Making Sense of Sensemaking

Peter Jones Sensemaking, Wu Wei

Dr. Brenda Dervin presented a lecture and workshop at University of Toronto’s KMDI, kicking off the Making Sense Of series led by professor Peter Pennefather, KMDI outreach director. Peter and I hosted Brenda as befitting this first session in a series of workshops on “how we make sense” in several different domains. What’s new is the focus on new forms of media for aiding sensemaking. Brenda is Professor of Communications at OSU and one of the founding thinkers of sense-making, along with Karl Weick. Their 1980’s work developed theory and cases for how people individually (Dervin) and organizationally (Weick) make explanatory sense of situations in everyday life and breakdowns. Newer contributors to the sensemaking literature Gary Klein, Dave Snowden, and the PARC (now Google) team of Russell, Stefik, Car, Pirolli have contributed versions that extend their prior work in cognitive science. In Dervin’s lecture she explicated each contributor to the canon from the perspective of her recent publication in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences. While there are other authors contributing to the discourse, Dervin finds these are the …

How do people REALLY make healthcare decisions?

Peter Jones Sensemaking, Wu Wei

Thomas Goetz in Wired Magazine highlights Alexandra Carmichael and her decision tree for health decisions, along with 2 other scenarios. Alexandra is the founder of the CureTogether open source health research community. CureTogether is an innovative service that facilitates finding effective ways to address health concerns by active participation by people living with certain conditions, especially those resistant to conventional treatment regimes, such as chronic pain.  (She is also an active and inspiring member in the Design for Care community, which is why I noticed and had affinity for her scenario). Goetz’s article on decision trees (methods of structured decision analysis) suggests that they are an effective tool making better everyday health decisions. The reasoning is essentially based on the assumption that better health is a matter of inputs and outputs, which can be mapped and judged to determine a preferred course of action. Better inputs – food, exercise, lifestyle decisions – lead to better outputs, which are improved health measures and a healthier experience of life. Wired online even provides a decision tree mapping tool you can try. Alexandra’s …

Opportunity Overload

Peter Jones Information Ecology, Innovation, Transformation Design

Information overload has been with us since the dawn of electronic media. According to McLuhan’s theories (and Robert Logan’s recent enhancements to media theory), when we humans overextend a communications channel, we create a new one.  We create one commensurate with the increased volume and complexity of content that our culture generates. When we overwhelmed the capacity of radio and television (and print), the Internet emerged to expand our ability to communicate, globally. So each new media “channel” expands our scope and matches the developing complexity of communication. As we adapt and learn the new media channel, our cognitive capacity – trained as it was from prior media eras – experience cognitive infoload. As the online experience consumes more of our attention and with it our time, all of us notice the acceleration of overload. And with very little guidance from research, we are left with a range of practical time-management options from the Pickle Jar to scheduling your email. But none of these address the fact of information overload, which threatens to significantly diminish the value of the web …

Cognitive impacts of Google’s info hegemony

Peter Jones Information Ecology, Innovation

Referring to the prior post, the title was meant to provoke and reprieve the Atlantic article thesis. As with many technological aids to cognitive augmentation, the answer is “both” dumber and smarter. Perhaps we are all still only in the first few years of a new media behavior, and like “boiling frogs” we cannot see the effects on ourselves yet.  Surprisingly, there are no in-depth research studies on Google-think. As somone who’s researched and observed information behavior in the search and research domains for over 10 years, I want to consider longitudinal aspects, not just whether Google makes us “feel” smarter or dumber. I have researchable concerns over the universal casual acceptance of Google’s information hegemony.  We are smarter in some ways, for sure – but I have also sensed a rapid dismissal of Carr’s (Atlantic article) thesis, as if it were obvious he’s just making a fuss. There may be ways – ways in which we don’t have easy access to awareness – that continual Google use makes us dumber. How do we know what behaviors will be obviated …