The project I am working on is to understand and to attempt build ‘an amazing thinking space’ focused on thinking when authoring an academic paper. The shaping criteria for this space is based on my philosophy of Liquid Information, which I worked on with Sarah Walton, the manifesto of which includes this introduction:
“When you are liquid relevant information is always within eye’s reach and relevant tools within hand’s reach. Everything is apparent at a glance – document icons communicate, tools are deeply explorable. You are informed – not overwhelmed. You can zig and zag in every direction. In any direction. Making paths, relationships and meaning as you go along – with your information, your tools and your media itself. You have a fluid overview of everything and you are in total control.” (Hegland, 1997)
The author will be required to spend some time to learn how to use this space in order to be effective. This is to remove lazy tendencies of simply putting buttons on the screen for commands. The amount of time the author should be required to spend should be as low as we can make it and the presentation/teaching of how to use the system needs to be an integral part of the design of the system itself.
The ‘stuff’ the author works with should feel tangible. This means that direct manipulation should be employed where possible and internal models should reflect the author’s models as closely as possible.
A Document View
It must be the same text and same data as the academic document being produced, not a separate mental or programatic space – it must be a view of the document, not an attachment.
It must augment the thinking which will lead to a thorough understanding of the issues concerned. This will include:
“identify issues and assumptions, recognise important relationships, make correct inferences, evaluate evidence or authority, and deduce conclusions” (Tsui, 2002)
It is taken as a foundational position that interactivity is of prime importance. This means that the author should be able to change the view fluently without a cost in concern of loosing previous views nor a cost of wondering how the desired view changes can be brought about. We get what Ted Nelson calls “non-sequential writing with free user movement.” (Nelson, T. email 08/07/02).
Relevant information are within eyes reach and relevant tools within hands reach. The author is not constrained by icon click over-simplicity, the author commands their information as richly as they command language.
The reason for building this space is to use the visual processing power of the brain, together with the motor abilities of the hands to augment the prefrontal and frontal cortex’s higher level thinking, giving the author glanceable impressions and focused details.
The space needs to be able to ‘zoom’ into other documents through links, as well as other resources, and back out again, smoothly.