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Towards a cross-context IA


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From Digital to Physical Spaces (And Back)

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Towards a cross-context IA

  1. 1. towards a cross-context IA from digital to physical spaces (and back) Luca Rosati & Andrea Resmini Europe's Third Information Architecture Summit Barcelona, September 21-22 2007 Paper available at
  2. 2. Fore word Information architecture is not just for the Web: information architecture has a larger impact on many offline activities and affects our daily experience in many different ways Its contribution becomes crucial where complexity, unfamiliarity and information overload stand in the way of the user (Image: Jim Benson,
  3. 3. A Unified Model of IA <ul><ul><li>We would like to outline a unified model of information architecture able to traverse the diverse contexts we encounter daily, from digital to physical spaces, providing a conceptual framework for the design of cognitive and informational continuity between environments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Within this model we propose to apply organizational and interactional models typically used on the Web to the design of physical objects and spaces </li></ul></ul>(Image: Paul Walsh, )
  4. 4. From Digital to Physical Space We believe this evolution of information architecture is a strategic part of the general evolution of design, from the design of objects to that of processes By enabling coherent bridge-experiences, information architecture can provide better and more satisfying Human Information Interaction (HII) in both worlds, online and offline (Image: Clipart ETC,
  5. 5. Laws of Findability <ul><li>In this presentation, we will briefly outline some of the laws, principles or rules we believe define the boundaries of a successful cross-context model, focusing on </li></ul><ul><li>Coherence </li></ul><ul><li>Flexibility </li></ul><ul><li>Correlation </li></ul><ul><li>and following a path of scents, suggestions, occasional detours, and case-studies </li></ul>(Image: Patrick Lambe's Map of Findability,
  6. 6. co here nce (Borges, Foucault, Lakoff and classification)
  7. 7. The Animal Menagerie <ul><li>Seals (gray, tiny and white) </li></ul><ul><li>Elephant (small, tiny) </li></ul><ul><li>Sheep </li></ul><ul><li>Dogs (German shepherd, Scottish collie) </li></ul><ul><li>Rabbit </li></ul><ul><li>Penguin </li></ul><ul><li>Platypus </li></ul><ul><li>Skunk (one stripe) </li></ul><ul><li>Donkey </li></ul>How do we classify these? (Image: some sort of seal, courtesy of O'Reilly)
  8. 8. Karl von Linné Says (1) <ul><li>Karl von Linné (1707-1778) </li></ul><ul><li>Born Linnaeus, then ennobled, Swedish botanist and scholar </li></ul><ul><li>Envised the classification scheme for all living beings </li></ul><ul><li>In Linnean Taxonomy, all of these anymals belong to Eukaryota (Domain), Animalia (Kingdom), Chordata (Phylum), Vertebrata (Subphylum), Mammalia (Class), except for the penguin, whose Class is Aves (birds) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>( Karl, relaxing after some taxonomy work) </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Karl von Linné Says (2) <ul><li>Linnean Taxonomy is an example of classical, Aristotelian classification where: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>category is an abstract container </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>things are in the same category if and only if they have common properties </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>category has clear boundaries </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>category is defined by common properties of the members </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>category is cataloger-independent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>no members have any special status </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>all levels in a hierarchy are equivalent </li></ul></ul>carnivora caniformia canidae canis (Image: animal pictures courtesy of O'Reilly). canis familiaris phocidae halichoerus halichoerus grypus
  10. 10. Gaia Says <ul><li>Gaia, 7-year-old </li></ul><ul><li>Italian, 3rd grader </li></ul><ul><li>Owner of a large collection of plushes (well, make that rather large) </li></ul><ul><li>Wildly loves animals </li></ul><ul><li>What does she say? First let's have a closer look at the animals </li></ul>(Hey! Isn't that tower leaning? Now wait a sec)
  11. 11. The Animal Managerie Redoux Mmmmh, plushes...
  12. 12. Looks Like Gaia Has a Point! <ul><li>The seal, the small elephant and the donkey are friends </li></ul><ul><li>The dogs stay by themselves since they are predators and eat the others animals. We need to sedate them at times </li></ul><ul><li>The rabbit and the sheep spend time together when the rabbit is not hiding in his hole because they come from the same place (a farm, possibly) </li></ul><ul><li>The penguin and the skunk go together because they are both black. Plus, the penguin is teaching the skunk to swim </li></ul><ul><li>The platypus and the tiny elephant are the same age and play together. So do the two other tiny seals, since they are the same size </li></ul>(Gaia in mum's shoes, self portrait)
  13. 13. Quick Recap carnivora caniformia canidae canis canis familiaris phocidae halichoerus halichoerus grypus seal small elephant donkey rabbit sheep german shepherd border collie skunk penguin (Karl, classical) (Gaia, prototypical) platypus other elephant predate on (Image: animals courtesy of O'Reilly and Gaia)
  14. 14. A Classification for Drugs <ul><ul><li>(Image: </li></ul></ul><ul><li>National legislations often have ideological roots: alcohol and tobacco for instance are socially accepted drugs in many countries </li></ul><ul><li>Dangerousness is a sum of factors: privileging one over the other, for example chemical composition, leads to skewed classifications </li></ul><ul><li>Currently drugs are classified as Class A: cocaine / crack, heroin, ecstasy, LDS, magic mushrooms, crystal meth; Class A/B: amphetamines; Class C: cannabis, ketamine </li></ul><ul><li>Nutt and his group used a 3-way system which compounds toxicity, dependency, effects on social life and compared it to the Misuse of Drugs Act </li></ul>
  15. 15. Comparing Classifications <ul><li>The Lancet Group </li></ul><ul><li>based on a pool of parameters (social harm, physical harm; dependence) </li></ul><ul><li>5th and 9th place respectively </li></ul><ul><li>Aristotelically incoherent but coherent in respect to its social context </li></ul><ul><li>Misuse of Drugs Act </li></ul><ul><li>based on the drug's chemical formula: its essence </li></ul><ul><li>alcohol and tobacco are absent </li></ul><ul><li>Aristotelically coherent but incoherent in respect to its social context </li></ul>
  16. 16. A Different Graph <ul><li>Color classes A, B, C refer to the Misuse of Drugs Act </li></ul><ul><li>Unclassified drugs are listed in gray </li></ul><ul><li>The graph shows the new classification emerging from Nutt's study, with some surprises </li></ul>
  17. 17. Co here nce <ul><li>“ The animals are divided into: a. belonging to the Emperor, b. embalmed, c. trained, d. suckling pigs, e. mermaids, f. fabulous, g. stray dogs, h. included in this classification, i. trembling like crazy, j. innumerable, k. drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, l. et cetera, m. just broke the vase, n. from a distance look like flies” </li></ul><ul><li>(Jorge Luis Borges , The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in The Analytical Language of John Wilkins, 1960) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Image: chinese dragons, </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Coherence in classification is deeply tied to context, culture and prototypical mapping </li></ul>
  18. 18. f lex ib ility (to each their own mapping)
  19. 19. Binding Two Worlds <ul><li>The map of the library from The Name of the Rose </li></ul><ul><li>The real world is mapped, via a clever mnemonic system, onto the physical space of the library </li></ul><ul><li>There is a certain degree of correspondence: to go from Yspania to Anglia you have to travel through Gallia and Germania </li></ul><ul><li>Books are classified geographically </li></ul><ul><li>But another cognitive model is often superimposed which amends errors : this is not the world as it is, but the world as it should have been </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Image: U. Eco, The Name of the Rose. Gruppo Bompiani) </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. A New Kind of Supermarket <ul><li>by applying web guidelines to physical spaces </li></ul><ul><li>by tracking our interaction stories with items and spaces </li></ul><ul><li>to allow re-finding, customization, suggestions/correlations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Image: TVScoop, </li></ul></ul>asdsa
  21. 21. Rethinking Retail (Mapping the web page on the supermarket) <ul><ul><li>(The ICA web page, </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. A Map of Correspondences (Detailed sample correspondence map)
  23. 23. <ul><li>Flexibile navigation can be provided by accurate wayfinding and signage and combined with tracking technologies: </li></ul><ul><li>Icons for departments, letters for aisles, numbers for racks and shelves </li></ul><ul><li>Colors for shortcuts and navigational themes (using ceiling or floor signage) </li></ul><ul><li>Personal paths (customer card or reader registering shopping patterns via RFID or similar technologies) </li></ul><ul><li>Smart labels </li></ul>Tracking Paths
  24. 24. Fl exib ility <ul><li>“ Traditional classification and new social systems aren't competing for supremacy: rather, they complement and improve each other” </li></ul><ul><li>(Jim Kalbach, Navigating the long tail, talk at EuroIA 2007) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(Paths in a radial retail space model) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Goals, cognitive and cultural models strongly impact behavior: different individuals search differently, and single individuals modify their patterns according to context, time, and goals </li></ul><ul><li>To work effectively, then, a classification system has to be able to adapt to these ever changing information seeking strategies </li></ul>
  25. 25. c or r el atio n (circularity and the paradox of choice)
  26. 26. (You read the Bible? There's a passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17 [...] I been sayin' that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass.) (Image: Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino)
  27. 27. Stories along a Circular Path Pulp fiction is a wonderful example of non-linear storytelling. The storyline moves in circles and the beginning and the end of the movie are tied together in a Möbius band The narrative moves freely back and forth in time and space and the movie ends up looking like a tightly integrated series of different episodes which continuously reference one another and other movies These correlations which link elements belonging to different physical and digital collections constitute what we call information circularity, something we think fuels positive feedback loop which favors berrypicking and information scent (Image M.C. Escher, Moebius Band II,
  28. 28. If You Like x You May Also Like y <ul><li>Correlations can then be used to improve the IA of retail space and its wayfinding and classification systems, using technologies such as RFID, to propose: </li></ul><ul><li>Theme paths, such as regional recipes, organic products </li></ul><ul><li>Personal paths, based on previous data </li></ul><ul><li>Coupling paths: if you like a we suggest b , that you may find there </li></ul><ul><li>Recommended or best selling products, to further reduce the burden of choice </li></ul>
  29. 29. Building Orthogonal Paths <ul><li>Moreover, findability can be improved by mixing alternative classification models to produce multiple seek paths. These could be: </li></ul><ul><li>faceted classification </li></ul><ul><li>social classification (top views, other users also bought, reviews) </li></ul><ul><li>collaborative tagging </li></ul><ul><li>customization based on navigation </li></ul><ul><li>network paradigms (topic maps) </li></ul>(Correlation creates paths orthogonal to the aisle / rack model)
  30. 30. Reducing The Paradox of Choice <ul><li>Contextualization and customization help reduce the paradox of choice as well </li></ul><ul><li>Following the long tail model, it's not about having fewer choices, but about showing these choices </li></ul><ul><ul><li>at the right moment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>in the right way </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>in the right context </li></ul></ul>(Reducing the paradox of choice in a supermarket's electronic scale)
  31. 31. Co r rel atio n <ul><li>“ I've often imaged gazes surviving the act of seeing </li></ul><ul><li>as if they were poles, measured distances, lances in battle” </li></ul><ul><li>(Valerio Magrelli, Nearsights, 1991) </li></ul><ul><li>RFID, touchscreen technology, mobile phones, PDAs, are increasing the amount of data our enhanced selves constantly produce, receive, process and transmit </li></ul><ul><li>These could be used to improve the relational dimension of IA in physical spaces, allowing related-items links among products and alternative ways of navigation which free themselves of the shelf </li></ul>
  32. 32. concl us io ns (Building bridge experiences)
  33. 33. Design the Process Information architecture should inform and structure a company's Internet and Intranet presence, its documents and its physical spaces as an integrated, tightly related whole which spans across environments. We need a traversal integrated information architecture model that moves away from industrial design, where we shape physical or digital objects, into the new territories of process design, where we shape the very processes in which objects, information, context and users talk to each other and constantly produce new meanings (Image Fractal Tree,
  34. 34. Design for the Cognitive Shift <ul><li>We have to design for a cognitive shift which effectively reshapes the user experience and moves </li></ul><ul><ul><li>From artifacts to processes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From interfaces to human-information interaction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From objects to users </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From a static, isolated view of products and information to a dynamic, fluid view of space-time data-rich items in a synchronic society </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From end-users to wranglers, who play, as much as the designers, an important active role in the building of objects / information and have with them a continuous change-inducing interchange </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From today to tomorrow </li></ul></ul>(Image Bruce Sterling, Spime Meme Map)
  35. 35. Thank You! (Bringing it all back home, with a twist. Coherent, flexible, related)