There are two conventional responses to societal data overload; one extreme is the effort to achieve an overview of a problem situation by sacrificing any focus on detail. At the other extreme is the much favoured tendency to concentrate on some highly specific practical question, ignoring the context, in order to make concrete progress and achieve results. Information systems have not yet been designed to stabilize the shift of user focus between these different levels. As in the case of the individual, it is difficult for a group focusing on a given level to bear in mind more than the next broader level and the next narrower level. Where there are many relevant levels, much must remain out of focus. And in the dynamics of practical programmes and policy-making, levels acquire an independence from one another especially since they lend themselves to the establishment of user fiefdoms. These may well give rise to their own information systems by which that independence is justified and reinforced. Needless to say such divisions constitute a severe limit on innovative learning. The question is whether learning systems can be designed and used respecting the limits to comprehension inherent in cognitive levels different depths.