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Jul 09, 2007



This is interesting. With respect to Flickr perhaps you've seen this demo of Photosynth?

Without googling "context is king," I wonder where you're getting this concept. Before even approaching the 'kingdom' of context, why not try to define what 'context' is? This isn't easy, but I think an attempt at defining context would clear up this kind of discussion. If anyone knows of some good resources, please show me the way...


Flickr is my favorite example of the web site as VW: you can enter through just about any point (typically your own photos, or those of someone you know) and end up wandering along various dimensions (photographer, commenter, photoset, tag, cluster, etc.), stumbling over all kinds of little delights along the way to losing yourself. It's not surprising that the developers got their start in browser-based VWs.

That Photosynth demo is pretty sweet, although mapping all the photos of a building to their physical positions threatens to pull viewers back into thinking in only three dimensions.


Thanks for the Photosynth link. I just watched the virtual earth and photosynth video from the same page. Hmmmmm. What happens when and how do you integrate this with user generated object (2D/3D) that go beyond recording "reality"?

As for context, let's start with just the creators' reasons for adding content to a social space and then the users' experiences, which are not necessarily anticipated by the creator, but that's another story.


Just a proposition - if context is king, then kingdom is the range of possible attributes. Range being a fluid concept, but we classify it for purposes of organization. Most crudely: yes/no geography, yes/no avatar, 2D/3D, etc. In other words, king context ordains attributes.

However, considering the feedback between context and attributes, this isn't necessarily a monarchy...

p.s. @Dan: 'context is king' is from F. Randall's comment here. I think ;)


Generally, there are people who think of these things visually or kinetically or relationally -- and I think it's important to your question to distinguish those.

A visual person might really think of these things in complete maps, a drawing in their mind where they go from point A along path B to point C.

A kinetic person jumps from connection to connection, exploring, and may eventually build a map. Taggers are often like this -- tags are their playground.

But there are those of us -- and a lot of the folks I know who are network engineers fall into this category -- who keep non-visualized relational maps in our heads.

These non-maps are like links in an object oriented database, or like the patterns of forces exerted over time in the play of a chess puzzle. Hard to describe.

What I see is that this kind of modeling, of thinking about, of pattern recognition from a valanced field of data and relationships, is becoming more and more common in our kids who are growing up with these abstract relationships online that *aren't* place.

It's the older generation (like me, I'm nearly 50 now) who created the approximate place/spacial analogies for these essentially relation-based contexts. But the term and the taxonomy are not the territory.

I wonder sometimes if the ultimate cyberspace is going to be modeled by our kids, finally finding a way to express this kind of "navigation without maps" perhaps in something like 3D.

Ultimately, the question is -- how do we think about information? What lifts information up from the state of data to a state of information? From information to knowledge? And gods help us, how do we figure out how to lift knowledge into a state of wisdom?

Computing models pull in both directions -- the logical positivists pull toward data, and folks who believe in the computing toolset of the wisdom of crowds pull toward wisdom.

But it's a toolset. So they can both use it.

Your friend who teaches about plankton sampling is pulling toward knowledge and wisdom -- but to do that the author must be wise. Someone who only works with information and knowledge can't apply more sophisticated tools to his or her work.

So is it "dimensions" or is it "complexity?" Or do we need some other metaphor?



I was playing with how to differentiate concepts of 'space' and 'place' on a long walk to the parking lot Friday afternoon. Not knowing the etymologies of the words at that time, I decided to use them thusly, both somewhere on a continuum:

a 'space' is acted upon by people. For example, a virutal world, a chat room, an office, a patch of land. 'Space' is an absence without individual's social constructions.

A 'place' (on my personal other hand) is a space that has already been acted upon enough where it begins to play a role in an individual's or a community's self-fashioning. Identification with that place (albeit fluid, multiple, overlapping) has begun to build around a space to the extent that it influences attitudes, ideals, behaviors, discourses, etc. The boundaries between these ideas of 'space' and 'place' are less like the boundaries taken from the metaphors of landscape and geography, and more akin to the irony of boundaries in Margaret's report of just how irregular and dynamic a supposedly scientific sample can be.

So then I went to the OED. Because why not.

Initial use of the word 'space' overlaps with use of the word 'time'. 'Space' was used to signify 'time' until nearly the 20th century, to signal duration or pause. (Another frequently used iteration: "a space of time".) But just as early on, space was also used to signal a piece of land or distance between people or things. Based on this, I would argue that indeed space is connected in some way to absense, distance or time between, *room to move around*. (ie., "space bar".)

'Place' however is used immediately (historically speaking) to mean something more specific: a public or residential square. A space or location that is already inhabited, and usually by a large number of people. According to the OED, sometimes place and space were used interchangeably - in a unidirectional way: 'place' was sometimes substituted early on to denote a general location; but 'space' was never used to signal a specific one.

To sum up, I will rely on Chaucer (c1390) from the Reeve's Tale: Ye kan by argumentz make a place A myle brood of twenty foot of space.


Thanks, Jennifer -- I had no idea. Way to go to the OED. And good Chaucer guote! :-)


ok, so people make places out of spaces and, as Shander remarked in an earlier string, these places have "tone." Mike Heim, in his Cyberforum series, was a master of controlling and shifting the discussion of the participants by moving us periodically from one place to another, each having a dramatically different look and feel. This harks to the talk about people getting sad or bored in dreary gameworlds.... We can manipulate these spaces as we turn them into places. Sometimes the group is responsible, sometimes the host.


Suppose that you're browsing deviantART. It's almost all visual information, pictures and text. (Some of the flash animations also have music.) Imagine if anything there could be tagged -- the art, the members, a tagger-selected chunk of text anywhere (such as in a news item, journal entry or forum post -- and the tags were categorized. It might still be useful to categorize members as individual vs. group and to categorize art as pictures vs. words vs. mixed; however, specially categorized tags would take care of the content, medium and style.

Now imagine if you could rapidly, intuitively scroll (like Cover Flow) through tags (alphabetically or by popularity) and built-in metadata categories like time/date stamps. For example, "watercolor" could be a content tag (for a drawing of a room with a famous watercolor in the background), a medium tag (for physical art actually made with watercolors) and a style tag (for digital art made to look like watercolors with "natural media" brushes), each of which could be separately attached to anything, each displaying in a different color according to its category.

Now imagine if you could use that visual interface to easily construct an arbitrary multi-field filter and multi-field index, like "all art over a year old with a "cityscapes" general tag and a "dragon" content tag and a "charcoal" medium tag and a "watercolors" medium tag and an "anime" style tag, sorted by faves (descending) then time/date (descending)". Now imagine if you could scroll through that just-created list in the same intuitive way, flipping through small previews.

Now imagine if, upon selecting one of the pieces in that list, you could immediately view its metadata in a Visual Thesaurus kind of cloud, rotate one to the front like Beryl and then start scrolling through previews of art tagged with that tag, sorted by a default index, all without leaving the art that you'd selected. Or should I say, without it leaving you? When the goal is to find information, it's more convenient to stay where you are and bring the place to you, as in the Matrix movies.

Now imagine if you could use those same GUI elements to navigate back through the haphazard trail of art that you had previously selected for a larger view, choose one as a re-starting point and quickly shift back to the filter+sort that you were using one of the times when you selected it. That's the point at which my suspension of disbelief starts to break down so I can't imagine past it.

Anyway. That's my vision.


Scientivore: Sounds totally feasible, even likely. It just needs time for people to create all the databases of tags and the software to integrate it all.

More generally: I've been mulling this "Space & Place" idea for a while now. And I thought of it the other day when I went to see if I could "find" my friend who lives on the other coast (of the US) about 3000 miles away. We're working on a digital project together, and I wanted to bounce some ideas off of him.

After doing the normal things like checking my email to see if he'd responded to my recent questions and looking for other signs of him, I realized I did something curious. I went to see if he was in WoW...I was trying to "find" him in a virtual place/space. It didn't work that time, but it does sometimes.

In my head I was looking for him in a place. I suppose that in another sense, I was "looking" to see if he was sitting at home and I could write/chat to him through the medium of a game interface. -But it felt like I was going to a place to see if he was there. Kinda interesting, to me.


Tripp suggests a social need for places and that's where I ended up at the end of Scientivore's post. I wanted a next step, a way to share what I found with others. If I could take them through the space, or allow them to track my trail if they felt like it, then I would be sharing my personal context, a place. I could imagine doing this using Croquet now.

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