the difference between here and everywhere

sheet-music

Information is created, captured, and presented in a multitude of ways for a wide diversity of purposes, in response to which the expression of information takes many forms, as various common and distinct types of information.

Information types:

  • Spreadsheets
  • Databases
  • Texts
  • Models
  • Point clouds
    • Laser scanned
    • Radar scanned
    • Photo generated
  • Photos
  • Panoramas
  • Video/film (standard width and panoramic)
  • Sound
  • Drawings

We can talk about specific purposes served by any particular information type (or all of them collectively), but we know that the purposes served are extremely diverse, with specific uses about as numerous as grains of sand on a beach. How many different kinds of uses are there for a spreadsheet for example? A parts list is qualitatively different from a timesheet, which is different from a structural analytic array, which is different from a corporate financial report, which is different from countless other uses. Not convinced? How about text? How many different uses are there for text? Only a small number, or are the expressive purposes of text practically limitless? How about photos?

The reason that any given information type exists, is to serve the  need that… someone needs to understand something; from that it follows that a given information type helps one develop understanding and communicate it.

But to understand the usefulness of any particular information type, we don’t need to understand all possible uses of the type. We need only understand something about the general capabilities, the strengths and weaknesses, of the type. For this, we need useful categorization.

With that in mind, we can assign information types to useful categories. Below, each information type is assigned to one of two categories, blue or red.

Information types (categorized):

  • Spreadsheets
  • Databases
  • Texts
  • Models
  • Point clouds
    • Laser scanned
    • Radar scanned
    • Photo generated
  • Photos
  • Panoramas
  • Video/film (standard width and panoramic)
  • Sound
  • Drawings

What are the blue and red categories? Why do “drawings” sit alone in their own category (red)? Why does everything else go together in the blue category? Why is sound blurred and drifting between both categories, neither blue nor red but purple? Taking the last question first: categories in fact are always fluid, not rigid (see Hofstadter and Sander for an explanation of why this is universally true), and, we see from experience that information types do drift across categories.

Drift, however, does not diminish the importance of the two categories.

What are they?

The information types in the blue category share a common factor among them, against which drawing is distinct. To illustrate, let’s choose Models as an information type that well represents its category, and let’s compare it with drawings.

  • The difference between drawings and models is the difference between here and everywhere.

Models represent EVERYWHERE. Drawings say, “Hey, please look HERE; I have something to show you, HERE”. Each drawing represents one “HERE”. This is the essence of “drawing”, to say, “look HERE”. Models, on the other hand, call attention to no specific HERE; instead, models represent EVERYWHERE,

The two categories then are: HERE and EVERYWHERE.

These are useful categories for a simple reason: the idea of saying “look HERE” is an idea that can be applied (by augmentation) to every information type that describes EVERYWHERE. “Look HERE” can be applied individually within each information type, or collectively within many or all of them at once. When we recognize HERE and EVERYWHERE categories, we can put them to work for us.

There are two things we can do right away.

Generalize the drawingcategory. To say “look HERE” is a way of being directive.  We can apply the idea of “being directive” within any kind of information environment by augmenting EVERYWHERE information types with look HERE” directives. We can further generalize this by recognizing the possibility that …ways of saying “look HERE” are not limited, the techniques of “look HERE” will evolve and diversify. This is a field of innovation.

Combine information types. Reduce our biases favoring any single information type over any other, by understanding all EVERYWHERE information types as environmental information types, each with strengths and weaknesses to be amplified and mitigated in combination. Why favor models over point clouds or point clouds over photos, for example? It is more useful to find ways to combine information types together for strength.

When we combine information types together, information strengths are amplified, and weaknesses are mitigated. A richer information environment then becomes more productive for authoring “look HERE” directives. The resulting directive environments serve the need that someone needs to understand something. A directive information environment helps people develop their work and their understanding of it, and purposefully communicate and describe it to others.

We’ll discuss different aspects of both blending, and directiveness, here in the near future with examples exploring both blending and directing.

— — —        — — —          — — —

note about authorship in digital environments: “Here” and “everywhere” concepts are applicable whether authoring is shared or not shared. Either way, authorship spans both environmental (everywhere) information, and directive (here) information within the environment. What is authored is then read, and what is read, must be authored. The connection and the dynamic between authors and readers is, it can be said, the very thing that is both authored and read, the directive information environment. That authorship dynamic, of course, can become more interesting when authors and readers are the same people.

note about qualities of types: Some information is best expressed in a spreadsheet, and some information is best expressed in a photograph; some things can only be said with sound, and other things only in moving picture. The appropriateness of any specific information type corresponds to use.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. People need to understand things generally, and also specifically. A model is an information environment. It describes things generally, everywhere. That alone is not sufficient. To be useful, any information environment must also describe things specifically, at specific places (here, here, here, and here…). People need to know that “HERE”, the specific information present THERE, is “good enough”, and that someone responsible for it says so.

    Those specific declarations are needed in AEC models whether those models are made by people who claim that their model is good enough “everywhere” (which rarely happens), or not. The fact that this necessary declaration has traditionally been the role of conventional drawings doesn’t invalidate the role, certainly not just because of a personal preference for throwing away the conventional.

    Combining the 2 things together (everywhere, and here / modeled and captured information environments, and declarative HERE statements) moves current practice forward. Keeping those separate keeps us stuck in current practice forever.

    There were those 100 years ago who argued that recorded sound and silent film should not be synchronized together. You can argue for the totally communicative silent film, in its most idealized and perfected possible form, and yet, almost every time, the film will be better, at its intended purpose, if it includes sound.

  2. It is as simple as this: a person (with a known identity) points to some stuff (in some way) and says, “this stuff HERE is good enough.”

    If a person is not pointing and indicating (somehow), then you have no way of knowing whether any particular stuff that you are looking at is good enough or not.

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