Dialogue to Knowledge

by May 4, 2005

Steve Portigal and Niti Bhan kicked off a new blog: Does Size Matter? as “a kind of thinking environment/conversation/proving ground for some ideas around design consulting (the size of firm, working with and hiring design consultants, etc.).

While the topic is quite interesting, I’m really drawn to the ways in which a standard blog interface (currently implemented on Does Size Matter?) can be redesigned to better accommodate the process by which conversation turns into consensus that in turn transforms into sharable knowledge. In other words, how can we communicate to an audience what has been agreed upon (through an online discussion) and where the conversation is now?

About a year ago, I proposed a UI adjustment to shared blogging spaces that made the conversational mode of authoring explicit:

Dogger is a blog-style interface that allows two people to engage in a debate on any given topic.”

By making the structure of the dialogue visible, the interface provides valuable context for users: what are the different viewpoints, how long has the conversation been going on, points/counterpoints, etc. But there’s no reason we should be limited to simple visualizations of back and forth conversation.

Nick Burbules (at UIUC) has defined multiple forms of dialogue (inquiry, conversation, instruction, and debate) and offered up some thoughts on how they can be utilized for teaching. As an example, “Instruction involves an intentional process in which a teacher ‘leads’ a student, through questioning and guidance, to formulating certain answers or understandings.” The unique characteristics of a specific type of dialogue could be used to inform the design of an interface and make the knowledge stemming from that dialogue more explict.