Location: Hypertext Review / Applications / Idea Processing Site Map

4 Idea Processing

Hypertext systems can be used for idea processing and brainstorming since both are made of a large number of disparate chunks of information put together by associations. Conferencing systems support idea processing and are suitable for hypertext features. Hypertext systems can also be used in journalism since it involves putting together various news items and stories. In fact, research or literature review such as this paper, will greatly benefit through hypertext authoring tools instead of word processors. We should be able to scan in the original documents (copyright laws permitting) used as references. When a reference is made to a document, a reference item should be created and the user should have the option to look at the original document on the screen.

NoteCards supports such collaborative idea processing where users in a group can create nodes, add links to nodes created by others, and add annotations to other nodes. It provides a rich and extensible set of tools to capture, represent, link, manage, and communicate ideas [Halasz, 1988a]. Users can transform informal and unstructured ideas into formal analyses and structural representations. In addition to end-user tools, NoteCards provides a set of well-defined methods and protocols for programmatically manipulating the hypertext network. Examples of applications in which NoteCards has been used are researching and writing complex legal briefs, analyzing arguments presented in scientific and public policy articles and managing general personal and project information for small group research projects. It has also been used for a number of interactive, non-linear, multimedia reference manuals.

SEPIA (Structured Elicitation and Processing of Ideas for Authoring), is an active, knowledge-based authoring and idea processing tool for creating and managing hypertext documents [Streitz et al., 1989]. The main principle behind this system is the idea of cognitive compatibility – the system provides an environment to the author consisting of properties inherent to different cognitive activities and structures of writing. The system is task-oriented and through different representations supports the easy mapping of internal structures to external structures and vice versa. The system provides a variety of “activity spaces” which differ both in structure and functionality. The “content space” provides facilities to collect information, generate, and structure ideas for the content domain. The “planning space” provides support to the author in setting up an agenda, coordinating and directing all sub-activities, and monitoring and revising plans and goals. The “argumentation space” serves as the medium for generating, ordering, and relating arguments for specific issues, addressing one issue at a time. The “rhetorical space” allows structuring the outline of the final document, the rhetorical organization of positions and arguments for each sub-issue and the development of a coherent document.

The writing process is not straightforward but a criss-cross of interactions between these activity spaces. Information flows from the planning space to the other three phases: Issues specified in the planning space set topics for the content space, direct the structuring of positions and arguments for the argumentation space which are then transformed into an outline in the rhetorical space. On the other hand, information also flows directly from these spaces back to the planning space. This helps in refining the planning space also called “opportunistic planning”.