Category Archives: Semantic Web

A Scrapbook


Just a quick note to say that recently I’ve started a Tumblr blog, which I’m using to collect quotes from various books I’ve been reading, quotes that hopefully give a fresh & intriguing insight into ways at looking at the Web. Mostly so far, unsurprisingly, it’s a batch of quotes from Marshall McCluhan, but I promise to widen my scope pretty soon…

Anyway, thought I’d provide a link here and in the blog roll, so it’s a bit more visible.

Better Recommendations Through (Linked) Data

Recommendations. Everyone’s talking about them, to paraphrase the old Eastenders slogan. I’m currently working on a pilot project looking at ways to expose the BBC’s archive content, help people find programmes they might be interested in, and clearly show when the programme was made/broadcast. Part of this work includes examining the ways we can improve episode to episode recommendations. I’ve been doing lots of thinking around this, and here’s the latest.

When it comes to recommendations, there seem to be four approaches. Each have their advantages and disadvantages, but I would argue that, until now, only three of the options have been tried in earnest.

Firstly, there’s the traditional method of hand-picked, manual ‘editorial’ recommendations. This means that staff consider each programme they’re responsible for, look around at what else is on offer, and pick out other programmes that could sensibly be recommended. The advantage of this method is that it’s often highly targeted, and good quality, basically because it’s been sense checked. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t scale well. It requires a great deal of human effort, and equally, a potentially vast knowledge of the programming output of a broadcaster in order to reap the maximum benefit. However, until recently, it’s been the safest, if not the only option on the cards.

The next three approaches are more to do with the reasons for recommendation. They’re often the reasons behind the manual recommendations, but as we turn to data-driven systems more and more, these reasons can inform automatic recommendations.

Production-based information – By this, I mean using production data, such as programme structure, categorisation, classification and cast/crew details, to power recommendations. In its simplest form, this can be seen on for almost any episode, where you can see the previous and next episodes in a series. Essentially, this is a recommendation as to what episodes it would make sense to consume before & after the one you’re looking at. Similarly, the genres, format and channel aggregations offer recommendations based on traditional broadcast classification structures. On the plus side, these are (relatively) easily sourced from the existing programme making workflow. They can also provide pretty useful recommendations. However, they tend to be very general. For instance, just because something is on the same channel, or in the same genre, or indeed, has the same actor in, doesn’t automatically make it a relevant recommendation. I would even argue that just showing other episodes in the same series or brand, as is done on things like iPlayer, aren’t really the best recommendations, and probably shouldn’t be sold as such.

Social-based information – Here, I’m talking about probably the most prevalent form of recommendation at the moment – or at least the one that everyone seems to be advocating. Here, we would collect data on a person’s viewing/listening habits, and use this data to provide other programmes that they might want to see, based on a combination of the frequency/range of their consumption, and the already established production-based recommendations. In addition, this can then popularly be combined with social networking information, so that recommendations can be provided based on what other people you are linked to have been consuming. Again, the advantages are that you can build up a fairly accurate picture of the type of audience you have, based on what they’re consuming, and this can then be used to influence both what you provide to them, and what you commission. However, there are major downsides to this, as well. Firstly, speaking personally, although I accept that recommendations from friends can be helpful, I don’t believe it’s the correct primary source for recommendations. Certainly, I’m not really interested in just knowing that other people have watched a particular programme – just because they watched it, doesn’t mean they would recommend it. Indeed, just because they liked it, also doesn’t mean they would recommend it. A recommendation, in this form, at least, has to be pro-active. That is, I’d much rather a friend actively recommended a programme to me, rather than a computer spying on their habits and then telling me. Which brings us to the second problem – the slightly dubious ethical/moral question of whether it’s right for companies to collect detailed information about audience habits. A really thorny question, which I’m not going to delve into now.

Which brings us on to the final form of recommendation, the one I believe gives the greatest benefit. And surprise, surprise, yes, it’s Content-based recommendations. Here, I mean something deeper than ‘this episode is in the same brand’, something more specific than ‘this programme has something to do with the same topic’, and something less, well, creepy than ‘twelve of your friends watched the Inbetweeners, so you must too!’. I’m also not talking about just tagging content. Tagging is probably the simplest and crudest way of doing this – it’s a start, but it really isn’t the end game. I mean that it’s necessary to, as far as possible, represent the actual content of the programme as data, and then link to other programmes which utilise the same data. This provides the most accurate recommendations, because we know that the exact same thing (or at least things with meaningful links between them) are being recommended. The downside, unfortunately, for the time being, is that it would have to be a fairly manual process. In this way, yes, it’s similar to the hand-picked, curated recommendations I mentioned earlier. The difference here, though, is two fold. Firstly, we’re capturing the reasons behind the recommendation as data itself, which leads to automatic re-use rather than constantly having to manually pick things (there would, of course, probably still need to be some form of editorial oversight to at least pick out highlights from the potential mass of auto-generated recommendations). Secondly, it can be folded into the production workflow from the very beginning, by engaging with writers & production staff, so that a seperate team is not required, and the recommendations can be captured and compiled at the very source, rather than after the fact. Commonly, the people who will know the content (and therefore the links) the best, will be the people who made the content in the first place.

This really shouldn’t be news to anyone, and yet it seems that this approach, until now, hasn’t been tried, in the main. I really can’t understand why, although given the problems and reluctance to even provide enough accurate data to power the production-based recommendation perhaps provides a clue. But I don’t think I’m alone in advocating this. In the oft-quoted (but perhaps not often enough!) words of Nicholas Negroponte, in 1995’s Being Digital:

We need those bits that describe the narrative with key words, data about the content, and forward and backward references….The bits about the bits change broadcasting totally. They give you a handle by which to grab what interests you and provide the network with a means to ship them into any nook or cranny that wants them. The networks will finally learn what networking is about.”

So that’s not just tags, but data to actually represent the content.

With all this in mind, I’ve begun to compile a mixture of production-based and content-based recommendations for traversing through the BBC’s archive. The next post will provide some examples of this, and lead you through the format and choices I’ve made in representing these links in the n3 format of RDF.

Linked Data and ‘Transmedia’ – A Call to Arms

Last week, I attended the ISKO ‘Linked Data – The Future of Knowledge Organisation on the Web‘ conference at University College London. I’ve been to two similar day-long conferences in the past year or so. They’ve always struck me as important and interesting, but the overall feeling has always been of great worthiness. Now, of course, this isn’t a bad thing. Some of the most important and vital things we could do with data and information set free on the Web would be to use it to improve Government and our lives in general. And yet…it almost feels too important. If I was working in that area, I’d feel immense pressure not only to get the data out there, but to get it right – because it matters, it really does.

Part of the message that the leaders of the Linked Data movement are trying to get out there, quite rightly, is that, whilst this is a  valid concern, it shouldn’t paralyse us into not releasing the data until it’s just right. Get the data out there, publicly admit that it’s not quite perfect, what it’s based on, and what you need help with, and people can and will, work together to improve things for everyone. To be honest, I think that’s the same in lots of cases, including trying to construct ontologies and ways of working with Linked Data. You’re not going to get it right first time – and that’s OK. Admit where you’re not sure, and encourage others to help you. One unanswered barrier in my mind still exists, though. Somewhere I was told that once you make an assertion in RDF, you can’t delete it. That’s good, because we should always have a record of what’s happened – but it’s also kind of scary, because I know mistakes will happen – if I make an assertion about the wrong thing, no matter how careful I’ve been, what then? Am I doomed? I need something that can calm these fears, otherwise I’ll never be truly happy with producing Linked Data – not because I don’t want to, but because I want to do my best with it.

Back on topic – although the work being done with Government data, as I say, is all very important, there still remains an atmosphere of almost stifling academia about the whole area. Again, I don’t want to criticise the tremendous efforts and advances people much cleverer than I have made in this domain, but I do feel that if we really want Linked Data to reach the mainstream, to be taken up by a much wider audience, then we need not only to ‘market’ ourselves better (personally I think this can be misinterpreted to mean bullishly proclaiming a cure for hunger whilst ignoring the hard work), but we need to start applying these techniques we’re learning in wider, more mainstream spheres.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m talking about areas like drama, entertainment, documentaries and sport. Areas which are beginning to embrace the Web, but all too often don’t go far enough, in my opinion. ‘Transmedia’ is the current popular term for, essentially, telling stories over multiple media. Probably the best example of this would be the Matrix – the films, the animations, the games – you may agree or disagree with the actual quality of the story content, but it cannot be disputed that the way the Wachowski Brothers used the different media at their disposal was spot on – in the audiences’ mind, no matter what the media, there’s a coherent story world, where all parts slot in together to provide a richer experience. Since the early 2000s, of course, the web has been boom-town for social media and marketing experiments, along with other attempts that are often seen as heralding a new media age – and that’s great. But there’s one thing that (in my opinion), they’re all missing. The potential of the Web as a Web. Exactly what the Linked Data community can provide.

So, this blog post is a call to arms. Let the world of Linked Data and Transmedia collide. What can we teach each other? What can we create if we pool our resources? Because I don’t just want to read, listen or watch transmedia stories. I don’t just want to share it with my friends, or upload my own videos. I want to grab on to the characters, the key moments, the places where they’ve been. I want to explore. I want to get vertigo. I want to point-at-things. And then I want to meld them into something new. This isn’t just about video or audio mash-ups. This isn’t about Government data mash-ups – this is about building a ‘digital infrastructure’, an architecture, the lego bricks that will allow us to truly create new things. Rather like the Matrix, I guess….

The Medium is the Message on the Web

Disclaimer: This post arose as a result of some half-baked thoughts & tweets on the train journey in to work today, partly inspired by a lot of thinking about social networking, also by Michael Smethurst’s excellent blog post which is basically the post to read for any self respecting developer or designer on the Web.

Two of the great success stories of recent years have been Facebook and Twitter. Now, no matter what you think of them now, whether you agree or disagree with where they are headed (I for one think that they’re both showing various signs of getting slightly too big for their boots, Twitter much less so than Facebook), it’s extremely interesting and important to investigate why they’ve been so successful. The simplest analysis to make is that they’ve succeeded because of some ill-defined ‘power of social networking’ or ‘social media’ or ‘user-generated content’. Whilst this is true, it’s a very cursory explanation, and often leads to the conclusion – well, we better put ‘social media’ features on our company’s website if we want to succeed/compete with the likes of Facebook & Twitter.

This isn’t a criticism of social networking in general, either. Rather, it’s a call for us to examine and understand why social networking has taken off so well on the Web. Obviously, an important part of people’s affection or dislike of Facebook & Twitter is the content. Meaningless, useful, lighthearted, dangerous, and so on. I’d like to take the time to examine this phenomenon from the point of view of the theories of Marshall McLuhan.

I’ve gone on about his theories a fair amount before, but I do think there’s something useful to be gained by testing out his theories on contemporary culture. The theories may not be perfect, but they provide an interesting perspective on the success or otherwise of media, and, I’d argue, can inform the design and strategy of new things that can utilise the properties and effects of a medium to its full advantage. To put it simply, his theory that ‘the medium is the message’ means that what’s important when studying the effect of a particular media is not the content, but rather the form and characteristics of the medium itself. From what I’ve read, McLuhan had a pretty hard-line stance on the issue of content – that, essentially, any debate over whether a medium was ‘good or bad’ that focused solely on the content was ultimately useless. I’d temper this by saying that the content is important to some extent, but I’d certainly agree that of much more importance is an examination of the medium itself.

McLuhan was writing in the 1960s, and so was able to examine various forms of media, from the formation of language and written communication down to television, radio and cinema. I’ve been gathering his quotes as I’ve been reading his seminal work, Understanding Media, and what’s interesting is that much of what he says can be applied to the Web, providing an interesting angle for discussion and debate – something he was unable to take part in, in terms of the Web.

I won’t go into massive detail here, but I’d argue that when examining the Web as a medium in and of itself, we need to ignore the content and indeed, to some extent, the tech stack. What’s more important for me is the general conceptual form of the Web, by which I mean that it is a web. Dots and lines connected to each other. The dots can represent anything. The lines link dots together, but they also describe how and why the dots are linked.

So, if it’s important to study the medium rather the message, and Facebook & Twitter are the two services we’re going to use as case studies, why have they been so successful? Acknowledging but ignoring the actual content for now, let’s take a look at each service in turn. What we can see is that they both have taken advantage of characteristics of the Web in slightly different ways.

Facebook – Yes, they’re not great. They’re obtuse, follow the ‘walled garden’ pattern and are showing rampant signs of the misguided mentality of a ‘big’ successful company, namely, that they know best and everything should go through them. But think about it. Part of the big struggle the Linked Data and Semantic Web communities, myself included, have had to face in the past year or so, is the obsession with documents and pages. All too often when talking about the Web or designing new ‘products’ and services, we fall back into the metaphor of pages. “What does the page look like?”, “We need to promote this page” etc. But notice that we scoff at people who talk of ‘my Facebook page’ or indeed ‘my Twitter page’. That’s because Facebook have succeeded to some extent where we’re still struggling. The user mental model when engaging with Facebook, primarily through networking with friends, is not through linking and visiting pages. You don’t become a friend of a page, in the user’s mind. You’re not making links between pages in their minds. You’re connecting between people. You’re using the Web to represent (for the most part) the connections you make between people in the real wold – linking things, not pages. They’ve seamlessly converted users to thinking in terms of a Web of things, even if the technological background isn’t quite there. And thus, social networks are so successful precisely because they’re networks of things. And that’s what the Web allows us to do – which we should celebrate and make more of. There’s so much creativity we can unleash if we don’t limit ourselves to the restraints of pages, and think in terms of things.

Twitter – Now, obviously Twitter has similar characteristics to Facebook, when looking at a glance, even if the ‘friendship’ model is rather different – again, they’re making you think things, not pages. But there’s a couple of other things they do which use the Web as a medium. Firstly, as Michael puts it – “every nugget of content [is] addressable at a persistent URI…Every tweet, no matter how mindless or empty of content and meaning has it’s own URI.“. In other words, in this case the message hasn’t shaped the platform – the medium has. Of course, with domain driven design, the content should also shape the platform to some extent – design with the ‘world’ of content you’re aiming the platform to hold in mind – but with something like Twitter, the whole point is that you can talk about anything. Secondly, although this seems to be changing more and more (perhaps for the good, perhaps for the worse), Twitter has kept things simple. It hasn’t tried to do everything. Instead, it has a clear, simple structure, which, importantly, is open and addressable. There’s no fancy widgets or complicated APIs. There’s just simplicity, so that others can build on top of this. Who would those others be? Anyone, even Twitter themselves. but the important thing is that they not only use the medium in terms of URIs for each Tweet, but they don’t try to ‘own’ everything – others can build stuff on top of their data, and if it’s successful, everyone wins.

To be honest, these aren’t earth-shattering revelations, and indeed I’m sure I’m not an expert in any way on either of the services above – but just thinking about the Web in these terms is what I’m trying to encourage.

In conclusion, if you want to think about why Facebook & Twitter have been so successful, and you want to achieve such heady heights, you should at least consider the above factors. And remember, it’s not so simple as adding a Twitter stream to your company’s page, or having an account on there. Nor is it about Facebook widgets or a ‘fan page. Instead, look at what made them successful, They used the Web. Really used it. They concentrated on things, not pages – they had a domain model and an idea of their users’ mental model. They didn’t try to do everything themselves (at first, at least), and (at least one of them) kept things simple and open, so others could build upon it, and make things better for everyone. Most importantly, they took the time to think about how their service would work when stitched into the Web, and moreover, how it would work as a web itself. So think about how you can do the same too. Oh, and again, seriously, if you want to do any kind of Web design/development, read this first.

This is the News

aka ‘Doing Fewer Things Better, The Problem with Infographics, and The Tyranny of Breaking News’

I’ve been meaning to write something about news for a long, long time. I’m not sure I’ll be saying much that hasn’t been said elsewhere, but hopefully it will act as a useful synthesis of the current debate, with a smidgen of my own thoughts on top.

Firstly, it’s widely said that the news industry is in trouble, or at the very least, going through massive disruption at the moment. And the finger of blame, more often than not, is pointed in the direction of the Web. No-one seems sure what to make of it, or indeed how best to use the Web for news. At times, it seems that in reality, things aren’t much different. Write your articles, and post them on the Internet. just like this blog. Which is where the first ‘battle’ seems to be – between traditional, professional journalists, and those who just write because they want to. Now, it must be said, that I’m absolutely not arguing that plain text writing, as it were, is in any way wrong, dying, or should be outlawed. Indeed, I’ll go on in this post to consider how we can best use the Web to experience news, advocating the importance of the Linked Data approach, just as I have for drama and sport in previous entries, but the fact will remain that this post will be first and foremost a textual essay. And that’s a good thing. But at the same time, it’s not the only thing, and moreover, given the potential of the new Web medium, we should at least be exploring and trying new things out, embracing the complexity and experimenting, rather than just being content with what we know and seems safe and simple. I’m not claiming I have the answers, but the willingness to explore, for me, is the key.

In a very similar vein to the content producers of television and radio, as I’ve explained in the past, journalism, in the main, treats the Web purely as a distribution mechanism, matching McLuhan’s hypothesis of old media confronted with the new. Frustratingly for me, and perhaps others, new platforms, rather than new media, are often lauded as the game changers. For instance, the iPad, and the current vogue for ‘apps’. I’m not disputing that these new forms offer simplicity and opportunities to experiment with presentation and user interaction, but more often than not, they tend to be blind to the massive opportunity for real, genuine, exciting change that the Web offers us. The whole debate around economic models for news on the Web is important, probably, but for me, again, it’s just background noise. It’s like we’ve discovered electricity, and instead of experimenting and investigating its properties, uses and opportunities, we’re sitting around debating how to bill people for their use of it.

More relevant, though, is the seemingly wasted opportunity of simply packaging up existing forms of news content into ‘apps’. As others, including Martin Belam, have pointed out, (here and here) this really is no different from the mid-nineties craze for CD-ROMs. Yes, it’s new, it’s simple, but beyond the immediate experience, does it really change things? Is it really something new? No. At the end of the day, it’s still just textual reports, or video clips, or images – and that’s a real shame. Again, ‘apps’ themselves aren’t inherently a bad thing. Something that packages up content and provides a coherent journey and experience around the Web is useful and should be encouraged – but it shouldn’t be just a surface level thing. The beauty of the Web is in the connections, in the way that it is free-form, the way that it has the potential to be an extension of our minds, freely linking between concepts with no artificial boundaries. If you’re reading something in the Times, you’ll be thinking about the subject of the article not just in the context of that report, or indeed in the boundaries of the Times, but as a general thing, linked in your mind to all sorts of related concepts.

A bit of history and hypothesis, then. News emerged as an industry dependent, really, on the format of the paper, on the medium of text and some images. On rolling TV and radio, of course, news reporting, as exemplified by Charlie Brooker, has not only expanded to fit the medium, but has almost become set in its patterns and ways. More worryingly, though, is the feeling that news currently inspires, across both paper, TV and radio media – dissatisfaction, bewilderment and despair. In the desperation to sell papers, to keep eyes and ears on channels, news outlets are forced to fill time, to fill space with whatever stories they can find (and/or make up!). And the emphasis is always on the breaking story, the immediate, the new, the now. I would argue that again, this isn’t inherently bad – people want to know things as soon as possible, often before others, so that they can then be the first to share it. But this constant barrage of ‘news’ is overwhelming and tends to lower the overall quality of journalism. Ironically, people like Nicholas Carr have been critiquing the Web for ruining attention and making people ‘surface skimmers’, but I’d argue that this is more the result of the pace and quantity of news through traditional means.

Indeed, the Web has the potential to be the exact opposite of this surface world. On the Web, there are no deadlines. There is no material constraint of having to fill the paper with whatever you can. And most importantly, there are no physical barriers to connecting ideas. If everything, potentially, is for the long term (and almost permanent), then there is simply no excuse to be focusing solely on the current, the present. I would argue that it’s completely the wrong model for the Web. Quite frankly, I find it incredible that there is no easy, official way for me to see news stories from any day except for today on the main news websites. Instead, I’m forced into Google searching for content. I’m looking for information about the news, why shouldn’t I be able to find it on the BBC, or on Sky, or any other news outlet. Why are old stories hidden away? There’s no need – and in fact, it’s completely illogical. More often than not, today’s current news is simply building on top of events that have previously happened. Events that will be referenced in the text of the ‘new’ article. And yet, unless a journalist has kindly provided a manually entered link back to a previous story, I’m forced to make the link back implicitly, in my mind. Yes, this made sense in the days of broadcasting, or of papers, where everything was ‘one-shot’ – you couldn’t get the past back, so you had to summarise in your ‘new’ content. But that’s simply not the case now. Perhaps the BBC news outlet shouldn’t try to cover every single story. Instead, perhaps it should pick and choose stories, and cover them in depth, with decent analysis that seeks to help people understand, not just to keep them up to date. Perhaps this is what is meant by doing fewer things, but doing them better. And perhaps it’s important to phrase it like that – not just as ‘doing fewer things better’ – the comma is of prime importance, else it seems we’re advocating doing fewer good things, and lots more bad things.

All this provides an interesting position for news outlets. They’re still trying to work out how best to position themselves on the Web. Yes, there’s the economic question. But paywall or no paywall, it’s really not a question of distribution. It’s a question of form. And whilst images, text and video are not dead, and are still useful, they are not going to solve any problems. My personal opinion here, of course, but if Sky’s position is to be first for the story, to be the arbiter of breaking news, that’s fine. That’s a useful service. But, I contend, it’s one based in the old world of news. It’ll still survive, but there’s an opportunity for others to provide something different, something that can truly revolutionise the news industry, whilst also sating the desire for understanding, the desire that is being so sorely underprovided in the current climate. People are crying out for understanding, for context. And the Web can offer this, not just in terms of lengthy ‘analysis’ articles and the domain of the personal blogger, but by using the building blocks of the Web itself – URIs and links.

Before I go into some examples of what this could turn out to be, I want to take a little time to talk about data visualisation and ‘infographics’. Again, it’s something which is currently in vogue, and very much the subject of debate. I think that infographics can be useful. They can reveal interesting patterns, and of course, look good. They can be, as the regular creators of infographics often acknowledge, misleading and dangerous – a form of propaganda. But again, this whole debate on the merits of infographics often (but, to be fair, not always) misses the point. Data gets collated, the infographic drawn. The graphic is provided as an image, and if you’re lucky, the data in a spreadsheet alongside it. Yes, sometimes it’s in a flash file where you can click on things. But most of the time it’s an image, which can be easily distributed by the Internet. To truly be using the Web, to be creating something new, however, we would need to be creating these graphics from the raw materials of the Web. It’s not going to be easy, at the moment, as the tools are only starting to emerge, and often the beauty of these visualisations are severely compromised. But more effort has to be put into it.

So, finally, a case study. As I write this, today is the hundredth day of the current Coalition government in the UK. There seems to have been plenty of reporting around this in the news. The significance of the hundred days, of course, is a reference back to the tenure of Franklin D Roosevelt in the USA, who used the first hundred days of his presidency to revolutionise American society by introducing economic reform and the New Deal. Not that you’d know from the current reporting. It looks to be just a random milestone chosen because of the niceness of the number.

More importantly, though, we need to consider why the first hundred days of a government is worth reporting on now. It’s precisely the kind of news content that the Web would be perfect at delivering – it’s a retrospective, a review, a summary of events. And what can I find if I turn to the BBC News website? Either a hundred second video (which plays without me asking it to – grr!) with clips of significant moments, or a long textual analysis. The video, especially, is frustrating. It’s offering me a whistlestop tour through time. And yet it’s not allowing me the opportunity to explore, to find out more, to discover. It’s just video. The text article doesn’t even have any real point by point summary of the hundred days. I want to know what the significant events were, why they were significant, and how they were reported at the time. But this isn’t provided. I can read, or I can watch. But I can’t explore. I must consume.

We can also use a related example to illustrate the frustration around infographics. This is a really nice infographic summarising and comparing the first hundred days of presidencies from FDR to Obama. We have nice colourful lines, an easy to use key to ‘types’ of event, and each event is summarised and dated. But it’s just an image. There’s dots, there’s lines, there’s text. Potentially, there could be sound and video. But it’s a flat file. There’s nothing I can click on. I have to consume. All the significance, all the message – it’s all implicit. It can’t be explored, it can’t be journeyed through. And this is where the Web can, and must be used to help.

I’m very much aware that I’ve been quite harsh in this post, and perhaps not providing examples of the solutions. I’m also aware that it’s a difficult time at the moment. In the overwhelming chase for the ‘new’, and with financial constraints, it’s often not regarded as possible to consider anything which doesn’t provide a simple, quick and easy solution. Perfectly understandable. But also perfectly misguided and wrong. Yes, in the current society, we need to make money to survive, and yes, experimentation often means failure and drains on resources. Yes, we should give the public what they want, and if they want more, faster, fresher, we can provide it. But that’s not the be all and end all, and simply can’t be. If we don’t explore, if we don’t try new things, then we’ll never progress. I believe that the lack of comprehension, of attention, of willingness to understand each other, ultimately stems from our preoccupation both with the ‘now’, and with the obsession with single narratives. The Web can allow us to break free from this. It can allow us to create and explore overviews, multi-faceted analyses of situations, which can be consumed in better ways than ploughing through a huge book or long documentary. It’s not the Web which is ruining our attention and/or critical faculties. It’s the lack of consideration, of experimentation, of effort to comprehend and acknowledge the complexities of the world – ones that can only truly be reflected by networks of concepts and ideas, not only in our minds, but on the Web. And it’s up to us to try.

Addendum: Other articles I didn’t get a chance to talk about in this post, but are well worth reading, and I may come back to, include Stijn Debrouwer’s ‘The Basic Unit of Information‘, Megan Garber’s ‘Following up on the need for follow up’, Philip Trippenbach’s ‘News: Rewired‘ and Silver Oliver’s blog.