Read and report (briefly)

[Noemi] is it ok to ask you to take this on? Relevant to Spot the future.

on SenseMaker and the software application

The article is of no use in itself, the UNDP group in Georgia is barely getting started and piloting the methodology, and they are getting consultancy for that.

From what I could read elsewhere, here are a couple of observations about the sensemaker methodology and tool:

  • rooted in the Complex Adaptive Systems theory, which i assume you are more familiar with, I am not really. 
  • it seems to be adding a qualitative component, distributed ethnography, to survey-like data (quantitative)
  • works with granular data and lends itself to all sorts of data, not just textual, also recordings and images
  • no intermediaries to code the data: the respondent interprets their own story and adds their own meaning to it by signaling a point in a tridimensional space - an intersection of 3 priorly established abstract constructs -> for each response you end up with 3 quantitave coordinates registered in the application
  • it outputs statistical data allowing you to map patterns, but also links to the pieces of narrative.
  • it's not clear whether and how micro-narratives and anecdotes are sensitive to language, or how the software deals with that
  • works well with monitoring and evaluation, not sure about our case, where we'll be seeding rather free conversations
  • Cognitive Edge, the mother organisation, is a network of practitioners all over the world, working with this method. It doesn't say how much the software costs. You would anyway need training & consultancy to be able to implement it

Are you interested to dig more, [Alberto]? It does seem like something up your alley. For ER LBG, the only way to look at this, I think, is if we’re looking for an alternative to or comparison with online ethnography. Which I’m not sure we are…


I had come across SenseMaker ©™ some years ago, and was not convinced. This triangle thing has made the cut, people do like it (even Giulio) but I loathe it because it does implicit rescaling. Consider this a triangle where dimensions represent Truth, Beauty and Virtue. You are comparing some pieces of content (stories).

  1. Macbeth: Truth = 100, Beauty = 100, Virtue = 100
  2. 70s Mexican sci-fi porn: Truth = 0, Beauty = 0, Virtue = 0
  3. La Divina Commedia: Truth = 50. Beauty = 100, Virtue = 100

See what happens? The triangle representation of Macbeth and Mexican porn are identical. Commedia is different, because it asserts a religious truth shared in its details by very few people except Dante (he is essentially customiziong hell to put people he dislikes in it). In a (biggish) data analysis perspective, SenseMaker ©™ wils then happily proceed to put Shakespeare and Rodrigo the Dry Humper from Space in the same cluster, and Dante in a different one. Visualization hath its pitfalls. 

Thank you for checking!