Aside from other projects I am engaged in, I am also promoting a free open source (GPL) based software project named DeepaMehta, just like the Indian film maker. DeepaMehta is an entirely new approach of how we could store and forward information and knowledge. It is based on the pradigms of semantic desktop environments and offers a complete client server based application framework for multi user collaboration.
Concept of knowledge and learning theory
As the DeepaMehta Project was founded in February 2000, knowledge management was hype. That was the occasion to reflect on what knowledge is. We believe that knowledge is never stored in computers, but information. Knowledge is created in our minds. Knowledge creation is an individual cognitive process that takes place in humans. Knowledge creation is not automated.
Mind Maps and Concept Maps are graphical methods that can help in thinking, learning, memory and idea generation. They are based on research in the field of cognitive science. DeepaMehta can incorporate the ideas underlying these methods in the design of the user interface. The goal is a cognitively adequate working environment for knowledge workers and other creative people.
DeepaMehta has been developed by Joerg Richter et al. since 2000. I joined the project in 2003. Now it is seeking to getting deployed into the real.
Why we all need DeepaMehta
As knowledge workers, which I suppose most of us are, we are working on different projects and domains over time or in parallel. Each of these projects or domains mainly consist of artefacts which we store as digital data. These informations are mainly stored on our personal computers and only accessable outside their contexts through the various appllications, like web-browsers, mail-clients, text-editors, address-books, document-readers, etc. We could finally call that an application lock-in.
So in complete contrast to how our brain actually works, until today we are not able to digitally store the links between all these artefacs and topics, namely the associations – our associations – which we draw inbetween those artefacts. But we really need to name and store these associations between the topics or artefacts and make them visable, because that is exactly what we call our knowledge and what helps us to remember and/or overthink a certain domain or project.
It is of greater need, that we have a tool that can store and connect the various digital artefacts belonging to one project or domain all in one digital context and which helps us to draw and name/label the associations between these topics which we have in our minds. Also, any topic or artefact stored in one context, should be reusable in another context, just as it happens to be in real life. Finally this tool should enable us to share those individually structured topics and associations – our knowledge – with each other – jointly and in a peer-to-peer manner.
Where we are
DeepaMehta has been developed to a degree where it is mostly functional in terms of the backend-systems, the so called application-server. It can connect to various existing data-sources, like databases, mailing-lists, and even to the WWW. It can be used to link data into their geografical contexts, to design next generation content managent systems and to share your knowledge with other people over the internet. It has various presentation layers, like an integrated webserver and a GUI. But until today the project did not manage to engage good interface designers which are heavily needed to finally bring the project to it’s breakthrough. Besides interface design, it will need further enhancements like versioning control, URI-support, and peer-to-peer capable access management systems (ACL). DeepaMehta is written in JAVA.
How you (techies and non-techies) can help
I want to please you to have a closer look at the projects website (all in English) at http://www.deepamehta.de. There is a beautiful showcase application (just an interface study) realized in flash, which may give you a better understanding of the whole idea behind it at http://inputgeil.de/peng/app.swf. So those of you who understand the true value of this app, please help me promoting the project and find more developers and supporters to raise it. And those of you with direct connections into academia, please think about how you might manage to get your students help in the further development of this very unique and valuable tool or which projects you might even realize based on this platform!
I would not bother you if I wasn’t truely believing the high value and need of this approach.
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