Augmenting Cognition: a multi-space model

Modern thinking about augmenting human cognition got its start with J.C.R. Licklider starting a project which funded Douglas Engelbart, together with Ted Nelson independently evolving tools for augmenting human capabilities during problem solving. The overall concept is based on humans using tools to help them do what they already do, but with features the tools provide to improve the overall process.

I would like to illustrate the concept of a multi-space framework for a software-mediated cognitive augmentation system with this image:


I illustrate three spaces, labeled: Just in case, Just for us, and Just for me. Let us look at what those spaces are and how they fit into the context of taming information. By the way, these terms originate in the literature in terms of epistemological mechanisms. Missing from that series is just in time, which doesn’t fit into this narrative, but none the less exists.

Just in case

That term generally refers to the general approach taken in grammar school classrooms to teach all sorts of facts, just in case the learner might need them some day.  In our context, let us think of that space as the aggregate of all documents, be they unstructured or structured documents, multimedia, and so forth.  Each document exists, in a manner of speaking, just in case you might need it.

Just for us

That term reflects a refinement, perhaps a filtering of information to suit the needs of some group, say, a classroom.  In our context, the term filtering is left out; we see that space as one which organizes without filtering all of the resources found in the larger information space below. In a very large sense, the major online search engines perform aspects of that task, with some of them moving much closer to the vision carried in our narrative:

Just for (all of) us entails organizing information resources according to the topics in play, linking them together when such links are known, adding such links when they become known. That kind of organization entails fine-grained collection of terms into ontologies which accurately specify terms and relations used by different disciplines such as law, medicine, and social structures. At the same time, a less-fine-grained collection of topics into a topic map provides means by which topic-centric navigation of information resources is facilitated.  For the most part, our narrative will be interested in topic mapping.

Just for me[i]

That term really entails refinements to information resources suited specifically to each engaged individual . In a sense, one can think in terms of a personal topic map, created by that individual, containing specific annotations, links, and so forth which represent that individual’s lens into the infosphere.

What is the background for that thinking?

I’ve been thinking about a particular concept which I discovered here and morphed:

in which Tim O’Reilly said this:

“If an essential part of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence, turning the web into a kind of global brain, the
blogosphere is the equivalent of constant mental chatter in the forebrain, the voice we hear in all of our heads. It may not reflect the deep structure of the brain, which is often unconscious, but is instead the equivalent of conscious thought. And as a reflection of conscious thought and attention, the blogosphere has begun to have a powerful effect.”

In my view, twitter, blogs, email conversations and even private backchannel conversations  can be considered as a frontal lobe chat
space, from which cogent, useful — whether agreeable or not — ideas and evidence would be curated to a structured space, e.g. Debategraph for further deliberations.

I see that as two of three spaces, from the chatter space to short-term memory; an issue/dialogue map serves as a working memory
for any conversation in play; it captures the flows and structure of each conversation and provides a unified view of what people are

There is a long-term memory in play as well. I see that as combinations of recorded ontologies, and topic maps which federate everything thus captured, including the individual ontologies.

Here is the architecture of the multi-space model:

chat room –> issue map –> topic map

I used the term federate in the sense we (Dino Karabeg and I)  define it at and from my thesis proposal. The federation process entails the dictionary definition, “bringing together”, with an additional constraint: “without bias”.  A federation platform would go a step further: it would keep the aggregated information resources  well organized. Topic maps provide such a platform, especially when used in concert with community-generated ontologies.

The issue-based information systems concept, as it evolved out of the original literature on wicked problems, by Jeff Conklin by way of his
gIBIS project (a grandfather of Compendium and inspiration for Debategraph, Glyma, and many others), specifies that a shared view of
a structured conversation is appropriate to augmenting cognition.  in the light of complex issues.


[i] Just for me: that term was first introduced to me by Nancy Glock Grueneich


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