After obtaining a First Class
Honours Degree in Electronics (Science) at the University of Southampton
in 1969, Andrew entered research in the field of Computer Aided Design.
For his PhD Dissertation he pioneered a topological method for laying out
electronic circuit boards, which still has relevance today. Following this,
he spent twelve years in the business uses of computers, starting with
data analysis, progressing through medical records (and the problems of
error-ridden data) into expert systems (knowledge based systems). Then,
in 1986, he joined the University of Salford, first as research fellow in
the Surveying Separtment, and then as lecturer and senior lecturer of the
new Information technology Institute.
The remainder outlines his various academic interests. For more general
interests and commitments, including his Green and Christian activities,
During the first part of the 1980s he worked in ICI plc on knowledge based
systems, focusing on the knowledge level rather than symbol level. That
is, he focused his work on issues of
- methodology for acquiring knowledge,
- system development lifecycle,
- usefulness and benefits,
- acceptability of technology to stakeholders,
- as well as more technical issues like knowledge representation
His experience at ICI opened up new vistas for research at the knowledge
level, which he subsequently started to explore when he joined the
University of Salford.
In 1986 he joined the University of Salford, as
chief Knowledge Engineer for the highly acclaimed ELSIE project which
one of the most successful Expert Systems of its time. The ELSIE project
built upon and refined his ICI experience, and led to a number of funded
projects to develop the Client Centred
Methodology and Client Centred Approach to
building knowledge based, and other information, systems. Subsequently, in
other projects other KBSs have been constructed.
A joint EPSRC-funded project with the University of Newcastle Psychology
Department studied ELSIE in use. A particularly significant research
outcome was the development of a three-layer model of
benefits, by which the link between technical features and eventual
success or failure could be understood, and hence predicted, evaluated and
This line of interest led him to collaborate with the
Department of Informatics and Systems Science, University of Luleā, Sweden,
concerning the usefulness and impact of technology in its working context.
This was undergirded with pluralistic
philosophy via MultiModal Systems Theory.
Another line of research that Dr. Basden was central in was the
integration of spatial, quantitative and conceptual knowledge by
linking Geographic Information Systems with knowledge based systems.
This work, applied to environmental planning, eventually led to the
This has been part of broader research programme into the foundations of
knowledge representation and integration of several aspects of knowledge.
It is founded on the concept of appropriateness
which Dr. Basden introduced and developed, in an attempt to escape the
technology-centred concepts of sufficiency, efficiency and expressive power
of a representation.
This led to the start of a programme of research and development in which
these ideas are bring implemented in software as IRKit, which seeks to
provide a foundation for integrating not only various knowledge
representation formalisms but also spatial knowledge and multimedia.
During the 1990s a new departure has been an exploration of
user interfaces. It became clear that when building complex
knowledge bases in ill-structured domains the process is more akin
to creative design than to assembly of knowledge-pieces. This
requires the user interface to be such as to require minimal cognitive
effort and to give no interruption to the continuous flow of thinking
that is taking place.
The traditional approaches of point and click graphical interfaces
can impose too great a cognitive load and interrupt the user's flow
of thinking. So he has proposed a number of principles for
proximal user interfaces, which have been implemented and tested in
two programs, Istar
knowledge based system shell, and Annotator,
which allows annotation of images. This work is in conjunction with the
University of Southampton.
One of his interests, facilitated by the proximal user interface and
one of its major motivations, lies in the drawing of meaning.
That is, not just drawing, but linking the user actions during
drawing with internal data structures (knowledge bases or databases)
held in the computer.
This goes in the reverse direction to that normally encountered.
Much research elsewhere is directed at how to create displays
for existing data or knowledge, allowing the user to 'read' it graphically;
his research is in how the user can 'write' knowledge graphically.
For instance, by drawing boxes and arrows, to set up a semantic
net knowledge base on which the computer can then operate.
So far, this has been investigated in two contexts, the creation
of knowledge bases in ill-structured domains
and the annotation of historical images
In both areas interpretation is a key issue; in the creation of knowledge
bases, the user must interpret and clarify their thinking in the
process of setting it down, and in annotation, the user develops an
evolving interpretation of the contents of the image. In both cases
the action of drawing helps the user's flow of thinking, and as
they draw, useful data structures are built up in the background.
In the case of the knowledge base they can then be executed by
an inference engine; in the case of annotation, they can be searched
and manipulated like a database.
Andrew Basden has pioneered the use of MultiMedia techniques in his
teaching, but while doing so, has sought to develop a perspective on the
technology that is not technology centred but takes into account the
content and human aspects - yet gives proper regard to the technical
considerations. It is based on the concepts of levels of
meaning. In particular, he has paid close attention to movement and
animation as purveyors of meaning, a task made easier by his adoption of
as his main platform.
From 1st August 1997, Andrew Basden is seconded to the National Centre for
Virtual Environments, but will continue his other work.
Starting from knowledge based systems, and the KBS
community's attempts to come to terms with knowledge, Dr. Basden has
extended Newell's (1982) concept of the knowledge level to a full suite of
which are irreducible to each other such that each covers a range of topics
relevant to information systems and their use. This suite parallels those
With the above wide-ranging interests, it is not surprising that an
interest has developed in philosophy, as an attempt to undergird and
integrate the various themes. Dr. Basden is exploring the pluralist philosophy of Herman
Dooyeweerd, which provides a foundation for interdisciplinary working.
Andrew is a founder member of the Centre for Technology and Social Systems,
jointly with the Free University of Amsterdam and the University of Luleā,
- Tacit (Context) Level
- Knowledge Level
- Symbol Level
- Bit Level
- Component Level
- Materials Level
'Interdisciplinary' is a much-used word today - but what does it mean?
It has first signified a desire to escape the narrow
confines of single, isolated disciplines, but in most cases it
has then meant merely pushing two or more disciplines together,
hoping for some synergy. Both information technology usage and
environmental sustainability and planning are
interdisciplinary in nature, so there is a need for a more
principled approach to them.
Andrew has sought for a sounder basis for interdisciplinary
thinking and working. Dooyeweerdian philosophy provides one
such basis, postulating a clear yet theorectically robust view
of what a discipline is and what is the relatiohship between them.
This work is in the early days, but it is hoped that a
firm theoretical foundation can be found that is strong enough
to support a wide range of interdisciplinary activity.
Since 1987 Andrew has been Lecturer, then Senior
Lecturer, at the Information Technology Institute, covering databases,
knowledge based systems, artificial intelligence, human computer
multimedia and business information systems. He has pioneered the use of
multimedia in the department's teaching.
He is seconded for part of each year to teach at the
University of Luleā
Page last updated 19 September 1997
by Andrew Basden.