Navigation: how we see sites and evolve their meaning

June 16, 2010

In 2010 wikis are widespread, a common and practical tool for distributed content creation, language and shared value emergence. The technologies and paradigms have become decoupled in people’s mindsets, with “wiki as in Wikinomics” being an open contribution/engagement ethos that extends to social effects and the functionality provided by wikis being blended into many other platforms.

Wiki-based intranets vary in their capability to hold up to the promise of emergence: a wiki’s ability to support emergence relies on the community permission to explicitly edit the navigation elements. This democratization is lost when wiki editing get pigeonholed into a content-only role on centrally-driven portals where the overall navigation is out of reach from those engaged on it.

Under the conditions of Simple or Complicated order, this is not an issue. Those wielding power have the time to get the designated few to tinker with the structure, such that it achieves information accessibility to at least a local maxima, satisfying the purposes of that few. From the Simple to the Complicated when more detail is needed time and effort adds more to a “Once organized” site. With planned ordered change an authority can grant a budget for a taxonomist to envision and plan revision that results in a new angle through navigation.

But, when a situation intensifies, such that outside conditions reach complex, navigation locked down to the reach of just a few makes little sense. In these cases the framework of overall meaning and relevance of content items needs to be negotiated too. Navigation is how we see context on online sites.

We rely on online sites to inform us and share our sense of reality. For organizations to use website to help them be on-goingly self-organizing, rather than “once organized”, they need to let go of navigation a little. Just how much depends how much contextual pressure they are under.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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