Global Sensemaking

Tools for Dialogue and Deliberation on Wicked Problems

Hello everyone!

I am a student at Interaction Design, and I was planning to develop ideas for argument representation / debating tool as a master's thesis. One thing led to another, and my research of existing projects made me discover a wealth of international research, software development and online collaborative platforms. I realised that of course my ideas weren't really original in essence, and finally I found the Ning platform in Global Sensemaking.

This seemed to coagulate these concerns and interests into a coherent effort, so I joined in and spent some time reading some individual contributions here and there. I had a keen interest in the way the wiki was originally structured:

I found the wish-list ( and a division of tasks (

Are those still of actuality, or somewhat abandoned? I see the last comments or modifications are from 2008, so can anyone help me identify how i can contribute to anything with an interaction design approach?

Thanks for any replies or ideas about current work to do in the area of representational/discussion tools in particular !

Views: 90

Comment by Jack Park on March 13, 2010 at 15:23
The wish-list linked in this post has some commentary from George in relation to user interface. One thought would be to take George's comments as a point of departure to explain your own thoughts. Another thought is to seek an active project you can join and contribute --Jack
Comment by Scott on March 15, 2010 at 2:24
Hello Guilhem,

Never let go of your dream and don't assume someone will develop the essence of your thought. Until you see your idea in reality, keep pushing forward.

An anonymous professor from Stanford University provide some words of wisdom:

"The only advice I might offer to your design process is to imitate nature: use evolution. By this I mean to design many experiments, test your assumptions and designs with those you are designing for, and iteratively improve your designs based upon what you learn."
Comment by Guilhem Gantois on March 16, 2010 at 0:23
Thanks for the replies!

To Jack Park:

From what I read the concern was the user's point of view, facing a multiplicity of sense-making tools. This question is I guess more than ever of actuality, even considering this very Ning platform. In a way this is what seems to require most experience with that variety of tools, which as of now is certainly not my case [I didn't know any of them a couple of weeks from now]. In fact, I find myself very perplexed at most of them, perhaps by lack of learning or engagement in a specific wicked problem in a sufficient way. In terms of research I heard somewhere the saying that researchers who are the most naive (are not very good in the "traditional" way of the discipline) in respect to their field tend to be more innovative. Can't decide if that's true, but I have to think I should count on that.

To Scott Nesler:

Thanks for the good words, I strolled through your numerous entries, and found that the passion you convey with your project certainly reflects you have used this advice for yourself :)

The essence of my ideas I kept very vague for very long until it encompassed a variety of approaches, ranging from the way books or scientific essays should be written/represented, then thinking about how to represent argumentative books in a way that would make them "reviewable", and in some way more interactive, more dynamic and more a discussion as much as possible; then i had a phase where i thought about critical thinking stimulation directly inside web pages[encouraging cross referencing]. I finally came about the topics of how to represent a discussion (on a seminar setting, for example, or a debate/decision making situation), so as to stimulate the argumentation by making it available to participants. Well, all of them very general, didn't evolve much as i didn't find any resonating community in my environment.

When I came to flesh some out, i simultaneously stopped procrastinating and decided to face what was already out there. After a while, I found almost all of the concepts in research papers, online platforms here and there, cited in the wiki I mentioned, in terms dangerously close to mine if not identical.

I hope your ideas somehow are coming into life and want to spend more time with them. At first sight, to be honest, the concept remains quite opaque to me. What struck me is that message of January where you confess that difficulty of feeling alone on that quest. I can certainly sympathize with that, and I really hope you found some informed people to share ideas with? I'd be happy to do so, but I have to mention my global inexperience as you probably understood :)
Comment by Jack Park on March 18, 2010 at 18:13
In terms of research I heard somewhere the saying that researchers who are the most naive (are not very good in the "traditional" way of the discipline) in respect to their field tend to be more innovative.

Another way to think about that comes from the complex adaptive sciences, the suggestion that innovation tends to happen not at the center of some discipline, but at its fringes, including those fringe areas that intersect with other disciplines. Yet another way to think about that is this: a good many of the folks engaged in this sandbox don't actually come from "traditional" fields that relate to either HCI or sensemaking. Some, of course, do, and they are perhaps the most responsible for innovation done back when they were inventing the modern dialects of sensemaking. At that time, they were the "naive" folks doing the innovation. They still are, in fact, innovating.

Most of what I am calling "sensemaking" has its roots in action research, from which varieties of patterns have arisen, including appreciative inquiry. From Susan Leigh Star and Geoffrey Bowker, we have the science of boundary infrastructures and boundary objects. Ning serves as a boundary infrastructure in the sense that we share components of it (e.g. blog posts as boundary objects), to the extent that we are able to get along with its quirks, we "own" it, and we use it to trade our ideas, information resources, the stuff of evolutionary epistemology. Ning is not the only game in town. Perhaps it can be said that sensemaking is, itself, a wicked domain.

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