This paper was submitted for publication and is copyright to Barry Schaeffer© 2005.
Published here May 2006.

Editor's Note | Introduction | First Things First | The Heart of Today's Effort
Markup Protocols | Pressure to Produce | The Consumer Side is the Most Important
Holistic Markup Design | Stakeholder Involvement

First Things First

Perhaps the first caution is that we should avoid the assumption that because we live in a clean, technological age, we are no longer vulnerable to human limits.

For example, we tend to think of the evolution of human communication in fairly homogenized terms. An evolution that spans from the verbal tradition of pre-literary societies; to scrolls; to books and the Gutenberg revolution that made recorded information available to the common people. It didn't happen quite that way of course and its true path contains some powerful lessons for us if we will only make the effort to heed and follow them.

The early path of information evolution required nearly 4 millennia. It spanned from early scrolls around 2,000 BC to the wide availability of printed books by the late 16th century, with the possibility of reading, writing and learning by ordinary people, to the development of mass education in the mid-19th century. One of the most notable characteristics of this process is the number of times advances in one area was thwarted by the lack of technical resources or cultural readiness in others. This impeded or completely negated progress, sometimes for hundreds of years. Indeed, in some cases, technical advances stirred political or religious tensions, creating contention and chaos that actually reversed the course of progress.

Today, we are in the middle of another major evolutionary period in information. It is similar to the ancient processes in many ways, but is perhaps most notable for a major difference. Instead of hundreds of years between major advances and cultural responses, we are faced with the desire and perhaps the need to revolutionize our communication in less than a single generation.

While technology, building on its own successive accomplishments, has compressed hardware development cycles to the point of near disappearance, the human, cultural and geopolitical components of progress have undergone only moderate change. Moreover, our nominal ability to communicate and collaborate instantly has generated an often unrealistic level of expectation in almost every part of our life, accepting no delay regardless of the complexity of the task or the cost of the product. In more than one case, this unrelenting desire for intellectual gratification has spawned development based on expediency, setting the stage for later difficulties.

Introduction  Introduction

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