Incremental formalization with the hyper-object substrate Academic Article uri icon


  • Computers require formally represented information to perform computations that support users; yet users who have needed such support have often proved to be unable or unwilling to formalize it. To address this problem, this article introduces an approach called incremental formalization, in which, first, users express information informally and then the system aids them in formalizing it. Incremental formalization requires a system architecture the (1) integrates formal and informal representations and (2) supports progressive formalization of information. The system should have both tools to capture naturally available informal information and techniques to suggest possible formalizations of this information. The hyper-object substrate (HOS) was developed to satisfy these requirements. HOS has been applied to a number of problem domains, including network design, archeological site analysis, and neuroscience education. Users have been successful in adding informal information and then later formalizing it incrementally with the aid of the system. Our experience with HOS has reaffirmed the need for information spaces to evolve during use and has identified additional considerations in the design and instantiation of systems enabling and supporting incremental formalization

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Shipman, F. M., & McCall, R. J.

citation count

  • 27

complete list of authors

  • Shipman, FM||McCall, RJ

publication date

  • April 1999