Authoring,  hyperGlossary

The Incredible Difficulty of Jumping Mental Tracks + Breakdown and Notions of Progress

writing, then just getting stuck looking at the writing process


freedom is the power to act

learning the tracks

We have internal models of the world made up of connected structures of relationships with are sometimes called models, maps or schema. Whatever we call them, it’s worth keeping in mind that these are constructs and not neutral reflections.

Everything we learn, we learn ‘into’ these constructs. The signals from our senses connect to these structures.

This has long been studied and understood and provides a meaningful means of learning about the world. When a student is learning about an established field it is good pedagogy to present the information in a well structured manner to allow for the new information to hook onto previously established structures.

However, once the student is out of school and out the door, there is no single, universal knowledge store to access. In order to add value to ones work and field, the student must accept that their mental constructs is are but one way of ‘looking at’ the world.

Accepting the non-objectivity of ones constructs is not an easy thing to do because this is where our minds ‘run’, this sculpture is the entrenched pattern of our minds. The very root of the word to ‘learn’ comes from the notion of following a track, which is a useful metaphor when expecting the world to have a definitive, single useful model.

At a very deep level, this is where our base personalities’ foundations play a role in how the rest of the constructs will grow: For someone who is of a calm or nervous disposition the shape of the constructs will be different. Those who are creative will have different scaffolding for their constructs to those who are better on focused tasks. The dimensions of personality are many and they all are part of the ‘material’ the sculpture builds from.

It’s easy to pile to the existing shape, to follow established tracks, it’s easy to keep building from the current shape, a shape which is our ‘world view’. If you love a sport it won’t take you that long to understand the perforce of a new player. If you are a jazz fanatic it is easy to appreciate a new piece of music. You can judge what you experience based on what you already know.


The title of this article refers to the act of ‘jumping’. The act of jumping is appropriate not only because it’s a metaphor for jumping out of the tracks of established thinking but also because the notion of our mental structures reminds us of the need to change our view of our current knowledge and to see it in context with new knowledge.

The ‘grooves’ we have formed in our physical brains by strengthening certain synaptic connections while weakening others require real mental effort to examine and to re-build based on new impressions.

Changing our minds is not easy if we are to be confident in our view of the world and how we fit within that world. If we build our identity around fixed points and those points move, it is hard for our mental structures to fit, to follow the changes.

Long books have been written about different political and religious ideologies and how they enforce specific world views by constraining what we feel we should question and what we should take as some form of moral or core truth.

This article is not about the pros and cons of different views, different mental tracks.

freedom of movement

This article is about intellectual freedom of movement.

What has driven the development of brains has been movement from the very start: Movement towards mates and prey and away from predators.

Today we live in increasingly mental worlds where what we interact with is now what we see physically in the world but what we interact with mentally via computer screens.

The computer screens can serve as thinking spaces to better reflect what is in our mental structures and thus, to use an analogy, use our occipital lobes to augment our prefrontal cortex very much like a GPU can augment an CPU.

digital augmentation

Since the dawn of our species we have been thinking outside our brains, through the use of our hands and through the use of tools, such as something as simple as a stick and substrates, such as sand. We have indicated to others what we are interested in, we have developed visual means of counting and we have developed increasingly sophisticated and abstracted means of noting down thoughts so that we may remember and communicate them but also so that we may gain better ‘insights’ ourselves.

The terms ‘jumping’ and ‘insights’ are not chosen for poetic colour but rather to illustrate movements.

Using digital systems to augment freedom of movement in order to help the user move away from only staying in well worn tracks and to to develop better understanding of their mental structures, arises out of the ability to change what is shown to the user and how the user moves through the information space.

In many cases what will be shown will be text, not images (as either drawing, photographs or three dimensional renderings) since the symbols of text allow for syntactical meaning in more flexible and abstracted ways than literal or diagrammatic images.


our mental map is connections

curiosity is questioning the connections

spark points to provide perspectives

organising own thoughts DOUG


As I write this I am working with blocks of text which are meaningless away from my foveal focus, they become uniform grey blocks.


this is where it grinds down.


This is where I am lost in my own text. As Doug Engelbart wrote in Authorship Provisions In Augment: “ Studying another’s work provides a well-recognized challenge, but one of the toughest jobs is to study one’s own work during its development” (Engelbart, 1984).

thinking along these lines today the same old avenues open up in my mind in different ways:

Promising avenues for investigation are ways to expand and contract sections based on what the author is focusing on, like this:

Of course, this can then go into a Dynamic View as well, as envisioned as a Liquid | Author feature, or in a very different way.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to also introduce means to visually present hyperGlossary entries into the work for the author to be able to use them to write succinctly and in a linked way. Perhaps like this, where the glossary entries are available when the author mouse-overs the left hand side of the screen, to either drag over, click over or to use in other ways:

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