SubjectMatter - see the meanings in the bigger picture


The core mission of SubjectMatter is to help make sense and navigate umbrella topics using existing literature, and to bring some clarity in one's own position under the umbrella.

Many overarching concepts used in research and practice can be seen as umbrella topics. For example, "smart cities", "technology", "sustainability", and "digital transformation". Umbrella topics provides a broader context in which subtopics situates. They serve as an overarching framework for organising knowledge and practice to enable understanding and communication.

Umbrella topics consists of concept that can be fluid - open to interpretation, adaptable, variable, flexible and subject to change over time and different contexts without a strict boundary - making it difficult to pin down a strict and precise definition. Umbrella topics often have a broad scope with multiple subtopics, they are multi-faceted, usually with contributions from more than one disciplines, domains, fields, and perspectives.

For example, "spatial accessibility" is a topic of investigation in urban studies, geography, economics, policy, planning, and the design of built environments. It encompass subtopics from different perspectives dealing with different aspects - daily activities, individual characteristics, the movement of people and goods within built environments, characteristics of locations, transport system etc. It is well known that there is no single definition of "spatial accessibility", and there are multiple distinctive methods to analyse, measure and understand "spatial accessibility".

Working with umbrella topics can be challenging. It can be difficult to define the scope of the work making it difficult to focus on an aspect. It can also be difficult to articulate own work within the context, making it hard to resonate with the community associated with the topic, and to communicate the work with audiences who may not be familiar with the topic.

An example of own text located and positioned (the four pointed star) amongst texts from research articles, and searched for texts with similar meanings (selected points in blue)

With the challenges of working with umbrella topics in mind, SubjectMatter has been designed and developed to help. Visual explorer to visually explore and interact with texts within a collection of uploaded documents. Search and LLM question and answer are built into different parts SubjectMatter to assist with queries that are more than the text itself.

In the visual explorer, texts can be mapped out using different types of projected space based on their meaning. Allowing one to see, select, question, and examine the texts from multiple angles and perspectives. It enables exploration and identification of subtopics with similar meanings. SubjectMatter makes locate and position own input text within the projected space possible, to see how the input text fit into the context, and to locate the relevent texts and documents.