THIS IS NOT MY 9 MONTH REPORT, it is just a brief outline of my plan, in order to get feedback from my advisors as to whether this is what my 9 month and PhD can be about, and if so, to get help to organise a plan.
My PhD research concerns the value of different views of text and the cost/benefit of switching between the views, with the premise that effective switching allows the user to practically access multiple views with unique characteristics will can contribute to a more thorough understanding of the ‘symbol space’ that the views present, whereas slow or cognitively heavy switching negates the benefits of alternative views:
The knowledge itself is not what the author interacts with – the author interacts with symbols – in the form of conceptual units present in spoken, and ultimately (where the textual document is concerned); written words. These symbols are not transcribed from the author’s mind into the document in a single act when constructing anything but the most basic of notes, they are written and moved about. The conceptual space they are moved around in is then a symbol space, the central concept for which my thesis that different visual presentations of can benefit or be hindered by different visual interactions.
Authoring an academic document starts with literature review research which produces knowledge artefact entities, most of which are stored in the form of symbols (text, images) such as notes, annotations, data, and listings of useful sources to cite, media which can be converted into symbols (speech to text), or media which can be referred to from symbols (map coordinates).
This can be done in many ways, including the word processing document directly, with pen on a large piece of paper, on small Post-Its® on a board or with a digital concept map. Currently a digital concept map is not part of the same piece of software which performs the word processing function and as such the switch is on the order of an import-export mechanic.
The process of tying together concepts for the author to understand the material and communicate it for the benefit of the reader can include clustering/grouping, labelling and connecting the symbols.
The visual representation means something to the author, both the proximity of the symbols; their groupings, linear connections, associations, framings and the appearance of the individual symbols; texture (font, size, colour etc.).
Our language is rife with references to references to the value having a different representation of something, with phrases such as getting a better perspective, seeing another angle, see what’s going on, having an overview, oversight, being someone with a vision, and the importance of interaction, of getting to grips with the problem and having a grasp of the situation.
While there is clear value in rich views of our information while working with it, conversely we talk about the need to spell our an argument and present logically – in many ways the production of an academic argument is linearisation.
The two modes give us an impression of how deep it goes in our evolution to be able to examine something we don’t understand in different ways, with freedom to change our view at will, but to present our argument cleanly in a linear manner.
I therefore argue that the development of a richly dynamic concept map space in a word processor can employ more of the human brain (by using our powerful visual processing abilities to complement our prefrontal cortex where we do higher level thinking),
I therefore propose that my research topic question should be to look into how each view; linear and non-linear, can provide more intellectual value to the user when used in combination, in order to increase the users value of both.
My plan is to compare views of the same document, as frames, providing me with the opportunity to perform practical investigation into how editing behaviours might evolve, or be hindered by the various views.
To better understand the aspects of this symbol space I have started a glossary for symbol space terms here: http://symbolspace.info).