Like Gardner, I find every time I read Augmenting the Human Intellect I find something new, something unexpected, that Engelbart draws out of me in reaction to the depth of his thinking. This time was no different.
Resonating with me now is what I recognise as what we call today compound document authoring – but that’s a lousy description of it. The essence of the idea is the ability to connect disparate thoughts (the combination of the repertoire hierarchy with associative links) and surface them for not only us to see in our own thinking (for metacognitive recognition) but for us to communicate to others.
Engelbart took a key insight of V. Bush, the associative trails, and with benefit of 18 years of technology development and thinking, most critically with the recognition of the coming of graphical user interfaces, transformed these into the description that “Joe” gave us wherein ideas where connected graphically in fragments, or sentences or paragraphs. I don’t recall if he actually talked/wrote about naming the relationships themselves but today we would.
This immediately conjured up the work going on in compound document authoring where ideas are drawn not just from oneself, but from disparate documents and connected with directed graphs, each association described in the metadata that identifies the meaning/intent of the relationship. Interestingly Jane Hunter’s eResearch group has built these kinds of tools to remix or connect thoughts across parts of a document or across different documents. The AusLit LORE tool is prime example of that.
We’re planning collaborating with Jane Hunter and her eResearch Lab to develop this idea in the context of metacognitive portfolios.
Thank you Doug. It’s always inspiring to read the depth of your thinking even 50 years from the writing of Augmenting the Intellect. If ever a man was ahead of his time….