Intent: Interactive Access and Future Developments
- Further research possibilities
- New kinds of information
- Interactive relationship with information providers/users
- Quality of information
- Capturing the dynamic
- Display possibilities
1. Further research possibilities
The information in this publication is maintained in computer files. The
project to date has been, and should continue to be, a data-collection and
presentation exercise. The existence of an updated data base of this kind
should also facilitate some types of research which have hitherto been almost
The data collected will not, for example, contribute directly to research
using quantitative models, although it may suggest some problems and relationships
for inclusion in such models. A precondition for conventional model building
is a minimum of quantitative information on the dynamics of the relationship
between two or more selected levels or quantities in the system. The "problems" become
evident by interpretation of the results of the quantitative analysis. In
the absence of quantitative information, or where the latter is vulnerable
to criticism, no other systematic analysis has been possible.
One use of the data collected in this project will be to test whether results
can emerge from analyzing the networks of relationships as networks in which qualitative
rather than quantitative values are attached to the links between
the nodes. The readily available tools of graph theory and topology, for
example, have not yet been applied with computer assistance to such data.
For example, it should prove useful to conduct computer comparisons of the
degree of isomorphism of a network of interrelated problems and the corresponding
network of agencies (or treaties, or disciplines) which purport to focus
upon them. If the functional interlinkages, particularly communication channels,
of the latter do not correspond to the linkages (or degree of structural
complexity) of the problems, then it is probable that problem complex is
uncontained, and uncontainable, by the programmes of the agencies as they
are currently implemented. It would seem that in a world system characterised
by a number of relatively complex networks on which information is largely
unavailable or inadequate for numerical analysis, such techniques could be
used to identify and analyze clusters and critical points for action.
2. New kinds of information
Since this volume is integrated with the Yearbook
of International Organizations, any improvements will be closely related
to improvements to that publication and could comprise inclusion of:
3. Interactive relationship with information providers/users
- other organizations (including subsidiary bodies);
- other kinds of relationship between organizations;
- other kinds of relationships between strategies and organizations, or
problems, or values, or understandings of human development.
Ideally, given the emerging possibilities of the World Wide Web,
access, "users" of this information
will take on some functions of editors and information providers. Faced with
entries on which they are able to articulate improvements to the presentation,
or to the relationships with other entries, facilities will be offered to
enable them to propose specific amendments. In this way, if they so choose,
they effectively become an extension of the editorial research team.
At present the editorial team endeavours to extract such improvements from
the documents of international organizations. This is a relatively slow process.
In the future, use of the information and improvement to it will take place
simultaneously. The maintenance of the information will therefore have a
greater number of auto-correcting and self-sustaining features built into
Such an approach would have the considerable advantage of facilitating input
of information on entries and relationships which may be obscure to many
but vital to some. Such information is often difficult to locate and summarize
and, with budgetary constraints, may otherwise easily be treated as of lower
4. Quality of information
An obvious concern is the manner in which the quality of the information
can be controlled in such a relatively open system. Clearly there is a need
to separate changes advocated by highly authoritative specialists from those
at the other extreme and from casual, or even irresponsible, users. Equally
there is a need to ensure inputs from the seemingly unqualified who have
had direct experience of the issues and whose insights may cast a different
light on the matter from those of specialists blinkered by disciplinary mandates.
One function of the editorial team could then be to attribute "expertise
codes" to distinguish between a variety of levels of input to which users
can control their exposure. Hotel and restaurant guides, with their five
star to one star qualifiers, suggest one approach.
In this environment, "entries" and "relationships" then effectively become
dialogue arenas to which user/providers are contributing -- as in many Internet
conference groups. Alternatively, users could be connected to separate discussion
conferences on the themes of specific entries (or referred to sites where
such conferences are ongoing).
Clearly the intent would be to create a decentralized learning environment,
possibly one in which the boundary between the Encyclopedia and
other information environments is creatively porous.
5. Capturing the dynamic
Inclusion, where appropriate, of claims made by an organization for the
importance of its programmes with respect to particular world problems and
the various obstacles to any increase in their effectiveness.
Inclusion, where appropriate, of counter-claims by competent critics (such
as other international organizations with the same focus) concerning the
ineffectiveness of a particular organization's programme activity. Such information
could of course only be included in situations where there is some degree
of unanimity on the content of the counter-claim, and where information could
be included from the organization in defence of its position.
6. Display possibilities
This project will succeed to the degree that it can render transparent the
complexity it attempts to map and on which continuing feedback and dialogue
is sought. This poses the problem of developing a satisfactory form of display.
Although the hardware exists and some software has been developed to handle
network structures in three dimensions and colour, this work has hitherto
been confined to engineering design, architecture and chemistry, and its
potential for handling the great complexity of social structures is poorly
recognised. The new virtual reality markup language (VRML) may prove vital
to the challenge.
An advantage of holding the relationships in computer files as components
of directed graphs is that such graphs can be plotted (in colour) by computer
with appropriate labelling and choice of projection. As a descriptive device
for highly complex structures, apart from permitting relatively sophisticated
analyses, a graph representation can be transformed into much more iconic
forms than those conventionally used to describe psychosocial structures,
and is thus more comprehensible. Detailed problem "maps" can therefore be
produced, printed and bound into "atlases" - the argument being that people
(whether students, executives, researchers or policy makers) have at least
as much need for such visual devices to orient themselves in the social system
as they have for road and other maps.
Comprehension will be made easier by on-line computer graphics devices with
display screens to permit the user:
- to interact with that part of the network the user chooses progressively
- at the level of display complexity the user is prepared to tolerate, • with
the ability to call up textual explanation, use computational power, or
activate a parallel display whenever required.