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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

On the problem of communicating complex information

The nature of the difficulty involved in communicating mathematical results between scientists using a computer based information retrieval system is examined. The problem is analyzed in terms of psychological and information-processing processes, and what turns out to be a vicious circle of effects is described. The paper then considers how the presentation of information by a computer-based information retrieval system, or by other media, can be improved. Some trade-offs which affect the design of the presentation are mentioned, and a number of ideas for improvement are described. These include ways of augmenting written natural language by various notational and linguistic devices, the exhibition of the structure inherent in the information we are communicating, and a sophisticated interactive system controlled by computer.

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