The ‘philosophy’ (love of knowledge) - of Liquid Information is not a reflective philosophy of what is, liquid information is an active philosophy, ('normative' as the jargon goes) - a love of knowledge and how you can interact with it - intended to be a rudder for designing increasingly Liquid Information systems and solutions to, following Doug Engelbart's goal: 'Augment our ability to solve urgent, complex problems, collectively.'
By ‘Liquid’we mean rich (referring to having many useful options of commands available) and fluid (smoothly and low effort to execute after basic understanding and training) interaction.
Information : Symbols
By ‘Information’ we primarily mean information recorded in symbols, including written text, spoken words, diagrams, maps and visualization in a digital environment.
Fundamental Units Of Knowledge
The focus on symbols is because, to a large extent, we think and communicate with, and through, symbols, so;
• the richer the interaction with our symbols can be,
• the richer our understanding and communication will be.
It is this which drives the passion for making interaction ever more liquid.
Sometime in 1992 or 1993, while studying advertising design at Syracuse University, NY, USA, I was driving home from the Carousel Mall. It was quite late, it was raining, it was the heyday of Mac vs. Windows discussions and I realized that, although I am a Mac user, they were both less than ideal. This realization jolted me so much I missed my turn and spent the next two years thinking more about the fundamentals of computers than about advertising.
Out of the initial fundamental question of what information is (the definition of which I ended up after six months was: 'Something which is useful to someone in some way at some point"), the idea of 'liquid' information came to me.
After digging into the workings of Apple's Advanced Technology Group (ATG) and finding out about XEROX PARC, I read Don Norman's books and spent a good couple of visits in his office at Apple. I felt frustrated that although he graciously gave me his time, he felt Apple was too big to really innovate (this was while Steve Jobs was away...).
Reaching further back in history I read Howard Rheingold's "Tools For Thought" and came across a reference to Doug Engelbart, in the chapter; "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Thinker". I was amazed. So much done by basically one guy. And so few people knew, or cared.
Many years later I called Doug Engelbart out of the blue, and got invited to come and see him. We had a truly amazing meeting - my bones felt like electricity was pulsing through them. And we have been talking and working together ever since. I ended up doing a web based documentary on him; Invisible Revolution, the man and the philosophy: Invisible Revolution.net
I since moved back to London where I started The first incarnation of The Liquid Information Company, with Sarah Walton and together we really put the philosophy together and built the first email service with smart folders (we called them Views) and integrated Newsgroups.
Today I run the new Liquid Information Company, also in London, after a few years of a partnership in The Hyperwords Company.