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TAIS Orienting

by Ken Manheimer last modified Aug 06, 2011 12:55 PM
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my aim with Turning Answers Into Stories is to provide for connecting details within multiple contexts, and provide the means to navigate and operate on the details oriented according to particular contexts - being able to identify and navigate contexts, as well as details, as needs be. (see the TAIS Principles orienting section for more about the motives.)

centralized mechanisms like automated indexing and search engines provide means to find specific things within into vast collections, but do not help for getting oriented within the collections in an extensive way - for finding your way around the neighborhood once you're there. living with only links and searches is like living in a science fiction world where every room is connected to every other by transporters. there is little or no cue to immediate context - no neighborhoods, no landscape . this is unfortunate, because it is by contextually situated details that people get familiar with a subject, not by collections of disjointed details, alone.

pages and sites provide some contextual cohesion. even sites, however, tend to be spaghetti-like organizations. pages, on the other hand, provide organization of details within the context of a single story, whereas most details fit many stories.

searching and other categorization methods can provide virtual "neighborhoods" - collections of items related by some classification criteria (eg, the search query). those classification neighborhoods, however, do not bear regular relationships with one another - they are not relatively situated within a world of progressively scaled contexts. thus, the interconnecting world is infinitely fragmented and mostly incoherent - there are no extensive, even remotely stable landscapes that can be navigated and become familiar.

search results are useful to the degree that they satisfy the gap in the internal story motivating the searcher's query. that internal story could be useful as context for other searchers if the connections could be expressed and preserved. given the unlimited scale in the amount of knowledge being communicated, however, how can we hope to keep pace with contextual organization? wouldn't that burden the processes of production?

one response is to look at the processes by which individuals connect details, and support those processes, providing the means for collaboration based on and around them. production, searching, and discovery of information express connections which can be utilized. (see wiki parenting for an example which gets me thinking along these lines.) information production and discovery involves navigation and association. preserving these connections can be supported and utilized in ways that inform both the users and the content.

when people are describing details, they are often best supported by having a pertinent context in which to situate the details. at some points that place might be an initial "scratch sheet", eg for brainstorming, or some other minimally organized receptacle - but it is still a place, and it is probably a place in some sort of context, eg "tuesday's raw requirements gathering session". as stories develop, the various shapes in various perspectives coalesce, and support continued development and discovery. the system can both support and benefit from that.

this suggests that details tend to belong in multiple stories. people navigate to details for different reasons and/or via different routes, and those differences may represent different but related contexts for the details.

discovery is fostered by both convergence, recognizing and instituting the common avenues to arrive at a detail, and also alternation, acknowledging the various ways that the detail is used and useful, and making it available via those distinct avenues.

production is no different. different people working on a story come from different concerns - eg, in an institutional endeavor, marketing versus development versus human-interest versus maintenance operations - and have different perspectives on the contexts and significant features of the same details.

the crucial thing is that both producers and consumers arrive at the details in context, and so context is valuable both to production and discovery of the connections by which knowledge is embodied in information.

this is similar to the problem with dramatic characterization that is too superficial - it is viscerally hollow and unconvincing



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