Posts Tagged ‘sensemaking’

Over here Al Selvin links to several related blog posts which I find particularly interesting. Read them all (they’re short). In this post I address just one part.

In It’s about the experience, Al says,

Ultimately what matters for approaches like Compendium is not the notation, the software, or the theory; it’s the experience they make possible for people participating in them. The technical or procedural components are enablers but not determiners. It’s what can (but doesn’t always) happen in actual practice, in real sessions, between the people that is the real essence.


Practitioner skill, in one form or another, is often what makes the difference.

When it comes to face-to-face sessions I couldn’t agree more. A skilled facilitator can be effective with no technology at all, especially so if a few participants are themselves skilled in group interaction. And some technology has the opposite of the desired effect. Put a screen at the front of the room and arrange everyone in standard theater-style seating (rows of chairs) and you risk turning a room full of people who might have been interested in engaging with each other into an audience engaged with the screen.


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Here’s a beautiful description of global sensemaking in one (long) sentence:

I’m thinking of means to learn about the existence of relevant new work (alert systems), find the texts and the passages we need (search engines), find work already found by colleagues (tagging and social networking systems), find articles similar to ones we know to be relevant (recommendation systems), find articles in our own language (machine translation), navigate to cited sources (reference linking), navigate to different versions of cited sources or other relevant destinations (multiple-resolution hyperlinks), convert a text to speech when we can’t read the screen (voice readers), paraphrase articles we don’t have time to read (text summarizers), digest larger volumes of literature than we could ever read (text mining), combine independent resources to create new synergies and utility (mash-ups), find information relevant to our questions even when we don’t know the relevant keywords (semantic web), distill uncopyrightable facts from natural-language texts and enter them into queryable OA databases (knowledge extraction), pose our search queries in our own words and sometimes even get back direct answers rather than mere pointers to literature that may contain answers (natural language search engines).

That’s from Peter Suber in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #123 of July 2, 2008. (SPARC is an acronym for Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.)

Suber talks about the “last-mile problem for knowledge” and its two stages:

  1. getting access to texts or data
  2. getting answers to questions

I think it’s a great essay with immediate relevance to what GSm is tackling.

Read the whole article.

[tip of the hat to Bora]

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Are there particular problems or issues that can be identified where the use of Sensemaking tools could make a decisive difference? I imagine this would involve a sequence of finding such a point, applying Sensemaking and related tools to surface and confirm the real nature and cause/effect sequences of what’s going on, and then visualizing/expressing the results so they can be comprehended by the public, relevant groups, and decision-makers. This is pretty much what Buckminster Fuller was suggesting through his notions of comprehensive anticipatory design science and World Game.

In my blog post Financial markets live on price-inflating bubbles? I suggest one candidate for such an acupuncture point. Hypothesis: financial markets are artificially inflating prices in bubble markets created by runaway velocity of money. If this is true the consequences are enormous. If not, let’s get this meme out of the way so we can concentrate on what’s really happening.

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[cross posted from Trinifar]

Over here, George Mobus poses an excellent question about the philosophical aspects of sensemaking and its operational definition. I think he provides an excellent informal definition with this:

Sensemaking … is about understanding reality sufficiently well that one feels comfortable making statements about the future. That is, not necessarily making predictions, but anticipating future possibilities based on understanding how the world works.

In that light consider this series of definitions:


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