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Connections & Pivots (notes) 16 Aug, 16:33

Connections & Pivots 

I’ve made the assertion often that the core of existence is not information, but interaction – since it’s the interaction which produces information and makes information accessible and useful. As such, it becomes crucial that we facilitate human interaction with data and this happens along connections, where connections are defined as widely as possible. 

All the below are means through which a user can interact with a piece of text, or other medium, on a screen, in order to see further information, though in some categories, such as the Pivot Points, initial text will not always be necessary. 

Links (explicitly stated)


•  Internet links, which are actually addresses 

•  Typed/categorised links, where the author or editor has added information about the nature of the links 

•  Digital Citations, which are addresses with further meta-data

Connections (implicit)


•  Implicit connections, such as a word’s entry in a dictionary or glossary

Pivot Points (implicit and dynamically created)


•  Dynamic and multidimensional connections, which are really search criteria results based on the selected text plus potentially other criteria such as meta information, as below:

•  Dimensions from Meta-data tagged on to information, allowing the user to list results based on this meta-data, such as ‘morning’ or ‘London’ 

•  Comments & ‘foot’-notes as basis for search/lists

•  Trails, as in Vannevar Bush’s Memex approach

Human Brain Connections


•  There are human ‘bound’ connections, such as you and me now being bound by both having read this sentence

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Brain and connection

The human brain is a connective system, it does not operate like a computer – there is no keyword search, no index. We remember things by their association and context. To think is to follow associations.

We are terrible at remembering names and doing maths, something computers can do ‘natively’. But we analyse patterns and connections powerfully, whether it’s recognising someone’s face from an angle we have never seen, then remembering that the person is someone you met while with a friend (only once!). We live and move in context and connections.

“… much of the brains computational power derives from its ability to link the internal representations of bits and pieces of information that are somehow related to each other in the external world.” (Buonomano, 2012)

Digital switches are hard and cold and reliable: On. Or off. Neurons are noisy and fire depending on what else is going on in the neural neighbourhood. Thinking is linking, comparing, contrasting – thinking is a dialogue amongst neurons, an ongoing conversation.

No single neuron decides anything.

A much richer interaction with the written word is required to help us dive in to the information rather than simply surf superficially above it.

The significance for deep literacy is to provide ever more powerful connective, interactive tools for the user; to allow the user’s brain to connect with information the way the brain works, not the way computers work or which we a little naively think is ‘logical’.

The result of deep literacy and deep literacy is being able to deeply interact with the information in the world and in our heads – and each other – as richly as we interact with thoughts in our heads, though augmented by powerful technology

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symbol manipulation

Thinking about ’symbol manipulation’ (thinking space for myself)

What is a written word? I often refer to writing as symbol manipulation but is text a series of symbols? A graphics arrow or stop sign is a symbol. 

Written, alphabetic words are phonetic, they refer to sounds, not to a symbol like a stop sign or a toilet sign. However, it is clearly possible to read words without knowing the real sound of a word, such as Doug Engelbart not knowing how to pronounce H/LAM-T (Human using Lauguage, Artifacts, Methodology, in which he is Trained), to which Ted Nelson suggested ‘Hamlet’. 

However, even in this case, and even if Doug did not mentally ‘mouth’ the letters ‘eich slash el ay em hyphen tee’ he certainly knew the sounds of the letters and the middle bit, the ‘lam’ was likely mentally sounded, so his internal vocalisation was likely ‘eich lamb t’ or something similar. 

My point is that letters are sound representatives. 

Since they are represented in a uniform way however, and since they follow rules they can build up complicated, specific and clear messages. 

Anyway, cleared up. I’ll blog this, unedited. 

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