact, interested in outcomes. However, they are more the outcomes associated with developing better professional practice -- meaning (as with other fields that deal with the use of an expressive medium) the ability to engage with and understand this medium in relation to its context of use. "Practice" in this sense referring to the art of how the tool can be used, becoming better at that art, understanding what it consists of. This means (as with, for example, a musician) understanding one's instrument better, deepening one's sense of its subtleties and expressive nuances, how to bring these to bear in different situations.

Part of Compendium's appeal to me as a medium is its protean nature, its adaptibility to and flexibility within many different kinds of situations. It's like how a camera can be used to take a myriad of different sorts of photos, or how a guitar or piano can be used in thousands of different musical styles and situations. We don't generally measure the "outcome" of a photo, even though they are used in countless "instrumental" circumtances, as are other commonplace media -- video, hand-drawn cartoons, instant messages... there isn't, and doesn't need to be, any unitary way of to think about these media forms and what they're good for. Rather one speaks of learning to be a better writer or a better photographer in particular ways, techniques, and situations.

It seems to me that it's situational effectiveness that matters. How well is a person able to use a medium in a particular situation. For professional development, what matters is how a practitioner deepens their effectiveness with the medium, especially its expressive aspects.

So in my analysis of the Rutgers and Ames sessions, I'm looking for how the subjects try to get the medium to be expressive, to be the right kind of expressive for a particular situation, what kinds of things get in the way of that expressiveness (or the "expressiveness potential", how good the medium could be if perfectly/artistically used), what strategies and inspirational moves, as well as breakdowns, are experienced in the course of the effort of trying to make a useful and usable artifact. Those are the kinds of outcomes I'm interested in.

Some of the questions this gives rise to:
- what would be the perfect artifact (representation, speech, etc.) to be used in this situation?
- what aspects of representation, tool functionality, verbalization would make the artifact be what is envisioned or called for?

These kinds of questions can be applied to any other medium used in a group constructive setting. No choice of a medium or approach in and of itself can ever be reliably counted on to bring about some kind of outcome -- there are too many variables. It always comes down to a combination of human skill and fortuitousness. Nearly any medium or approach, used the right way and accompanied by effective communication in other forms (speech, etc.) can be "right" in a given situation. Techniques and methods can always be presented as obvious or as givens, but any applied technique invariably requires human selection and shaping. It's the human shaping that I am choosing to focus on. Once the medium has been chosen (in my case, that medium is Compendium, but it could be any other expressive medium), how do people try to make it "work" in the situation?

I've always been interested in the problem of improving the quality of human communication -- how to help people understand each other as well as express themselves better (particularly in group settings). That's what attracted me to Compendium's forebears (especially QuestMap and IBIS) in the first place. They seemed to hold out the promise of providing a set of tools that could improve human communication. I still believe they do. But I also know that they don't -- can't -- do it on their own. Using the tools always either founders or succeeds on the human skill and artistry in applying them.

That effectiveness has to be understood in terms of situational imperatives. If, for example (as in the case of the Mobile Agents work), the situation requires rendering Compendium maps in a form that is both "machine readable" as well as an accurate and evocative conversational record that human teams can use, that means one set of demands on practitioner, tool, and representation. In simpler situations, the demands and imperatives are less multidimensional.

In the Rutgers and Ames videos, the groups were all trying to put together a facilitative Compendium exercise using pre-supplied images of space travel, with 60-90 minutes to design the exercise, then 15 minutes to facilitate the exercise itself with the larger group. Each group tries different approaches, strategies, and techniques, and encounters different kinds of obstacles and challenges. Every case is unique even though the task and materials are the same. That's what my analysis will focus on -- what was each group trying to do, what outcomes did they intend to bring about, how did they intend to use the tool, what shaping did they put in place in advance; then what happened in the actual event, what diverged from their intentions, how did they try to accommodate and adjust.

The interesting question is, given this set of imperatives, how does the practitioner act to keep the representation in tune with the demands? What must they do, what are they able to do, even what do they fail to do?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Research goals, part 2

More on swinging the research lens from the software, representations, or outcomes to the person behind the tools.

My research arises from and ends in practice. After working with dozens of groups using Compendium (and occasionally other media) throughout the 1990s, as well as conducting many training sessions for new practitioners, I wanted to try to bring into focus what goes on in actual situations of practice, in the application of intention, methods, tools, and skills in service of a collective effort. What do practitioners do when trying to solve the problem of communication among a group of people, especially when they are grappling with the intersection of complex technologies, problems, and processes, trying to make sense of the situation (and each other) while putting together some sort of representation or solution -- a diagram, a model, a set of decisions, a document, a continuing record of issues and deliberations -- or all of the above.

People engaged in that kind of practice, especially if they are the ones riding herd on the tools and representations, labor to keep them coherent, expressive, and useful. They make all sorts of moves and choices, the nature of which have to do with the situation, what they're trying to achieve, their facility with the tool, their representational preferences and abilities, their constraints. But especially in the case of using representational software like Compendium, these choices, moves, and skills are largely taken for granted or assumed as a given. As this thinking goes, either you have them (you're an "expert" or a "wizard") or you don't. If you don't, the tool becomes an "obstacle", the focus goes on its "user-friendliness" or the feature set it may or may not have, its comparison to other tools that can do the job easier or better. But I want to move the focus to the left, to the person behind the camera, to the ways they use the tool and what it can/can't do rather than to the tool itself.

In the arts and humanities, the focus is rarely on the tool(s) per se (paints, films, cameras, etc.) and what they can or can't do in some deterministic way. There is no guarantee that if you use a Panaflex camera you'll be able to make The Sugarland Express (or Scary Movie 4, for that matter). Rather the emphasis is on the way the artist/practitioner makes use of the medium in service of their intentions as well as the encounter of the audience with the finished work.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Research goals

For me, Compendium is not about authoring stand-alone documents as fixed, unchanging artifacts (though it can certainly be used that way), but rather about creating and managing malleable, queryable collections of symbols, images, texts, and relationships.

This type of artifact is sometimes called a "living document," but that still sounds too static and unitary to characterize what a Compendium database can be. Certainly living, but more than a single document. Rather, a collection, a trove, or -- as we originally meant by calling it "Compendium" -- a compendium, a compilation of what's important to a group of people engaged in some sort of ongoing effort.

These collections live in media -- specifically hypermedia, with all of the communicative and technical connections that the term implies. So Compendium as a tool and approach is about creating and managing hypermedia compendia, keeping them coherent, accessible, expressive, and useful.

My research focuses on the practices involved in creating these living media artifacts, especially in the case of doing so in real time, with groups of people. What is brought to bear at moments when people are trying to shape a Compendium artifact and keep it clear, effective, data-rich and meaning-rich, subject to later manipulation, or any of the other imperatives that can guide the artifact's construction, given the context?

These feel to me like critical skills that we are just beginning to recognize and see the importance of. I'd like for my research to accelerate that movement by finding ways to talk about what goes on at such moments, to help give language to and tools for understanding, communicating about, and improving the practices. It's foundational work in that sense, because there is little* in the research and practical literature, so far, that directly addresses the skills involved in constructing living hypermedia on the fly with groups of people.

My own research roots are in the humanities, film, and communication studies rather than in computer science, argumentation, group facilitation, or the other usual hypermedia suspects. I've always been interested in the shaping of expressive artifacts like films or novels, and in the interactions of audiences with the works. Particularly I became interested with what thinking directly about the audience meant for the ethical and aesthetic aspects of filmmaking, especially when a film was meant to serve some sort of social purpose (e.g. Latin American emancipatory filmmaking of the 1970s, or documentaries meant to raise consciousness and spur action on some issue).

When Compendium gelled in the early 1990s (first as a facilitative modeling approach building on top of QuestMap and IBIS, and later as a set of dedicated software tools and methods), these concerns were highlighted for me in the interaction of "audience" (the participants in some effort using Compendium) and "practitioner" (the person with their hands on the mouse and keyboard helping to shape maps on the fly, in meetings).

Although the situation is in some ways very different than for films or novels, in other ways the same sorts of aesthetic and ethical considerations can be found. There are contextual factors and constraints that guide what can and should be done, there are a particular set of people involved with their own personal interests and communicative interactions, there is a tool that is used to create the representations and expressions, there is the evolving representation (the maps) itself, there is the discussion that happens between participants, whether directly concerned with the maps, partially, or not at all, and there are the choices and moves that the practitioner(s) (the ones directly concerned with the shaping of the maps) make as they try to keep the maps coherent and expressive as well as to respond to what is going on in the session (among the people involved) around them.

It's those choices and moves that my current research is focusing on. I've been analyzing video recordings of Compendium sessions, looking at practitioner moves in the context of what they and their participants are trying to do, particularly focusing on moves made within the Compendium maps themselves and what they mean. In future entries I'll write more specifically about what I'm seeing in this analysis and what it might mean for Compendium specifically, and "knowledge art" practice more generally.

* There is plenty of literature in related fields that is extremely helpful, some of which I cover in my lit review, but very little that talks directly about participatory hypermedia practices. The work of Jeff Conklin, Simon Buckingham Shum, and others close to Compendium's evolution, are exceptions.