Archive for December, 2006


hypertext as spacial

December 26, 2006

From”hypertext city”:
About spatiality of hypertext…that might be of interest in new augmented reality spaces.

As a conceptual framework, Hypertext provides a specific means of configuring issues surrounding the confrontation of cyberspace and the city. Hypertext is the mode of writing that articulates the sociality of the network, that promises democratization and the empowerment of the individual, and that rearticulates themes that writing and the city have been seen to share: in the construction of memory, in the relation between movement and the subject, and in the production of space through abstraction and narrative.

How is hypertext spatial?

In a certain sense, hypertext does not seem spatial at all, at least not in three dimensions. It is not meant to be anything other than text on the screen, and it shares two-dimensional design issues (eg: typography) with word-processing programs, the history of which can be traced from manuscript production to the printed book. Unlike word-processing, however, where the computer is fundamentally being used as typewriter, and where the ultimate product is meant to be a printed document, hypertext applications are meant for computer display only. The monitor display often appears as a number of overlapping boxes, similar to any display of more than one open document. The fundamental unit of text in hypertext has been called a writing space (by Bolter), but other theorists of the medium call it a lexia, borrowing the term from Roland Barthes. The writing space itself appears as a “box” both literally and metaphorically. It is a variable sized rectangle, which generally resizes text to fit its proportions, and serves the function of boxes: to store and make retreivable its contents within a generic and neutral container. The writing space can also be thought of as a “room”.
hypertext city

The way in which hypertext differs more radically from printed text is through “links”. The spaces, or fragments of text within them, can be linked to other bits of text, and these links can be followed through some simple means such as double-clicking on the mouse. The links are established by the author / reader, and remain attached to the text, even when it is moved around. The experience of this instanteous movement is what makes hypertext more convincingly spatial and provides the basis for the metaphor of navigation within the space of the whole document. Reading is transformed into itinerary, with landmarks, and intersecting paths.

From Peter Brusliovsky

We have developed the KnowledgeSea system to help the user navigate from lectures to relevant tutorial pages and between them.

The core of KnowledgeSea is a two-dimensional map of educational resources (Figure 1). Each cell of the map is used to group together a set of educational resources. The map is organized in a way that resources (Web pages) that are semantically related are close to each other on the map. Resources located in the same cell are considered very similar. Resources located in directly connected cells are reasonably similar, and so on. The map is built using a neural network technology described in the next section. Each cell displays a set of keywords that helps the user locate the relevant section on the map. A cell also displays links to �critical� resources located in this cell. Critical resources are those under user consideration, which thereby serve as origin points for horizontal navigation.

Spatial hypertexts allow the user to express the relationships and context of the information in a more flexible way than traditional linking mechanisms. In spatial hypertexts the relationship between pieces of information is expressed by using their relative location in a two-dimensional space. A clear advantage of this kind of hypertext is the possibility of expressing constructive ambiguity, which allows the user to create weak links between two pieces of information placing them near but not quite next to each other. Two nodes very close are otherwise linked in the strongest way. Another important advantage of spatial hypertext is that user navigation can be supported by visual memory and pattern recognition.


Blogs in education

December 24, 2006

Ways in which blogs are being used in K-12 classrooms include:
responding to the teacher’s assignments,
improving writing and keyboarding skills,
studying together,
staying connected with students through the internet, and
finding controversial and debated subjects for classroom discussion

These areas of application do not utlise the specific features blogs offer, but see only the affordances that are similar to forums.


BBC space – social networking space

December 24, 2006

The BBC’s low-tech KM
By David Weinberger

Major organisations like the BBC have implemented social networking to connect together like minded people in their organisation and to facilitate collaboration.

When the BBC gave Semple the job, they expected him to spec out a big, expensive IT-based KM system. “But,” he says, “my view is that we’re a network-based, conversational type of business. I realized the best way to go was beneath the radar.”

The first tool that he installed was a bulletin board called “Talk.Gateway.
But the board wouldn’t have taken off if it were restricted to the dry discussions of pure business.
The board has entered the daily life of BBC employees because it’s fun and interesting as well as useful. That’s a good thing to remember when your own company is worrying that its e-mail or bulletin board or blogs may sometimes go “off topic.” Good! Then maybe someone will read them.The board also generates knowledge.

Semple’s next project was a “people finder” called Connect that lets people state their skills, background and interests.
But Connect isn’t just an expert finder; it also enables people to form interest groups.

Then about two years ago, Semple put in a blogging server.
About 70 blogs with 150 people writing for them,” he says. Some are individual, some are linked into communities and a couple of engineering groups are using them for passing information between shifts.

Semple is also getting the BBC used to wikis. About 500 people are using them, with controlled access, to do things such as write procedural documentation.

As he’s learned, it doesn’t require a lot of tech or a huge budget. Mainly it requires letting people find one another and talk.


3 blog community paradigms

December 24, 2006

Blogs and Community – launching a new paradigm for online community?
By Nancy White

blog based community shows up in three main patterns with a wide variety of hybrid forms emerging between the three. The Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community, the Central Connecting Topic Community and the Boundaried Community.
The Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community

…readers begin returning to early bloggers’ sites, commenting and getting to know not only the blogger, but the community of commentors. The one blog is owned by one owner or organisation. There may be more than one blogger writing in a blog, but this is not an aggregation of blogs.
There is little opportunity for members to change, add to or adapt the environment.

The central identities of these communities are the blog owners. Their identities are the best known in the community. The commentors’ identities might emerge over time, but more likely, as commentors get to know each other, they share their personal details via private email, instant messaging and other forms of ‘backchannel’.

David Wilcox of Designing for Civil Society notes that ‘…blogs are personally defined spaces’, (D.Wilcox, 2006, pers. comm., 26 August)
This is quite different to a traditional online community where purpose brings people together and relationship and identity unfold over time, within the context of that purpose and not through a focus on an individual.

The power in this community is firmly in the central blogger’s control. The blog owner can set the rules and norms of engagement. There is no expectation of democracy, although when bloggers close or remove comments, cries of ‘censorship’ still ring out. But there is no obligation on the blogger to either provide the option for comments, nor to allow all comments. That said, when comments are restricted or not allowed, there can be no visible manifestation of community on the site.

From a subject matter perspective, single blog centric communities are almost broadcast-like, with the central blogger setting the conversational topic. Commentors can respond, or go away, but unless they develop an influential relationship with the central blogger, they can’t control the topic.

Key commentors attracting their own set of readers in comments may be moved to create their own blogs. Or they may attract members to their existing blogs. Other commentors may add these other blogs to their daily reading, or shift entirely to the new blog. Links between the spin off blogs may show up in blogrolls, keeping a loose tie to the original blog, and forming a Central Connecting Topic Community

Central Connecting Topic Centric blog community is a network formation
They may be far less interested in positioning themselves, as they are in the topic they blog about. As these grow, they are more network like than community like. Communities form within the network as people find more specific niches and interests.
Beyond the visible membership of linked blogs is the wider and mostly invisible network of readers.
In topic centric communities both power and identity is distributed across the community. The existence of the community does not rise or fall on one blog.
Identity is manifest through the relevance, quality or amount of enjoyment a post provides to others.
Topic centric communities have no single technological platform, with each blogger selecting their own tool. What links them is hyperlinks, in the form of blogrolls, links to other blogs within blog posts, tagging, aggregated feeds (using RSS), trackbacks and comments.
Having a shared tag, a key word that bloggers can attach to their individual posts, can mark a post as relevant to a community.
Tools that aggregate posts from blogs or even tagged posts can blur the boundaries of each individual blog, creating what appears to be a unified collection of posts, assembled on the fly as individual bloggers add posts.

Boundaried communities are collections of blogs and blog readers hosted on a single site or platform.
Typically members register and ‘join’ the community and are offered the chance to create a blog. This boundary makes them the closest form to traditional forum based communities.
Often these communities have other tools such as discussion boards, social networking features, wikis and instant messaging built in. The blogs are part of the overall ecosystem. There is less emphasis on RSS and cross linking because those features are built into the technology in other ways. Because they are within a defined boundary, bloggers can see and easily access other blogs. They can, if they wish, link but mostly within this closed system and they seem to link less often outside of the community.

The blogger has more control of the message than in a discussion board. They control the pacing by their own frequency of posting. The blogs are their more personal part of the site with pictures and reflections, whereas the discussions are the centre of information exchange and daily ‘chit chat’.

Power in boundaried communities is held in part by the ‘owner’ of the platform who can impose rules on the community, but power is exercised by bloggers in three typical ways.
The first is frequency of posting.
The second is popularity or interest as measured by how many comments a blogger gets.
The third is when there are social networking tools associated with the blog that help visualise relationship. These are often tools which allow you to add people as ‘friends’ or have them in your ‘neighbourhood’. This then makes their blog posts more visible on your blog and convey a sense of ‘who likes or is associated with whom’.

Bloggers who are concerned with popularity and the number of hits they get will blog to attract readers. They will write in styles and with content that captures attention which may or may not nurture relationship. Bloggers who are concerned about community may create posts that have more ‘insider language’ which may be less attractive to casual readers from the outside.

If you click on the tag ‘blog_communities‘ it quickly becomes clear that this is a topic that many are thinking about and working on.

Some more about acting in blogs as a community:

A blog network that directly exposes its members to the general public without creating a sense of camaraderie between them cannot make it work.
A blog network is basically like a team, they work together for a common set of goals.
So, how does one build bridges between its members?
Get to Know Your Teammates
Support your Teammates
help them out with their theme customizations, plug-ins, etc.
Another simple thing you can do is to visit his/her blog.
RSS feeds viewer may be convenient but it doesn’t show that “much” support for the author.
If you feel the need to say something, be sure to leave a message at the comments section. This gives a feeling to the author that someone is actually reading his/her entries.
It will encourage him/her to write more stuff that will attract the visitors.
If need be, Spread your Teammates’ Words
Evangelize. Link to your teammate and to the blog network as well.
Do not plagiarize; give proper credit where it is due.
You became a member of a network because you have the ability to write, not echoing

From David Wilcox “Move beyond blogging – start buzzing”
More strategies in communities

Get them passionate (and close) to your cause … Share their passion.
Your role is to create a buzz around your cause…


Self-Organization and the Semiotics of Evolutionary Systems

December 22, 2006

Selected Self-Organization and the Semiotics of Evolutionary Systems
In: Evolutionary Systems: Biological and Epistemological Perspectives on Selection and Self-Organization. S.Salthe, G. Van de Vijver, and M. Delpos (eds.). Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 341-358, 1998.

Heinz von Foerster [1965, 1969, 1977] equated the ability of an organization to classify its environment with the notion of eigenbehavior. He postulated the existence of some stable structures (eigenvalues) which are maintained in the operations of an organization’s dynamics.

Ontologically, Eigenvalues and objects, and likewise, ontogenetically, stable behavior and the manifestation of a subject’s ‘grasp’ of an object cannot be distinguished.” [von Foerster, 1977, page 280].

Eigenbehavior is thus used to define the behavior of autonomous, cognitive systems, which through the closure (self-referential recursion) of the sensory-motor interactions in their nervous systems, give rise to perceptual regularities as objects [Varela, 1979, chapter 13].

Eigenvalues are discrete representations of observables maintained by the successive cognitive operations of a cognitive agent.

Any system, cognitive or biological, which is able to relate internally, self-organized, stable structures (eigenvalues) to constant aspects of its own interaction with an environment can be said to observe eigenbehavior.

Such systems are defined as organizationally closed because their stable internal states can only defined in terms of the overall dynamic structure that supports them. Organizationally closed systems are also informationally open [Pask, 1992], since they have the ability to classify their constructed environment in what might be referred to as emergent representation.

The crux of the constructivist position: in the theory of organizationally closed systems, not all possible distinctions in some environment can be “grasped” by the autonomous system: it can only classify those aspects of its environment/sensory-motor/cognitive interaction which result in the maintenance of some internally stable state or attractor (eigenvalue).In other words, not everything “out there” is accessible; only those things that a particular physiology can construct with the stabilities of its own dynamics are.

Cognitive science used to be traditionally concerned solely with those aspects of cognitive representation which can be described as symbolic. In other words, it was concerned with the semantic relation between cognitive categories and their environmental counterparts through some direct representational relation (intentionalty), without taking into account any sort of material or internal organizational constraints: real-world categories directly represented by discrete symbols which could be freely manipulated.
The connectionist, emergent, or self- organizing paradigm: cognitive systems are defined as those systems capable of self-organizing their components into discrete basins of attraction used to discriminate the environment they are able to construct.

Self-organization is the spontaneous formation of well organized structures, patterns, or behaviors, from random initial conditions. The systems used to study this phenomenon are referred to as dynamical systems: state-determined systems. They possess a large number of elements or variables, and thus very large state spaces. However, when started with some initial conditions they tend to converge to small areas of this space (attractor basins) which can be interpreted as a form of self-organization.

A given dynamic system is always bound to the complexity its attractor landscape allows.

Foerster formalized the idea that memory can be observed in systems which are able to change their own structure and therefore its dynamics and attractor behavior. Today, we name this kind of memory distributed, and the kind of models of memory so attained as connectionist.

For a self-organizing system to be informationally open, that is, for it to be able to classify its own interaction with an environment, it must be able to change its structure, and subsequently its attractor basins, explicitly or implicitly.

Those self-organizing systems which are able to perform the task are thus externally selected by the environment to which they are structurally coupled.

This form of situated, embodied, self-organization can be referred to as distributed memory selected self-organization.

Eigenvalues or attractors represent the building blocks of any system capable of discriminating its environment through some thus embodied construction. However, eigenbehavior (emergent representation) and its variety increase needs a structural coupling of these eigenvalues with some externally selective environment.


Medina-Martins, Pedro R. and Luis Rocha [1992].”The in and the out: an evolutionary approach.” In: Cybernetics and Systems Research ’92. Robert Trappl. World Scientific Press. pp 681-689.
Maturana, H., and F. Varela [1987]. The Tree of Knowledge. New Science Library
von Foerster, Heinz [1960].”On self-organizing systems and their environments.” In: Self-Organizing Systems. M.C. Yovits and S. Cameron. Pergamon Press, pp. 31-50.
von Foerster, Heinz [1965].”Memory Without Record.” In: Anatomy of Memory. D.P. Kimble (Ed.). Science and Behavior Books. pp. 388-433.
von Foerster, Heinz [1969].”What is memory that it may have hindsight and foresight as well?.” In: The Future of The Brain Sciences. Samuel Bogoch (Ed.). Plenum Press. pp. 19-65 and 89-95.
von Foerster, Heinz [1977].”Objects: tokens for (eigen-)behaviors.” In: Hommage a Jean Piaget: Epistemologie Genetique et Equilibration. B. Inhelder, R. Gracia, and J. Voneche (Eds). Delachaux et Niestel.
Varela, Francisco [1979]. Principles of Biological Autonomy. Elsevier North Holland.
Varela, Francisco, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch [1991]. The Embodied. MIT Press.


learning ecology

December 22, 2006

From:Georg Siemens

Instead of designing instruction (which we assume will lead to learning), we should be focusing on designing ecologies in which learners can forage for knowledge, information, and derive meaning. What’s the difference between a course and an ecology? A course, as mentioned is static – a frozen representation of knowledge at a certain time. An ecology is dynamic, rich, and continually evolving. The entire system reacts to changes – internal or external. An ecology gives the learner control – allowing her to acquire and explore areas based on self-selected objectives. The designer of the ecology may still include learning objectives, but they will be implicit rather than explicit.

What does this “learning ecology” look like? First, it holds “content” in a manner similar to courses, but the content is not confined and pre-selected by the designer. Instead, the ecology fosters connections to original and knowledge sources, allowing for “currency” (up to date). The ecology fosters rich interaction between disparate fields of information, allowing growth and adaptation of ideas and concepts (i.e. “the verge”). Each participant in the ecology pursues his/her own objectives, but within the organized domain of the knowledge of a particular field (after all, some form of learner competence should emerge as a result of existing in the ecology). Nodes (content and people) and connections are the basic elements of a network. An ecology should permit these networks to develop and flourish without hindrance.

From:Georg Siemens
Learning Ecology, Communities, and Networks: Extending the classroom

In order for learning institutions to be relevant in an era of life-long learning, they must move past the concept of start/stop learning. Learning is fluid. It impacts other areas of work and life. It’s ongoing. Courses are start/stop. As stated previously, a course is an artificial construct, erected at the start of the term, that assumes to provide learners with the information and knowledge they need…and is torn down twelve weeks later.

An ecology is an environment that fosters and supports the creation of communities. The definition applied to gardening applies well to learning communities: ““Ecological gardening is about gardening with nature, not against it.” A learning ecology is an environment that is consistent with (not antagonistic to) how learners learn. John Seely Brown has written extensively on the concept of a knowledge ecology. He defines an ecology as an open system, dynamic and interdependent, diverse, partially self organizing, adaptive, and fragile. This concept is then extended to include the following characteristics of a learning ecology:

A collection of overlapping communities of interest
Cross pollinating with each other
Constantly evolving
Largely self organizing
Learning ecologies can certainly exceed the characteristics presented by Brown. In more formal education environments, the concept of self organizing gives way to a more structured process for knowledge transmission. The Instructor plays the role of gardener.

Within an ecology, a knowledge sharing environment should have the following components:
Informal, not structured. The system should not define the learning and discussion that happens. The system should be flexible enough to allow participants to create according to their needs.
Tool-rich – many opportunities for users to dialogue and connect.
Consistency and time. New communities, projects and ideas start with much hype and promotion…and then slowly fade. To create a knowledge sharing ecology, participants need to see a consistently evolving environment.
Trust. High, social contact (face to face or online) is needed to foster a sense of trust and comfort. Secure and safe environments are critical for trust to develop.
Simplicity. Other characteristics need to be balanced with the need for simplicity. Great ideas fail because of complexity. Simple, social approaches work most effectively. The selection of tools and the creation of the community structure should reflect this need for simplicity.
Decentralized, fostered, connected…as compared to centralized, managed, and isolated.
High tolerance for experimentation and failure

Virtual and physical communities share many similar traits:
A gathering place for diverse people to meet
Nurturing place for learning and developing
A growing place – allowing members to try new ideas and concepts in a safe environment
Integrated. As an ecology, activities ripple across the domain. Knowledge in one area filters to another. Courses as a stand alone unit often do not have this transference.
Connected. People, resources, and ideas are connected and accessible across the community.
Symbiotic. A connection that is beneficial to all members of the community…needed in order for the community to survive.

A network consists of two or more nodes linked in order to share resources.
A node is a connection point to a larger network.
Learning communities are nodes.
Courses need to be redesigned to reflect networked economy.
A network, in the context of an ecology and communities, is how we organize our learning communities…resulting in a personal learning network.


Networking strategy – how to get traffic

December 22, 2006


I started watching which posts brought the most traffic, and unsurprisingly it was the ones that told readers in advance what they were going to read about. Obscure or humorous titles got nowhere. People want to know the topic before they expend the time and mental effort visiting the page.

Specific and general blogging