The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn’t think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential. – Steve Ballmer
I came across the idea of graphs a few days ago and have been quite interested in their possibilities since then.
Except there’s more to it than that.
One of the biggest issues we have when we think about things is that we’ve been trained to think in parts, to look at pieces of things.
For example, if you want to study a paper you start by reading all the sentences and taking notes – breaking the paper down into the points that are important, that you think you need to remember.
If you need to analyse a problem you start by breaking it into parts, and looking at how you can solve each of those parts.
We’re not really taught systematically about how to put things together again – you’re expected to pick that up with experience. And some people get it and some of us struggle and time passes on.
A knowledge graph is an application of graph theory to the problem of understanding and developing knowledge. The thing about learning something is that it usually only makes sense when it’s put in the context of something else. It’s hardly ever useful just by itself.
When I started reading my first paper for my research I started to get stuck at the point where I was thinking about what kind of notes I should take – what did I need to understand and remember.
The problem really wasn’t one of remembering – no one is going to have to take an exam on this stuff. It’s more a problem of relating, of figuring out what goes where.
I’ve been playing with developing my own knowledge graph for the research I’m reading. It’s still a work in progress but when you visualise the concepts you might come up with something like this.
Now this is a little hard to understand but you can start to filter the graph and try to understand relationships – like the different names writers use for things that are really the same thing. Like this.
Now, you might ask yourself whether all this isn’t just making things more complicated.
And it sort of is, because when you look at the image it’s complicated and needs some work.
But, the important thing is that nothing makes sense without its connections – it’s the relationships that help you work out what’s going on and they are the way you build an understanding of what’s really there.
And if you have a sound graph that underpins your understanding then the work you create as a result will have solid foundations as well – whether it’s a strategy or a business plan or a book.
In theory anyway.