Cohere: Web 2.0 knowledge mapping goes into beta

20 12 2007

One of the e-science collaboration technologies whose potential in being investigated for choreographers is knowledge and dialogue visualization. In the Memetic project, we integrated the Compendium desktop application with video conferencing. Compendium is our point of departure in e-Dance, but in a parallel project (Open Sensemaking Communities) we have been developing a web-centric tool called Cohere.

Cohere is exploring the space opened up by the Web 2.0 paradigm for social networking and user-generated ‘indigenous’ content (cf. websites like Flickr and YouTube) and resources like tagged, bookmarked websites (cf. At the same time, we are interested in coherence, and the name suggests: how do we weave coherent narratives that make sense of the information ocean. Web 2.0 tools make it easy to collect isolated media fragments, but what are the meaningful relationships between these in a given context?

We can translate this challenge into the e-Dance world by asking how, for instance, we can enable a team of choreographers or students to weave a set of personal, and merged, webs of connections between video clips of dance rehearsals or performances? In other words, how might they overlay, share, and contest their interpretations — their narratives — as layers over the raw footage? Almost like layers of perspectives on top of a geospatial map that can be turned on and off… [which is why we call this Knowledge Cartography]

Cohere is the start of our answer to this. It’s just gone into public beta, and we invite you to play with it. It is, very simply, a tool for making connections, and then sharing those maps with others as hyperlinks, web feeds, or embedded in other websites. Track its development via the blog. The concept can be summarised in “3 easy steps”…



This is what it looks like for real in Cohere. First we add a new “Idea” (everything’s an Idea), for e-Dance Project (see right screenshot).

Then we make some connections to the research questions motivating the project, and grab the snippet code to embed the map below. This shows the e-Dance Project, which exists now as a node in the network, with a context, that is, possible meanings or significances — in this case, its rationale:

We’ll return to this in future posts as we prototype new examples.

e-Dance is a PAG pioneer

4 10 2007

PAG, the Portlet Access Grid project (funded by OMII-UK), launches its pre-release test server on 5th October 2007. This is designed to make joining and using the Access Grid (next generation of video conferencing software) a piece of cake. Features are:

  • Connect to any Access Grid Toolkit 3 Server
  • Full access to all AGTk client features
  • Join an AG session from a hotel room / internet cafe – or even from any theatre

More details at;

PAG Screenshot 1

PAG screenshot

If you wish to join email

The sand starts to fly

28 09 2007

Day 2 of the Sandpit – Simon’s view:

The morning was spent in a dance studio with Helen and Sita (choreographers) and Amalia, one of Helen’s team, introducing the technologists (Mike, Andrew, Anya and me) to their world. We reconnected with our bodies as they walked us through movement exercises that helped us to glimpse what it is to be a dancer, and how a visual language can be built up. We each worked on a short ‘performance’ (all 15 seconds of it) composed from movements based on our names, then combined them in pairs, and culminating in an improvisational piece with all of us performing, and trying to respond creatively to what was going on around us. Great fun! But more importantly, hugely complex, helping us appreciate how much is going on at any moment for a dancer.


We rounded off the morning by playing with a dance DVD which featured an interactive, annotated timeline for each dance clip. This helped the viewer navigate flexibly to the point of interest — just like we generate in the Memetic replay interface! The positive response that this DVD always gets from dancers is hopefully an encouraging sign of how Memetic will be received…



In the afternoon we moved into the new theatre, where we ‘learnt to be choreographers’, and Helen and Sita got their hands dirty using the software. Helen directed Amalia and Lisa, another dancer, through several sequences of a multimedia piece Helen has been choreographing. Our job was to get some insight into the process.


It was great to see some real dancing after our morning’s efforts!…


Then Mike and Anya took over, inventing some new variations, and experiencing what it is like to work with dancers to refine an idea.

Meanwhile, Andrew got Memetic running locally on Helen’s laptop so she now has a portable ‘Access Gird recording studio’ she can start playing with, while I created a dance annotation stencil in Compendium. This enabled the real time annotation of points to which the choreographer wants to return for reflection, eg. when a particular dancer does something, a moment that works/doesn’t work, an intervention from the choreographer, or a compositional strategy.

Sita and Helen then experimented with this to annotate key moments in the rehearsal, which opened up some great discussions about future requirements to support flexible structures.


If I’ve learnt anything today, it’s that emergent structure, themes, patterns are central to how choreographers work. Our e-science knowledge cartography and video replay tools must support this.