List

Reading from Digital Literacy for Technical Communication:  21st Century Theory and Practice

Edited by Rachel Spilka

Michael J. Salvo and Paula Rosinski – “Information Design:  From Authoring Text to Architecting Virtual Space”

I think there is a lot going on in this article that overlaps with reading I’ve been doing over the past couple of weeks for other projects.  I haven’t been feeling that well, so if this entry rambles, forgive me!  J  Anyhow, I think that the concept of information design is interesting how the authors conceive of electronic media in light of past versions of paper-based document design.  The authors note that the second reason why technical communicators are well positioned to take up the emergent field of information design is because,

technical communicators are well positioned to bridge past and future work involving    information design. . . . One difference between paper-based and electronic              communication is that the forms and designs of older analog media have been   internalized and naturalized. . . . Use, familiarity, and comfort within these new                 information spaces are therefore, to some extent, generational, and technical communicators must now consider how to bridge these generational boundaries (105).

I feel like this claim both supports and complicates the main claim that Brooke makes in Chapter One of Lingua Fracta.  After reviewing the practice of criticism in the contemporary humanities, Brooke argues that we need a new way to conceptualize documents and texts in the networked, webbed world.  Like Salvo and Rosinski, Brooke argues for the place of rhetoric in a world of new media; however, Brooke also notes how that place will need to be revised in light of the possibilities of new media.  He states, that the development of a rhetoric of new media must avoid “examining the choices that have already been made by writers” and instead concentrate on preparing writers to “make our own choices” (15).  I see this claim as something reflection on Salvo and Rosinski’s work in that it recognizes that we must, as technical communicators, continue to examine the choices made by document designers; however, the new world of information design will also expect us to be able to “make our own choices” concerning document design and deployment.

Readings from Content & Complexity:  Information Design in Technical Communication

Eds. Michael J. Albers and Beth Mazur

Michael J. Albers – Introduction

  • If information design is done correctly, it communicates information in a way that is relevant to the reader’s “situational context.”
  • Information design can cover a huge variety of things, from developing maps and signs to web pages and documents.  This work takes up information design in the context of the software industry.
  • Information design contains elements of graphic design, web design, and technical communication as well as illustration and “human factors.”
  • The definition of information design is contested because info. Design takes so many different forms and practices.  Conrad Taylor notes that information design is a “stance” whereas Shriver considers it a mixture of text and words that helps people achieve goals.  Carliner defines it as a process of analyzing communication problems, establishing objectives that address those problems, developing a plan to solve those problems, developing the parts of that plan, and deploying and evaluating the entire communication problem-solving effort.
  • To some degree, according to the author, the user experience is based far more on audience awareness and an awareness of rhetorical context than it is an awareness with the technological methods of presenting information (information design).
  • I take issue with the claim that “a design, which when successful, is never noticed.”  I blogged on this point above.
  • Info. Design isn’t merely an issue of picking out fonts, graphics, etc; rather, it is the practice of enabling a reader to obtain knowledge.
  • Strong charge against the medium being overly part of the message; rather, this writer focuses on the information conveyance as #1 goal.

Beth Mazur – Information Design in Motion

  • The motion metaphor represents the authors desire to represent information design past, present and future.
  • Tufte and Wurman are the iconic scholars in information design in the US.  Tufte’s main emphasis was on graphical representations of statistical information.  As an example, consider Charles Minard’s 1861 graph on losses by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812.
  • Horn’s “visual language” is a seminal work in the field.  Also a graphical approach to information design.
  • The International Design Journal and its role in solidifying the field is an important event in information design studies.
  • The internet changed information fundamentally because the technology allowed communication between communities and disciplines never before affiliatable in any meaningful way.
  • Information design “applied traditional and evolving design principles to the process of translating complex, unorganized, or unstructured data into valuable, meaningful information” (23).
  • Two central questions for analysis :
    • Is information design different, related, or overlapping from the field of information architecture?
    • Is information design a craft, a profession, or some other kind of entity? (24)
    • Jesse James Garrett differentiates between information architecture and information design by claiming that design is about perception whereas architecture is about cognition.
    • Usability and information design are considered mutually dependant because usability and design are collaborative processes.
    • The future of work – for Mazur – in information design includes information design for the web and multimedia; furthermore, work with “experience designers” who trace “the way in which meaning is communicated in the network society, where no point of contact has a simple beginning and end” is also possible (30).
    • Broad (the overall process of developing a successful document – ID as director of multimedia document) and narrow (the way information is presented on the page or screen) might be two new ways that ID practice their skill.

Saul Carliner – Physical, Cognitive, and Affective:  A Three-Part Framework for Information Design

  • Chapter does a couple of things:
    • Explores limitations with the prevailing concept of document design
    • Offers a definition of information design meant to broaden the popular perspective on design in our field
    • Describes in detail three types of design activities involved in technical communication:  physical design, cognitive design, and affective
    • Suggests the strengths and limitations of this framework
    • The heavy focus on writer’s content+writing style+layout in information design is incomplete because the readers’ goals are not included.
    • Design is the problem solving discipline (44).
    • The three tiered model of information design:
      • Physical – the ability to find information (includes page and screen design, retrievability, media selection, production, and basic technical writing and editing)
      • Cognitive (intellectual) the ability to understand information (includes analyzing needs, setting goals, choosing the form, preparing for design, setting the guidelines).  Some issues associated with cognitive design include
        • Applying principles of cognitive psychology
        • Applying design theories such as human performance, technology, and minimalism
        • Addressing potential information overload
        • Modularizing information
        • Designing within constraints
      • Affective (emotional) – the ability to feel comfortable with the presentation of the information (comfort with the information might not be possible, depending of the message (45).   Issues in affective design that motivates users to perform includes: attention, motivation, change management cross-cultural communication, language, social and political impact, legal and ethical issues, client service, methodologies for understanding communication issues

2 Responses to “Information Design – 3.8.2010”

  1. mike

    Justin, I see where you’re going with the readings (at least I think I’m mapping your trajectory). I’ve not yet read Collin’s book, but it sounds like he’s making a call similar to what we’ve read in 760 the last few weeks. It’s this sort of rethinking and revision of what it means to write — anything — in digital environments. In 760, our emphasis is on rethinking the role of the technical communicator and the shape (depth and breadth) of the discipline. Outside of tech comm proper, we have all of these technology-mediated spaces in which we communicate and create texts, search for and locate information, and make meaning from all sorts of data. So maybe what we’re seeing across these readings is really an imagining of what it means to be literate at all, regardless of disciplines, practices, roles, jobs, etc.

  2. Luce

    I’m wondering if I’m way off base to read in the following passage you wrote a sense of mixing as we’ve encountered in Datacloud as well as in Social History:

    “Like Salvo and Rosinski, Brooke argues for the place of rhetoric in a world of new media; however, Brooke also notes how that place will need to be revised in light of the possibilities of new media. He states, that the development of a rhetoric of new media must avoid “examining the choices that have already been made by writers” and instead concentrate on preparing writers to ‘make our own choices’ (15). I see this claim as something reflection on Salvo and Rosinski’s work in that it recognizes that we must, as technical communicators, continue to examine the choices made by document designers; however, the new world of information design will also expect us to be able to ‘make our own choices’ concerning document design and deployment.

    In other words, I guess what I’m wondering is if the focus on choice here isn’t a way to highlight the re-appropriation of information rather than the invention of information in the most traditional sense of the word. While I’m over-simplifying the process that Carliner points to, for example, as information design, I can’t help but see in the process of information design a kind of arrangement rather than a composition. Am I even close to a direction that gets me somewhere good?

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