Knowledge Organisation


Kim H. Veltman

Frontiers in Conceptual Navigation

Partially published in: Knowledge Organization, Würzburg, vol. 24, 1998, n. 4, pp. 225- 245.
Republished in the Author’s Book: Frontiers in Conceptual Navigation for Cultural Heritage, Toronto: Ontario Library Association, 1999.


This paper was prepared for a lecture at a recent meeting of the German Chapter of ISKO devoted to Wissensorganisation mit Multimedialen Techniken [Knowledge Organization with Multimedia Techniques], (Berlin, October 1997), the proceedings of which will contain an abridged version. Recent advances in technology assume a separation of content and presentation with respect to data structures. In terms of access, however, there are important reasons for relating content and presentation (different views, perspectives). The paper outlines some fundamental concepts underlying a prototype for a System for Universal Media Searching (SUMS), namely, learning filters, and knowledge contexts, levels of knowledge, questions as strategy: purpose as orientation; media choices, quality, quantity, questions, space using maps and projections; multitemporal views and integrating tools. It foresees how such a system, linked with the equivalent of a digital reference room, will provide the basis for a System for Universal Multimedia Access (SUMMA). The latter part of the paper addresses recent developments in three-dimensional interfaces. It claims that these are particularly suited for certain tasks such as visualising connections in conceptual spaces; seeing invisible differences as well as comprehension and prediction by seeing absence. It suggests also some ways in which two- and three-dimensional interfaces can be used in complementary ways.

1. Introduction
2. Access, Content and Presentation
3. Learning Filters and Knowledge Contexts
4. Levels of Knowledge
5. Questions as Strategy: Purpose as Orientation
6. Media Choices
7. Quality, Quantity, Questions
8. Maps, Projections and Space
9. Multi-Temporal Views
10. Integrating Tools
11. Visualising Connections in Conceptual Spaces
12. Seeing Invisible Differences
13. Comprehension and Prediction by Seeing Absence
14. Conclusions

1. Introduction

The digitisation of knowledge is provoking a wide range of responses. On the one hand, optimists paint scenarios of an information society with knowledge workers, and even electronic agents who will do our work for us by consulting digital libraries and museums, making learning an almost automatic process. They describe a world of seamless connectivity across different operating systems on computers and also among the communications devices in myriad shapes: from televisions, video-cassette recorders, CD-ROM players and radios at home, to faxes and photocopiers in the office as well as telephones, cellular phones, and other gadgets. The advent of nomadic computing will make ubiquitous computing a reality. The result, they promise will be a world where we have access to anything, anywhere, anytime, where there are self-learning environments and the world is a much better place.

On the other hand, thinkers such as Pierre Levy argue that the new computer age is bringing a second flood, whereby we risk being drowned in the massive amounts of information. In their view systematic approaches to knowledge are a thing of the past. Their pessimistic view is that there is simply to too much knowledge to cope. If they were right, one could be driven to the conclusion that the high goals of the Information Society as articulated in the Bangemann Report, illustrated in the G7 exhibitions and pilot projects have only created new problems rather than long term solutions. This paper takes a more positive view. It acknowledges that the challenges are more formidable than some of the technophiles would have us believe; that these challenges cannot be solved by simple number crunching, but can be resolved with strategies that will lead to new insights in the short term and potentially to profound advances in understanding in the long term. The hype about anything, anytime, anywhere makes it sound as if the only advance is in terms of convenience. This paper claims that much more is possible and thus concludes on a note of restrained optimism.

By way of introduction there is a brief discussion of paradoxical links between access, content and presentation. Next, basic distinctions are made between different kinds of knowledge: ephemeral and long term; static and dynamic. It is shown that decisions whether information is stored locally or remotely affect how knowledge is handled. A series of strategies for access to knowledge are then outlined: the role of purpose, questions, spatial and temporal co-ordinates, multiple classifications, authority files. It is claimed that these strategies depend in the long term on a new kind of digital reference room. The final section of the paper turns to emerging methods in three- dimensional navigation and explores some potential applications in terms of visualising connections, seeing invisible differences and predicting by seeing absence.

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