MEHopper / Cosma

Cosmos : Greek kosmos (masculine) an orderly harmonious systematic universe – M. Webster
Cosma : Greek kosma (feminine) an orderly harmonious systematic description of the universe — M. E. Hopper

Cosma is an initiative to compile an inventory of the best knowledge resources in the world and to also provide a variety of ways to navigate and explore them.1

Content is King

Cosma provides structured access to a systematic, top-down inventory of some of the world’s most valuable, interesting and entertaining Knowledge Resources. There are hundreds of pages, and each one features many hand picked links to subject specific resources. There are also customized links to database driven resources that can be accessed with URLs that use consistent search strings (e.g. Webster, Roget’s, Britannica, WorldCat, Open Courseware etc.). All of the links on the pages are organized by a unique classification scheme named Knowledge Forms that was developed exclusively for Cosma.

Knowledge Navigation

Cosma has a number of 3D interfaces called Worlds that are designed to enable truly spatial Knowledge Navigation and invite exploration of the Knowledge Resources inventory hosted on the Cosma Web site.

Toy Worlds are the newest approach to making 3D interfaces. They are literally “Toy Worlds” because they are dioramas created with dollhouse furniture and miniature toys that are photographed with a RICOH THETA S 360° Camera. The resulting 360° photos are posted on the Kuula 360° photo sharing service in order to overlay links to Cosma and other Web sites.

Here is the first in a series of Toy Worlds that are serving as an interface to Cosma. There are many other Toy Worlds distributed across the site. You can read about them and their fun backstory on this post.

This 360° image is a Toy World. Click on objects to find out about them, and use the menu in the lower left or door knobs to visit other related Toy Worlds.

There is also a 3D interface in Second Life. It is named Knowledge Park (K-Park) and it is all that remains of a more extensive project called Knowledge Places (K-Places). That project began in 2006, and at the height of it in 2010, there were many sites that covered more than a million square meters in Second Life. The sites were all made up of thematically organized spaces designed around inviting spatial metaphors (Parks, Palace, Paradise, etc.).

Knowledge Places Welcome Center

The above examples are just the latest of Mary Hopper’s experiments with creating 3D interfaces to large bodies of content. The first prototype was created with Apple’s HyperCard that ran in color on an Apple IIGS with ProDOS in the 1980s. There have been many others created using a variety of platforms since then. You can find out more about them on the Worlds Challenge page.

More to see and do!

There are a number of other ways of exploring Cosma besides the 3D interfaces.

You can browse a visual menu of some popular Categories of content.

There are over a hundred Adventures which are “posts” that highlight timely resources and usually include 360° YouTube videos.

Of course, there are standard Contents, Index, About, FAQ and Credits pages.

Finally, Cosma uses a “embedded and distributed” Documentation approach. There are passages and footnotes about the project distributed across the pages on the site in the context where they are relevant. In addition, they are gathered together in one place on the Notes page, so that page is a cumulative and evolving collection of clippings about the history, theory and structure of Cosma.



1.   Cosma is only the most recent iteration of a project that has been evolving for decades. It is based upon over thirty years of research and development in information, knowledge and communication systems. It’s been a long road, and quite the journey! Here are just a few references to some stops along the way…
Hopper, M. E. (2009, April). Cosma: Constructing a Kingdom of Knowledge. Media in Transition 6 Conference: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Hopper, M. E. (2007, April). The Knowledge Gates to SecondLife. Media in Transition 5 Conference: Creativity, Ownership and Collaboration in the Digital Age, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Hopper, M. E. (2000, January). Knowledge systems 101: From Alexandria to Hitchhiker’s Guide. Independent Activity Period, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Hopper, M. E. (1999, October). A Project About Projects: Watching Academic E-Media Projects Evolve [Presentation]. Media in Transition: An International Conference, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Hopper, M. E. (1998, October). Hypertext in historical context: Vannevar Bush and Ted Nelson revisited. Media-in-Transition Project / Communications Forum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.
Hopper, M. E. (1993). Expert’s views about courseware development in advanced computing environments [Abstract]. Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 93 – Conference on Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 607.
Hopper, M. E. (1993). Educational courseware production in advanced computing environments. Doctoral dissertation. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.

© M. E. Hopper