Collaborative Knowledge Visualization for Cross-Community Learning


Novak, J., Wurst, M. (2005). Collaborative Knowledge Visualization for Cross-Community Learning. Knowledge and Information Visualization, Springer Berlin / Heidelberg. 3426: 95-116.


This paper primarily deals with developing a tool for sharing knowledge among individual users and a community of users through a personalized and interactive shared concept space. Through personalized concept maps and shared concept networks, their prototype, Knowledge Explorer, “incorporates implicit knowledge and personal views of individual users” and demonstrates how a shared concept space supports the exchange of knowledge across disciplines. Effective knowledge visualization needs to be developed with a strong consideration of the social context.

The authors developed a model for collaboration across communities through the visualization of knowledge perspectives through personalized knowledge maps and shared concept networks. From the perspective of the authors, in order for knowledge visualization to be effective, the social context needs to be considered: In order to establish and display the context of knowledge to be shared, a need lies in displaying to users how knowledge reflected in artifacts of one discipline relates to their own knowledge and its context within their community to create a “shared context of knowing”.

3 types of concept maps used by Knowledge Explorer:
1. System-generated concept map
2. Personal concept map
3. Collaborative concept map

Key Points:

  • “Knowledge externalization usually is to create a formalized common understanding, a radically different approach is to allow different knowledge structures to co-exist and to mediate between them automatically by means of a mapping between different taxonomies, categorization structures, or ontology schemes” (101).
  • Effective knowledge visualization depends upon the proper integration of knowledge discovery, knowledge elicitation, and information visualization.
  • Users need to understand the criteria of the system functioning which provides insight to improve searching and understanding.
  • Knowledge visualization aims to improve the transfer and creation of knowledge by providing the resources for people to express their knowledge.

Tool explored:

Knowledge Explorer: An interactive prototype interface that incorporates collaborative knowledge sharing and multiple perspectives for cross-community access to knowledge. Evaluation Method: 12 test persons testing the prototype on the internet platform Modes of interaction with the visualizations include: selection, navigation, and drag&drop.

Fig. 1. The Knowledge Explorer Prototype

Results: Proved to have good acceptance among users but the variety of available interaction and navigation methods was complex and created a noticeable learning curve. Functions users found helpful: applying maps to other users for discovery of new knowledge and creating a context of search results and topic-based navigation across disciplines.


Establishing Need

  • “The problem of supporting cross-community exchanges has been relatively under-investigated”(97).  At the same time, there is a direct need for support and integration of knowledge between different communities with field specialists.
  • Support for shared knowledge community platforms and knowledge portals are missing. Typically, these tools are based on centralized knowledge bases and standard community-tools that were developed for use within communities that do not take into consideration use by non-community members.


  • Visualization of information should be produced through the use of visual metaphors, mapping algorithms, or interaction paradigms which reduces complexity and allows the user to manipulate the visualization.
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