Going at the Problem

The intent of involving the greatest amount of people led to the decision to use communications technology - in particular the web - as a platform for interaction. Within these bounds, I went about research to familiarize myself with as many collaboration models as I could discover. Since 1997 I have been envisioning and brewing a methodology for information architecture that has led me through the infrastructure of many major areas of computing. This includes system and network infrastructure, databases & content management, searching, web delivery, grid architecture, and interface design. I have seen many systems arise or come into view that closely map parts of this idea, though none have encompassed it.

Mapping my vision of a system for interaction, prior to researching the details of existing models, was my first step in the process. Starting from my own sense of the problem allowed me to 'reinvent the wheel' and consider alternatives compared to what I may find. The approach would allow me to inform my own vision of collaborative research, education, decision-making and social construction based upon what I would find.

Work towards a web implementation is based upon a broader vision of collaborative social construction, which is informed by a study of cultural practices of the world. Our virtual models largely emerge from social practices in the physical world. Forums and mailing lists both have worldly analogs that involve little technology, even the 'rolling' news site with attached user discussion are nearly identical to the format of conferences.

Interaction in virtual space allows for a different construction of the metaphors through which we interface with the collective, or distributed, mind. Virtual construction thus becomes a kind of 'rapid prototyping' by which arrangements of metaphor can be tested at low cost. The aim of this prototyping is laying foundation for models that can take shape in the physical world. Our experience with the virtual spaces of the distributed mind can allow growth in a genetic fashion, leading to new forms of cultural expression and social structure.

The 'larger' model that I am prototyping in the virtual space is one that allows for macroscopic vision. A macroscopic model allows us to see not only across scales of size, but also scales of culture and value. The vision this system affords is one of patterns of association relevant to sufficient context. These associations are the connection and translation between system elements, which may appear highly dissimilar based upon one's own perspective as a result of culture schema. Cultural schema forms the basis of grammars, syntax and language of all levels and forms. As these schemas are the result of a people's place and span of time, they are at the macroscopic level a Language of Change that is rooted in the transformation of their ecology (place and self). The is the aim of this work to render a Language of Change that is accessible.

To look a step ahead: by generalizing the grammars that emerge from a culture's relationship to the environment, a form of synaesthesia that crosses cultural boundaries can be enabled through the proprioceptive and aesthetic senses. A guiding principal in this direction is that of a General System Language - rooted in relative motion, with extensions into visual, spatial and acoustic dimensions. My methodology for addressing this principal is the rendering of the macroscope as a tool. A map and narrative detail on how these larger ideas connect with web-based systems is a concept I have title "Rafiki."


With that mountain range in sight, we return to the pragmatic first steps along the path toward it. Gaining a sense of what general models exist today, and how they can be used to make a new model is the first step. Drafting a Design Document for that model and implementing it are the next steps. When there we can look from a new vantage. We'll begin with a survey of the landscape from my particular perspective.

© New Alexandria 2002