Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Moment of Inspiration

(Or Connecting to the Web Way Out)

During Brett's presentation Why Amazon Is Not Enough from the IA Summit, I made a connection between a fantasy of mine* and what the web can do.

Long have I harbored a pet peeve with our education here in the US. In my experience and hearing other people talk about it, our system is geared towards certain types of learning methods (mostly memorization). Generally, certain people do very well in these environments; I certainly did. However, over time, I am understanding that I don't really learn that way; I just adapted to the system.

Hearing the discussions on NPR about No Child Left Behind and the new SATs, I find more about different ways that people learn and that education in our country (at least) has not yet widely embraced these alternative methods. You do see more magnet and alternative schools, but they are certainly not the norm.

With this in mind, Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age hit me like a brick when I read it a few years back. The premise of the story is that a young girl is given a book that "binds" to her and teaches her "everything" based exactly on her personal mindset and intellectual ability. As you can imagine, that resonated with me.

Now, back to the IA Summit. Brett was talknig about how the web can be more than recommendations, extrapolating to consumers controlling their information (CMI). Then it hit me: when you look for recommendations, you're trying to learn something. As you build your knowledge on the subject, it would be good to have a "learning guide" that you've built yourself out of various sources and media.

Well, what about a way that your Personal IA (see Thomas Vander Wal's Personal Info Cloud) were to help you:
  • build the guides - directing you to sources that you have returned to repeatedly for other reasons
  • remind you of things you've learned before that relate to this
  • suggest people you already know that may know more about this
  • point you to people/groups to whom you aren't yet connected
  • sent out inquiries on the web (anonymously?) and aggregated the responses (Google Answers? Ask Jeeves?)
  • present this body in a way that you, particularly, can understand
Not much farther on from this would be the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer from Diamond Age. That's the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. I love my job.

*not that kind.

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