- Led Zeppelin
We’ve known for a long time that context determines meaning. When we read, when we listen, context drives how we experience the information.
Web 2.0 has been all about dumping information on us. Letting us share it. Letting us bury our naked bodies in it.
“To know an object is to lead to it through a context which the world provides.” – William James
The world (perception) provides the context. My recent Plurk post describes how a change in a User Interface context can change how conversations can evolve.
Stockholm Syndrome is an extreme case, in which a malevolent force can change the context of your daily life and thereby change the context under which you judge your captors. If kidnappers or abusers can win over the minds of their captors, can there be any argument that the mechanism of communication guides context?
The story – the succession of actions taken by actors – is a factual recount of events. The context is an envelope around that story that provides meaning, emotions, motivation, subtext, and other interpretive elements. Limited context = limited experience.
So, while context and meaning may shift, the song remains the same. We can see this clearly with US sentiment towards the actions in Iraq. At the beginning of the war, there was widespread support in the US. By the end, it was one of the most unpopular actions in history. Did the story change? No. But the lenses through which people were viewing the actions changed.
If your User Interface limits the lenses of context people can use to examine the information you are providing – the value to them will be limited to the contexts of your choosing. If people want to tell a story best interpreted out of that context – they will not use your product.
Perhaps the next movement will be applications that really let us use the information, rather than just being excited about creating it.
(Jimmy Page solo to follow)
((These thoughts were written down after an afternoon in a coffee shop in West Seattle with An Bui. Read her post inspired by the same conversation.))