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Research as Hypermedia Narrative

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7 March 2011

In this talk I will introduce the work of the Hypermedia Discourse Group at the Knowledge Media Institute, which is focusing on how software tools may shape the future of scholarship. Our particular interest is in how new forms of narrative can emerge through the use of hypertext tools that treat ideas, problems and arguments as coherent networks of nodes. This enables us to reframe qualitative data analysis, and scientific publishing, as the construction of narrative networks, grounded in primary sources. I will illustrate this with examples from projects including the NASA Mobile Agents project, the Hewlett Foundation OLnet project, and the AHRC+EPRSC+JISC e-Dance project.

Presentation by Simon Buckingham Shum, Senior lecturer at The Open University's Knowledge Media Institute, where he is also Associate Director (Technology), and leads the Hypermedia Discourse Group.

Extra content

Slides: Slideshare / PDF

Webcast Replay

e-Dance: Choreographic video annotation

This series of movies brings together Choreography researcher Sita Popat and e-Science researcher Simon Buckingham Shum, who demonstrate and discuss the adaptation of one of the project’s e-Science tools for Choreography, the Open University’s Compendium tool for mapping ideas and annotating media. The academic context for this work is set out in:

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. [PDF]

Simon Buckingham Shum
10:25 on 16 March 2011 (Edited 15:45 on 25 March 2011)

Human-Agent knowledge mapping in NASA e-Science field trials

This research website demonstrates the results of a 6 month collaboration between the EPSRC/e-Science-funded CoAKTinG project and the NASA Mobile Agents Project, culminating in a 2 week field trial in 2004 in the Utah desert ("Mars").

Compendium was used as a visual interface for scientists to simulate collaboration between Earth and Mars, as a science repository for geological samples gathered wirelessly in field trips, as an environment to discuss the scientific signifiance of the samples, and as an interface to interact with NASA's software agents.

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, A, Buckingham Shum, S. and Sherborne, T. (eds.) Knowledge Cartography: Software Tools and Mapping Techniques. Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing Series. London: Springer, pp. 287–306.

Buckingham Shum, S.; Sierhuis, M.; Park, J. and Brown, M. (2010). Software agents in support of human argument mapping. In: Baroni, P. and Simari, G. eds. Computational Models of Argument: Proceedings of COMMA 2010. Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications Series. Amsterdam: IOS Press, In Press.

Simon Buckingham Shum
10:29 on 16 March 2011 (Edited 11:57 on 16 March 2011)

Visual qualitiative data analysis using Compendium

This video is a brief overview of how Al Selvin (a KMi research student and co-creator of Compendium), has used the Compendium visual hypermedia tool as both an analysis and a presentation tool, as he worked through the latter stages of his PhD. The analysis (which he steps through quite quickly) is available for inspection as open research data, in the form of interactive web exports from Compendium.

An article reflecting on early use of Compendium for doctoral research is:

Selvin, A.M. and Buckingham Shum, S.J. (2005). Hypermedia as a Productivity Tool for Doctoral Research. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 11 (1), 91-101

The conventional product of qualitiative data analysis is of course the thesis/publication. An article which describes the research outcomes from the grounded theory analysis, which the above Compendium maps motivated, is:

Selvin, A., Buckingham Shum, S., Aakhus, M. (2010). The Practice Level in Participatory Design Rationale: Studying Practitioner Moves and Choices. In: Human Technology: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Humans in ICT Environments, Volume 6, Number 1. Special Issue on Creativity and Rationale in Software Design: John M. Carroll, Guest Editor. Available online at:

Simon Buckingham Shum
10:42 on 16 March 2011 (Edited 12:35 on 16 March 2011)

Modelling and visualizing scientific literature as networks of arguments

These movies demonstrate aspects of KMi's Cohere web application, which is a convergence of social bookmarking, concept/argument mapping, web annotation and structured deliberation.

De Liddo, Anna and Buckingham Shum, Simon (2010). Cohere: A prototype for contested collective intelligence. In: ACM Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2010) - Workshop: Collective Intelligence In Organizations - Toward a Research Agenda, February 6-10, 2010, Savannah, Georgia, USA.

Buckingham Shum, Simon J.; Uren, Victoria; Li, Gangmin; Sereno, Bertrand and Mancini, Clara (2007). Modelling naturalistic argumentation in research literatures: representation and interaction design issues. International Journal of Intelligent Systems, 22(1), pp. 17–47

Buckingham Shum, Simon (2007). Hypermedia Discourse: Contesting networks of ideas and arguments. In: Priss, U.; Polovina, S. and Hill, R. eds. Conceptual Structures: Knowledge Architectures for Smart Applications. Berlin: Springer, pp. 29–44

Simon Buckingham Shum
10:55 on 16 March 2011

Visualizing group dynamics in a therapeutic context

In this blog, I report on some really stimulating work with psychotherapists, who are expected increasingly to provide evidence that patient outcomes are tied to their participation in therapeutic groups. We’ve been using Compendium to convert their usual notes from analytic group sessions, into maps that reflect key aspects of the group dynamics...

Brown, M., Downie, A., Howard, N. and Buckingham Shum, S. (2010). Compendium: A computerised programme for the tracking and measurement of group process. 23rd Meeting of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, Ravenscar UK []

Simon Buckingham Shum
11:46 on 16 March 2011 (Edited 11:58 on 16 March 2011)

Visualizing online discussion patterns in Cohere

In this paper we look at how a web-based social software can be used to make qualitative data analysis of online peer-to-peer learning experiences. Specifically, we propose to use Cohere, a web-based social sense-making tool, to observe, track, annotate and visualize discussion group activities in online courses. We define a specific methodology for data observation and structuring, and present results of the analysis of peer interactions conducted in discussion forum in a real case study of a P2PU course. Finally we discuss how network visualization and analysis can be used to gather a better understanding of the peer-to-peer learning experience. To do so, we provide preliminary insights on the social, dialogical and conceptual connections that have been generated within one online discussion group.

De Liddo, Anna and Alevizou, Panagiota (2010). A method and tool to support the analysis and enhance the understanding of peer-­to-­peer learning experiences. In: OpenED2010: Seventh Annual Open Education Conference, 2-4 Nov 2010, Barcelona, Spain.

Compendium for crisis response

Podcast demonstrating integration with semantic web services for crisis response

Potter, S.; Kalfoglou, Y.; Alani, H.; Bachler, M.; Buckingham Shum, S.; Carvalho, R.; Chakravarthy, A.; Chalmers, S.; Chapman, S.; Hu, B.; Preece, A.; Shadbolt, N.; Tate, A. and Tuffield, M. (2007). The Application of Advanced Knowledge Technologies for Emergency Response. In: 4th International Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM 2007), 13-16 May 2007, Delft, The Netherlands. ePrint:

Compendium for crisis contingency planning

How does a large, national organization plan for a potentially catastrophic event — as it was feared Y2K would be for computing infrastructure? Many stakeholders, diverse backgrounds, viewpoints and organizational loyalties, and not much time to pull it all together. Compendium served as the glue without which Al Selvin, working intensively within Bell Atlantic (now Verizon), could not have assessed the risks, and generated the contingency plan documentation. We dub this Rapid Knowledge Construction.

Selvin, A M and Buckingham Shum, S J (2002) Rapid Knowledge Construction: A Case Study in Corporate Contingency Planning Using Collaborative Hypermedia. Journal of Knowledge and Process Management 9(2):pp. 119-128. Available as ePrint:

Simon Buckingham Shum
11:47 on 16 March 2011 (Edited 16:19 on 8 July 2011)


So this presentation is going to be on next generation internet, tools for learning, sense-making, and collaboration.


Well, it's online so this is again the extra bits.


The goal of modern computing, in addition to making the thing faster is to make it so that the computer feels like a part of what we are, so that we can forget that it's on a screen and just “do” computing. When the computer becomes obvious, it's often because it's broken.


What do researchers do?

Make the invisible visible.


Make the opaque permeable. We create representations to expand the number of people who can join the debate.


Make the ephemeral persistent., for further analysis.


How do we use digital tools to craft narrative, around ideas, documents and multimedia?

We are writing stories that will be accepted by our discipline. We can all write linear narratives, but disciplines and arguments are networks, and we now have the technology to represent these.


That's a pretty strong claim, but definitely well worth looking at. After this presentation finished there was quite a lot of discussion about Compendium. Much of the usual positive skepticism- do we really have time to use all of the tools people are mentioning at the conference? Well, no. But Compendium seems to be one of the more interesting ones.


A lot of people are really on-board with the importance of getting good at multimedia presentations. If a picture says a thousand words, then a widely accessible online-cached presentation which incorporates video, commentary, text and flow charts certainly has potential. A corresponding common worry seems to be that it's difficult to work out if you're being impressed by the technology or the argument. There's a long history of technologically-assisted data-manipulation being mistaken for rigorous data-analysis. The presenter is highly aware of this, but there's a definite possibility that you could use programs like this to shock and awe audiences into agreeing with you. Oh well, it's an old argument. Personally, I write my fieldnotes with a refillable fountain pen, but I'm still optimistic that Compendium is a good idea.


Peter Wood
21:10 on 23 March 2011

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