This seminar will address the history and current research on building systems to augment human endeavors, particularly those related to documents. It focuses on human intellectual activity that is heavily dependent upon the manipulation of information in weakly structured form, i.e. documents. (Documents may be contrasted with information resources that are highly structured such as records and databases and information that is highly unstructured-text and bit streams.) The partciular focus of this seminar will be on those processes which may be automated so as to augment human intellectual activity. The focus of augmentation, as it is used here, is to use automated systems to free the human to engage in the core intellectual activity with minimal interference. For example, making a comment on a paper involves:
One approach to augmentation would be to automate steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 to the point of transparency.
The goals of the seminar are:
The seminar will be broken down into four parts:
There are three outcomes expected in this seminar:
Based on the seminar, participants will be invited to participate in a research seminar in the next term that would begin with the literature review and project module developed during the seminar. The research seminar will build on this seminar in two ways. First, a mini experiment will be set up to test whether or not the project module achieves the stated goals. Based on that experiment, the particpants will develop a research proposal and/or a draft article for publication; both will be based upon the literature review conducted during this first seminar.
The seminar will involve system design based upon an existing software called "fv"-faculty viewer. While "fv" originated as a tool for assisting faculty in viewing and commenting on a document collection, it is a general tool for use by a group in document manipulation. It began as a simple viewer that allowed the user to rapidly traverse a directory structure taking actions on the document being viewed. A set of buttons is dynamically allocated based on the contents of some starting directory. One button identifies the parent directory. The other buttons identify all files in the directory, parsing and identifying those that are subdirectories. When a button is pushed, if it refers to a subdirectory, the subdirectory becomes the current directory and the buttons are redefined for that directory. If it is an ordinary file, it is opened for viewing. (At the current time, all ordinary files are considered to be ASCII text files with the possibility of embedded hypertext links. It is anticipated that one enhancement to the system will be the development of facilities for handling other document types.)
A file that is being viewed may be printed, paged, mailed, etc. The displayed file is parsed at display time to identify embedded links to other documents. If the view space is the recipient of a button click, the location of the click is checked. If it is on a link, the link is traversed. If it is not on a link, one is inserted, and a file is named (algorithmically) and opened to allow input. When closed, the file is saved in a subdirectory in the current directory that identifies it as a subdirectory related to the file which had been the subject of the comment. The file name reflects the author and the date/time of comment.
The software has been developed to allow extension in a number of ways. The participants will select some function and code it in the framework. For example, the seminar leader is interested in developing a "caucus" button that would allow an individual reading a document to discuss it with other members of the group responsible for the document. In a preliminary sketch of the functionality, it seems possible that a significant amount of the effort required to set up and manage such a meeting can be conducted with no input from the user beyond the data already embedded in the system. Other kinds of "buttons" might include analysis of the exiting document structure, the development of active documents to collect information, structured authoring interfaces, and the construction of linear documents from the heirarchy. Participants will be expected to choose one of these or to define some other augmentation feature to implement.
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