Oxford Dictionary defines context as the following:

The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

Context is a necessary part of sensemaking. People are highly contextual creatures, and our experiences are inextricably tied to context, much like our experiences are inextricably tied to time. All action, choice, interpretation, phenomenon, and thought occur within a particular context. Context can help explain why and how something or someone is.

Related concepts include context collapse and hypercontextualization.

Context collapse

Context collapse is the phenomenon of removing relevant context from a piece of information.

This term often used to describe the modern day feeds of social media and news. Every tweet, post, etc. has been necessarily stripped down and formatted to fit that particular platform. The information in that post exists independently of any other post within the same feed. Consuming these posts allow you to reach a wide breadth of information without digging very deep per post, which is great for entertainment purposes. Each post exudes importance on its own, but taken amongst the other posts and examined all at once leads to chaos and nonsense.

I first heard of the term context collapse in How to Do Nothing by Jenny O’Dell, but Mike Caulfield alludes to this concept a number of years prior in his section about Streams in his keynote The Garden and the Stream: a Technopastoral.


Hypercontextualization is the process of emphasizing context and making it explicit, or even central, to the experience you deliver.

Digital gardens are an example of a hypercontextualized space, where ideas are defined by their relationship to other ideas, rather than something like chronology or suggestions based on your previous actions (i.e. algorithms). While chronology and suggestions are helpful in context collapse, defining ideas based on relationships help strengthen (or weaken) ideas over time, resulting in more sense-making over time – particularly as the web of relationships grow.