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Knowledge Cartography

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Knowledge Cartography for reflective deliberation

There is a long lineage of software development efforts focused on how we can better support reflective deliberation around complex questions. Such tools differ from conventional threaded discussion forums or flat comment listings, by introducing a language that slows the participants down by requiring them to consider what is the nature of my contribution? 

A key difference is that often such tools make the structure of the dialogue visible as a network — you can literally ‘see what you’re saying’. A notation called IBIS (Issue-Based Information System) has emerged as a ‘lingua franca’ that provides an acceptable degree of structure for deliberation. The screen below introduces this scheme in Compendium, a visual hypertext application developed by CIC’s Simon Buckingham Shum over a decade’s R&D in collaboration with Verizon USA, and available as a free, open source desktop app:

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Compendium’s visual language for IBIS. Key to the numbered elements in the image: [1] Drag and drop nodes from the palette on the left of the screen onto the map. [2] Question-, light-bulb-, and handshake icons with (named) links in order to capture and link key issues, ideas, arguments and decisions. [3] Relevant media resources/websites can be linked into this discussion. (Users can also create their own palettes of icons.) [4] A digit superimposed on a node means that it appears in more than one map, i.e. the same idea or document can play roles in multiple contexts and conversations, yet be linked. [5] User-defined keyword tags can be annotated onto nodes to help when searching for related material across multiple maps

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.30.48 pmGlyma is a web-native version of Compendium, developed by Seven Sigma (Perth, Aus), led by Paul Culmsee. Originally targeted as an enterprise product, Seven Sigma decided to release Glyma as an open source tool (although it runs on Microsoft SharePoint, which although not open source, also brings many advantages). This makes it an ideal vehicle for educational innovation and research, as well .

An intranet version of Glyma is now running in UTS, and CIC welcomes ideas from colleagues as to how this might add value to educational or research projects. The code is available for student projects to develop extensions, or for research projects to create a visual user experience onto information systems. It is now being introduced in the CIC Master of Data Science & Innovation as a sensemaking tool for analytics projects requirements and outcomes.

As an example of its use to promote critical engagement with video, the screenshot below shows the creation of an Issue Map summarising the key ideas in a seminar. Nodes in the map may be linked to video clips or documents, as shown (click to enlarge).

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Learn more. . .

Interactive visual tools for mapping issues, arguments and information are the focus of a longitudinal research program, reflected in the books, papers, projects and impact outlined below.


Selvin, A. and Buckingham Shum, S. (2015). Constructing Knowledge Art: An Experiential Perspective on Crafting Participatory RepresentationsHuman-Centred Informatics Series (Ed. John M. Carroll). Morgan & Claypool.

Okada, A., Buckingham Shum, S. and Sherborne, T. (Eds.) (2008; 2014). Knowledge Cartography: Software Tools and Mapping Techniques. London, UK: Springer. (Second Edition)

Kirschner, P.A., Buckingham Shum, S.J. and Carr, C.S. eds. (2003). Visualizing Argumentation: Software Tools for Collaborative and Educational Sense-Making. London, UK: Springer.


Selvin, A.M., Buckingham Shum, S. and Aakhus, M. (2012). The Practice Level in Participatory Design Rationale: Studying Practitioner Moves and Choices. In: John M. Carroll (Ed.), Creativity and Rationale: Enhancing Human Experience by Design. Springer: London. ISBN 978-1-4471-4111-2. Reprinted from Human Technology, 2010, 6, (1), pp. 71- 105.

Bailey, H., Bachler, M., Buckingham Shum, S., Le Blanc, A., Popat, S., Rowley, A. and Turner, M. (2009). Dancing on the Grid: Using e-Science Tools to Extend Choreographic Research. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 13 July 2009, Vol. 367, No. 1898, pp. 2793-2806.

Sierhuis, M. and Buckingham Shum, S. (2008). Human-Agent Knowledge Cartography for e-Science: NASA Field Trials at the Mars Desert Research Station. In: Okada, et al. (Eds.), Knowledge Cartography: Software Tools and Mapping Techniques. Springer: London.

Buckingham Shum, S., Selvin, A., Sierhuis, M., Conklin, J., Haley, C. and Nuseibeh, B., (2006). Hypermedia Support for Argumentation-Based Rationale: 15 Years on from gIBIS and QOC. In: Dutoit, A.; McCall, R.; Mistrik, I. and Paech, B. (Eds.) Rationale Management in Software Engineering, pp.111-132. Springer-Verlag: Berlin.

Buckingham Shum, S., MacLean, A., Bellotti, V., & Hammond, N. (1997). Graphical Argumentation and Design Cognition. Human-Computer Interaction, 12, (3), pp. 267-300

Non-academic impact summary

UK Research Excellence Framework 2014: Impact Case Study (Compendium)

Example projects

UK Joint Research Councils e-Dance Project

European Union Catalyst Project

UK EPSRC Election Debate Visualisation Project

UK EPSRC/eScience CoAKTinG Project (NASA Field Trials)