Sea of thoughts
The computer currently gives us three advantages - the advantages of computing power, information storage and global connectivity. But as yet, the computer has not extended our intellect. It has not made man smarter.
Bjørn Tennøe. FMH/ Design Fiction
|the new extension of mind
Our society is developing, and there has been and will be many shifts in the way people spend their working day. In what way changes the outcome of the work people do?
abstraction of work tasks
Let us assume that the trend of abstraction in work tasks and work output continues. Clearly, if the development of the information society sustains (as assumed in the FMH scenarios), it's a fact as good as any. This logically leads to the hypothesis that work tasks, output and even assignments will become more abstract. Thus, workers may receive such tasks as contemplating over subjective feelings or to make philosophical discussions over a freely chosen subject. Most white-collar workers will be educated somehow in what they do, and that they themselves view the output of their work as concrete - a report, an analysis, a passing or a sorting of information.
But our mind is not made for manipulating abstracts. Discussions and group work become tough when the goals are not set and the form of the end result is unknown. We have a better time off thinking about physical objects or familiar and experienced situations. A further abstraction of our workday therefore creates a demand for a new illustration tool - to make our thoughts, opinions, ideas and concepts viewable and discussible. This illustration tool might very well be a computer application.
Likewise, understanding concept others have developed and searching for and arranging information are tasks that would benefit from better visualisation. Imagine how much easier classes would become if the teacher's words and ideas were continuously illustrated as he or she spoke. And what if the pupils could reach out and change the illustration, seeing it from a different perspective, add their thought and comments to it. What if they even could bring it home to their parents, to show how they learned and discussed at the school today.
emerging collaborative tools
When the work tasks become more abstract it is also apparent that people need to work together, both because one must share knowledge between professions and because of the individuals' diversity.
new tools through innovation and new technology
Up to now, though, the set-ups of these tools have been very demanding on physical and financial resources. The meetings are arranged in special rooms, and effective real-time collaboration with other groups can only happen if they too are situated in a similar room . But as the need for effective groupwork and idea sharing is more clearly expressed, tools for the similar need will be accessible to everybody. Clearly it would be a critical step forward if attending these meetings could be done regardless of location and physical set-ups.
The vision, therefore, is to create (outlines for) a tool that:
visualises our ideas
Tied to this application must be modules, possibly from an operating system, that:
All applications are server-driven supporting wearable devices entity building - wandering in landscapes - illustrating thoughts
The application is supposed to build an illustration that describes a concept or idea and our opinions about it. The application tries to break up and organise the content of the discussion. It will seek to make a hierarchical structure where main outlines open up to display more subtle details. Whatever we create with this application it will be fragmented, so that it can be rearranged and so that small pieces can be identified and annotated. This makes the result quite different from what we expect from a classical document, which has a narration built into it. We return to this topic in the paragraph document generation.
The illustration contains all kinds of media elements. The media elements can easily be imported, but equally important is the creation of elements inside the application.
Words make up the fundament of the system. Our words. Whatever we relate and associate to a subject or idea. Between these words are relations, connecting the word together in a theoretically infinitely complex web. Through this application, though, the structure of the web must become comprehensible.
People have different views and thoughts. Their views of the expressed ideas are different too. The Sea of Thought remembers the peoples' views. A view describes a relation between entities - arrangements fluctuate but are not random. People can grab entities and move them. This creates the landscapes. New landscapes describing different aspects of the subject.
case study: travel planning (illustrated in the video)
|identification of the two major problems
Relations between words and entities should be generated smoothly, so that when the user speaks about or points at a relation, this relation should visualise by itself in the user interface. Thus the application must have some recognition technology to understand the syntax of the users' language.
working environment, co-operation and level of submersion
When sufficient information has been given to the system, and the total concept is built, the landscape has been shaped. As previously mentioned, the concept is modular, giving it a different nature than documents. It is no predefined beginning or end, no narration, no storyline. In most cases such a document is the desired format of the work output, and so a document has to be created.
The application as a presentation tool - Preparation of presentations - Characteristics of the presentation
submission of information to search systems
All information stored digitally must have some kind of format - in this case, a database structure is needed. A document derived from an abstract landscape will be extremely suitable for search system registration. If the documents of the net would have such headers, not only would it be possible finding documents of all kinds about particular subjects - searching for documents with a specific viewpoint would also be possible.
accessibility for all
The abstract landscape also makes an excellent reference for applications that deal with translation, either to other languages or other media formats.
visual programming languages
Visual programming languages like Director and Max provides the iconisation of ideas. At least Max is also zoomable - one icon can contain more icons of the same kind. But they can only build applications - their intention is not to let ideas grow.
Thinkmap from Plumbdesign is an experimental thesaurus browser. The words float in a space, continuously moving, almost as if they were floating in a body of calm water. Words with relations are connected together by lines. The application is written in Java and is viewable through a modern browser.
how to move forward?
This project is not straightforward to illustrate. Although the relation generation will be tough to program, it can be faked for the exhibition in May. Therefore the entity generation seems the most difficult problem to solve. It will be difficult to find icons and graphics good enough to give the user a real idea about how the application would behave in real life.