A Shift in Philosophy

People may or may not be aware that my work at Evergreen made one thing abundantly obvious: everything is interconnected. I’ve been living by this mantra for quite some time (indeed, since somewhere around my freshman year at Evergreen), but lately, I’ve come to realize that, while it’s certainly sufficient to recognize this, there’s an extra layer to this idea that I hadn’t quite recognized. There are two ways that I can state this, and I haven’t quite decided which one I prefer yet, since they are two distinct expressions of the same set of ideas:

Everything is interconnected, given a particular context.

Or:

Everything is interconnected; context is king.

The word “context” is something that is repeated almost ad nauseam in a lot of the work that I’ve done so far in the MSIM program. A lot of user interaction design work depends on the context in which a solution will be used. How things are categorized depends on the context of that information in relation to other facets. The context in which a question is asked can affect the results of that question. Management styles differ depending upon how managers choose to contextualize different information in their environments.

There is one major thing missing at this point as well that I’ve actually chosen not to attempt to integrate: the centrality of the user (or, less technically, of people) in information management. The reason for this is that it’s already recognized in my personal statement of my career goals (which has not been posted to this blog – it exists on my personal wiki).

So what’s the difference between these two potential statements? “given a particular context” implies restrictions or limitations on what connections can be formed, and suggests to me that those limitations may not be surmountable. On the other hand, “context is king” recognizes the original spirit of the mantra of “everything is interconnected” – that everything, somehow, connects to something else, context or not. It also recognizes that context plays a central role in our accumulation of knowledge and information.

Which one I end up choosing will depend heavily on which of these interpretations I feel is more central to my work.

  • http://blipbloop.net/ Zach Hale

    The second one makes a lot more sense to me but really I see the importance of context and the importance of the idea that everything is interconnected to be separately important statements. The idea that everything is interconnected is important for realizing everything that can and is relevant in any situation but the idea that context is important to me seems much more important with regards to the use of systems that are otherwise interconnected.

    Either way, your first statement doesn’t make much sense to me because it implies that everything is interconnected only when in certain contexts which does not make sense to me — maybe I am just thinking about it differently.

    I don’t think the “context is important” mantra can be repeated enough. Our world revolves around context — it determines the effectiveness of our interactions and our interactions are all we have.

  • http://blipbloop.net Zach Hale

    The second one makes a lot more sense to me but really I see the importance of context and the importance of the idea that everything is interconnected to be separately important statements. The idea that everything is interconnected is important for realizing everything that can and is relevant in any situation but the idea that context is important to me seems much more important with regards to the use of systems that are otherwise interconnected.

    Either way, your first statement doesn’t make much sense to me because it implies that everything is interconnected only when in certain contexts which does not make sense to me — maybe I am just thinking about it differently.

    I don’t think the “context is important” mantra can be repeated enough. Our world revolves around context — it determines the effectiveness of our interactions and our interactions are all we have.

  • Steve Ellis

    I agree with Zach. Context is always important as to a particular solution to a particular problem, but context is not king. That sort of thinking has led to many of the problems we face since all decisions, no matter how humble, have some effect outside of the immediate context and we haven’t cared to consider what those impacts might be. having said that, one cannot avoid making timely decisions within the immediate context, since to make no decision while hesitating is actually a decision by default. We need to think within the context and then take a deep breath and then consider the effect of the decision externally to the problem at hand and see if it changes our resolve.

  • Steve Ellis

    I agree with Zach. Context is always important as to a particular solution to a particular problem, but context is not king. That sort of thinking has led to many of the problems we face since all decisions, no matter how humble, have some effect outside of the immediate context and we haven’t cared to consider what those impacts might be. having said that, one cannot avoid making timely decisions within the immediate context, since to make no decision while hesitating is actually a decision by default. We need to think within the context and then take a deep breath and then consider the effect of the decision externally to the problem at hand and see if it changes our resolve.