The Function of Context
for Information Architecture
               Andrew Hinton
IAI Pre-Conference Workshop IA Summit 20...
Context is nothing new in design ...




                                       2
But it’s a big deal for IA




             “Page” vs “Context”




                                   3
What I mean by ‘web’ today ...




  What you do
                                  Hyperlinked
      in a              vs
...
Maps that create territories
       Representation          Instantiation




                                            ...
Shaping context with connection


              Architectural Function: “Utilitas”




        Links shape, and organize, ...
Prescribed Storage & Retrieval




            www.stjohnscollege.edu



                                       http://iac...
Emergent Expression, Creation & Function




      Now, context involves almost everything.




       www.designers-revol...
It’s all information -- just language ...



                Information that explains ...


             ... the informat...
The power of syntax

              Eats Shoots and Leaves




             Eats, Shoots and Leaves




                   ...
Radically different spaces




                        vs




                  Obvious difference.



                   ...
Small difference with radical implications




                     d vs @


                   Not so obvious.


        ...
“Possibility Spaces”




     Will Wright




                       13
Beyond Findability?


              Findability

                            Content




                   Designing Cont...
Some models for context




                          15
Personal-Behavioral Context

                                                                                THINKING
    ...
Personal-Situational Context
                                                             Task
                           ...
The Situation/Behavior Complex
                                                                      Task
                ...
Systems
                 To accomplish Tasks, we need Tools




          Task




                  For complex tasks, we...
Fuzzy Human Stuff Made Into Data




    Our ambiguities rendered
     into binary attributes.

                          ...
Machines in the image of our needs & desires




                                               21
A symbiosis




                 Person                           System
                 Organic,                        ...
Systems In Context
                                   Situation


                                    Need



            ...
Architectural Systems




                        24
Maison À Bordeaux: Rem Koolhaas




                                      quot;You see here two systems colliding... the s...
Christopher Alexander’s Patterns




               “A Timeless Way of Building” p 253




                               ...
Wyly Theatre




   http://rex-ny.com/work/wyly-theatre/animation

                                                   27
No user is an island ...




                           28
Social context




                 29
Social is everywhere (and always was)

                  Artifact             The Web has social DNA

                    ...
Groups of complex individuals




                                31
Common Goals & Patterns of Behavior



         Need

                           Need




                Need




       ...
Boundaries shape context




        What are the goals of the context?

                                             33
Even in “play” spaces




   Highly limited identity expression “out of character”
                                       ...
A system for every side of ourselves
                        Task

                 Need

                           Photo...
Client-side devices shape context too.
                                                Web / Twitteriffic:
                ...
You cannot engineer your users.

You can only accommodate them.




                                  37
The Flickr Context System




                             Home Pages
                            act as context
         ...
The Object Viewing Context



                                       Many
                                     embedded
Mo...
The “Organize” Task Context


                   Task




Inventory Object
   (“Content”)




                            ...
Identity Context

 Self-description &
   links to other
    facets -- sub-
 contexts of your
 presence/identity.




     ...
Connecting to & Embedding in Other Contexts




    yahoo.com




                                              42
Some context challenges




                          43
YouTube / “Context Collapse”
                        The problem is not lack of context. It
                        is con...
OLPC
       “This was, almost in every way, a traditional
       top down product development, that involved
       the ru...
Google Finance / News




                        Correlation?
                        Causation?




                    ...
MyBlogLog
                            “As you visit MyBlogLog-enabled sites, your
                            photo shows ...
Open ID


          The Problem of Unified Reputation

          “For example, I may not want my Suicide Girls account
    ...
Facebook Beacon




                  “Beacon”




                             49
Vanguard




           50
Discuss ...




              51
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Beyond Findability: Context

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The first portion of content presented as part of the IAInstitute's pre-conference workshop at the 2009 IA Summit in Memphis, TN. "Beyond Findability: Re-framing IA Strategy and Practice for Turbulent Times" http://iasummit.org/2009/program/pre-con/beyond-findability/
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Beyond Findability: Context

  1. 1. The Function of Context for Information Architecture Andrew Hinton IAI Pre-Conference Workshop IA Summit 2009 1
  2. 2. Context is nothing new in design ... 2
  3. 3. But it’s a big deal for IA “Page” vs “Context” 3
  4. 4. What I mean by ‘web’ today ... What you do Hyperlinked in a vs Environments “browser” 4
  5. 5. Maps that create territories Representation Instantiation 5
  6. 6. Shaping context with connection Architectural Function: “Utilitas” Links shape, and organize, hyperlinked spaces. 6
  7. 7. Prescribed Storage & Retrieval www.stjohnscollege.edu http://iac.dtic.mil/images/site_map.jpg For storage & retrieval, context is mostly about categorization & relevant proximity. 7
  8. 8. Emergent Expression, Creation & Function Now, context involves almost everything. www.designers-revolution.com 8
  9. 9. It’s all information -- just language ... Information that explains ... ... the information that contains ... ... the information that is contained Just so we’re clear ... 9
  10. 10. The power of syntax Eats Shoots and Leaves Eats, Shoots and Leaves 10
  11. 11. Radically different spaces vs Obvious difference. 11
  12. 12. Small difference with radical implications d vs @ Not so obvious. 12
  13. 13. “Possibility Spaces” Will Wright 13
  14. 14. Beyond Findability? Findability Content Designing Context 14
  15. 15. Some models for context 15
  16. 16. Personal-Behavioral Context THINKING cognitive assumptions, education, learning ability Cognitive DOING Physical physical activity & ability, habits, preferences, sensory Emotional FEELING psychological state, anxiety, confidence, stress, desire “Persona” 16
  17. 17. Personal-Situational Context Task Task Need Task Situation Task Need Need Task Task Task Task “Scenario” 17
  18. 18. The Situation/Behavior Complex Task Task Need Cognitive Task Situation Physical Task Need Need Emotional Task Task Task Task Time 18
  19. 19. Systems To accomplish Tasks, we need Tools Task For complex tasks, we need systems. 19
  20. 20. Fuzzy Human Stuff Made Into Data Our ambiguities rendered into binary attributes. 20
  21. 21. Machines in the image of our needs & desires 21
  22. 22. A symbiosis Person System Organic, Artificial, Analog Binary We create systems, imperfectly, in our own image. 22
  23. 23. Systems In Context Situation Need Cognitive Task System Person System Organic, Artificial, Analog Physical Binary Emotional 23
  24. 24. Architectural Systems 24
  25. 25. Maison À Bordeaux: Rem Koolhaas quot;You see here two systems colliding... the systems of the kind of platonic conception of cleaning with the platonic conception of architecture ... it's two ideologies confronting each other.quot; http://www.koolhaashouselife.com/ http://www.oma.eu/index.php?option=com_projects&view=portal&Itemid=10&id=19 http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2008/11/koolhaas-houselife-is-a-film.php 25
  26. 26. Christopher Alexander’s Patterns “A Timeless Way of Building” p 253 26
  27. 27. Wyly Theatre http://rex-ny.com/work/wyly-theatre/animation 27
  28. 28. No user is an island ... 28
  29. 29. Social context 29
  30. 30. Social is everywhere (and always was) Artifact The Web has social DNA Artifact Artifact http:// Artifact Asynchronous “conversation” 30
  31. 31. Groups of complex individuals 31
  32. 32. Common Goals & Patterns of Behavior Need Need Need 32
  33. 33. Boundaries shape context What are the goals of the context? 33
  34. 34. Even in “play” spaces Highly limited identity expression “out of character” 34
  35. 35. A system for every side of ourselves Task Need Photographer-me Task Need Task Situation Task Situation Need Need Working-me. Private- Situation thoughts-me Task Need Situation Dating-me Situation Task Need Task Craft-selling-me Need Party & Music-me 35
  36. 36. Client-side devices shape context too. Web / Twitteriffic: - Single column - Serial feed - Narrow aperture - Peripheral attention iconfactory.com Tweetdeck: - Multi-column - Parallel feed tweetdeck.com - Very wide aperture - Central attention SMS: - Single-message - No “feed” - Tiny aperture - Interruptive / alert Users of these applications & devices treat the Twitter www.webmaster247.co.uk/ “space” very differently. They act as if they are in completely different places. You can’t control the whole experience. 36
  37. 37. You cannot engineer your users. You can only accommodate them. 37
  38. 38. The Flickr Context System Home Pages act as context maps for influencing attention, setting priorities. 38
  39. 39. The Object Viewing Context Many embedded More contexts Tasks within the primary context. Other contexts this object belongs to Task (Rule-based Access) Conversation 39
  40. 40. The “Organize” Task Context Task Inventory Object (“Content”) 40
  41. 41. Identity Context Self-description & links to other facets -- sub- contexts of your presence/identity. Reputation At Flickr, your identity is, in part, a construct of your social connections. 41
  42. 42. Connecting to & Embedding in Other Contexts yahoo.com 42
  43. 43. Some context challenges 43
  44. 44. YouTube / “Context Collapse” The problem is not lack of context. It is context collapse: an infinite number of contexts collapsing upon one another into that single moment of recording. The images, actions, and words captured by the lens at any moment can be transported to anywhere on the planet and preserved (the performer must assume) for all time. The little glass lens becomes the gateway to a black hole sucking all of time and space – virtually all possible contexts – in upon itself. Michael Wesch, July 2008 mediatedcultures.net 44
  45. 45. OLPC “This was, almost in every way, a traditional top down product development, that involved the rural children in India, Africa and China only in the late stages. Near-finished prototypes were tested out late in development, brought to village kids as a “gift.” It would have been far better to begin in the villages, spend time there and build from the bottom up. Negroponte might have discovered there was little need for this kind of machine. Cell phones are far more popular as the means to connect to the net in much of the Third World and cell-phone type devices rather than cute little laptops might have made much more sense. Tons of research show this to be true.” Bruce Nussbaum - Business Week Sept 2007 45
  46. 46. Google Finance / News Correlation? Causation? 46
  47. 47. MyBlogLog “As you visit MyBlogLog-enabled sites, your photo shows up on the widget - a virtual calling card. Clicking on your photo leads to your profile and all the stuff you share.” Far below the fold ... 47
  48. 48. Open ID The Problem of Unified Reputation “For example, I may not want my Suicide Girls account linked to my Wikitravel account. If I participate in fringe- politics or drug-rights forums, I may not want that identity associated with my quot;businessquot; persona. As more and more sites become OpenID-enabled, the value of unifying your reputation across them is greater, but also the danger.” Evan Promdromou http://evan.prodromou.name/OpenID_Privacy_Concerns 48
  49. 49. Facebook Beacon “Beacon” 49
  50. 50. Vanguard 50
  51. 51. Discuss ... 51
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