The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing complex information
spaces of all kinds.
Seattle Public Library, October 23-24, 2006

Linda Stone: Opening Keynote

Designers have a special sensitivity and resonance with mass consciousness. Linda Stone has studied how the way we use our attention impacts and is impacted by mass consciousness. From multi-tasking, to what Stone calls, “continuous partial attention,” to focus and uni-tasking, Stone tracks twenty year social cycles, bringing a sense of context to our current, always-on lifestyle.

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Dan Hill: The New Media

Drawing from work in both strategic and operational areas at the BBC in London, I’ll explore some of the ways big media companies are approaching the new media landscape. Far from being marginalised by Web 2.0-style operations, I’ll argue that broadcast media can be reinvented to take advantage of both its traditional strengths and the new environment it finds itself in. I’ll highlight the course we’re plotting between between the top-down, fully-articulated, designed, broadcast models and the fully-participative, emergent, vernacular, open-ended, networked models. Essentially believing there is some value in both, and lots in their potential fusion. This will include examples of strategic work defining the design and navigation principles around the next generation BBC website as well as tactical steps towards this, drawn from interactive products and services made at BBC Radio & Music. This will include using hosting music festivals in Second Life, explorations of ‘Lost’ mapped onto graphical scores, spurious relationships between urban planning and designing media systems and tricks for getting design ‘into the boardroom’.

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Robert Kalin - O Advantageous Interfaces

A series of six discrete five-minute talks, chosen in a random order after Robert gets on stage. The subjects will range from the history of interfaces for relieving ourselves to Marshall McLuhan’s short-sighted visions of how the Web reprioritizes our senses to how Etsy is just a beginning in in the young medium that’s yet to invent itself.

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Alison Sant - TRACE: Mapping the Emerging Urban landscape

Digital networks and wireless technologies are radically reforming the contemporary notions of urban place. As network technologies increasingly become the carriers of geographic annotations, they create an urban dynamic in which our orientation to the city is no longer based purely on static landmarks, but on a notion of the  city in which spatial references may become events. This talk explores the emerging wireless landscape and references TRACE, a collaborative mapping project created by Alison Sant, to examine the interplay of wireless networks with the corporeal experience of the urban landscape.

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Ian White - “Design of Data”

As a commodity, data serves as glue, binding people with experiences, hardware with software and theory with practice. It holds little value on its own, but through a marriage with context, data can be transformed into nonfungible, compelling and actionable information. Through examples of geospatial data and across industry, this talk will address how a context of use informs that which we seek to understand.

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Next-Generation Libraries Panel

PANEL STATEMENT:
Libraries, long considered stodgy dusty places for books, are experiencing a renaissance, shifting to become more responsive to their communities and the individuals who use them. This panel will explore the next generation of libraries from three distinct
perspectives:

1. Edward Vielmetti, networking technology pioneer, recently began his Superpatron initiative, an attempt to allow library patrons the ability to engage directly with their library’s technology in order to get the most out of the institution. Ed will talk about his
experience “opening up” libraries covering such topics as:
- how I found the techies at the library
- how RSS feeds change library services
- co-developing a simple protocol, PatREST, w/AADL developer
- Jon Udell’s Library Lookup project
- non-library innovations like Book Burro and LibraryThing
- looking beyond big vendors for innovative ideas

2. Paul Gould, designer from MAYA, was instrumental to the redesign of the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh. This marked a remarkable attempt to design the physical and virtual spaces with the user foremost in mind. Paul will talk about how entities such as libraries can create a framework that provides a common direction and co-evolutionary path for what, although interesting and useful, might otherwise be isolated or divergent efforts. Paul will use examples from MAYA’s work with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to talk about such specifics as user-centered design, information architecture, and organizational change.

3. Deborah Jacobs, City Librarian for Seattle, will discuss the evolving role of the library as a hub for the community it serves, and, naturally, share her experiences with the development of the new Central Library, perhaps the most significant new piece of public
architecture in the last decade.

See the entire program.

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Jake Barton, Interaction Design in a Physical Space

This talk will address how does interaction design, an ordinary issue for the web, explodes in unexpected directions when applied to physical space. What happens to accepted conventions when applied to the city streets, or museum atriums? Does it create opportunities for interaction between audience members in real time? Can we encourage multi-modal interactions between participants? Does it offer the chance for persistence within a single location?

See the entire program.

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Dave Cronin’s Presentation: Art for the Public: Supporting a visitor-directed museum experience

The Getty operates with the mission of making its museums, gardens and extensive collections of artwork accessible and engaging to a diverse audience of visitors. This talk will discuss how the Getty and Cooper worked together to rethink and expand the way kiosks, handhelds and the Web are used to enhance and enrich the visitor experience by providing context-appropriate access to an immense body of content about the collection and architecture.

See the whole program.

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Conversation with Jake Barton, Local Projects (to be continued)

When I asked around about whom I should invite to IDEA who has done interesting work with complex information spaces in museums, I repeatedly was pointed in the direction of Jake Barton from Local Projects. Local Projects is perhaps best known for StoryCorps, an environment for collecting stories in public places. Jake was a finalist for the 2006 National Design Awards. In this conversation, Jake introduces the kind of work that Local Projects do, and we’ll get into the issues of designing for environments.

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Peter Merholz: Jake, thanks for taking the time for this conversation. Looking over the website for your studio, Local Projects, I see you create “collaborative storytelling” and “environmental media”. What do you mean by those? How is your approach different from what I might already be familiar with?

Jake Barton: “Collaborative Storytelling” projects are bottom-up content systems. User-generated stories are collected, curated, and edited to create a select number of incredible stories. Because they occur in public spaces, our projects differ from similar web-based projects, creating a very rich and complicated interaction sequence that leverages the density of urban experience on top of storytelling.

“Environmental Media” projects are films and interactives made at an architectural scale. We are using storytelling to create narrative experiences that fill entire walls or buildings, fusing together large-scale Times Square electronic billboards and small-scale touch-screen interactives into a new experience. “More is different” is the phrase used by Steven Johnson in Emergence for how scale changes everything, and it fits here too: What happens to an interface when ten people can work on it simultaneously? How can you create a film experience that immerses you from every interior surface of a building?

PM: What do you plan on talking about at IDEA?

JB: IDEA is a special opportunity to talk about how interaction design, an ordinary issue for the web, explodes in unexpected directions when applied to physical space. What happens to accepted conventions when applied to the city streets, or museum atriums? Does it create opportunities for interaction between audience members in real time? Can we encourage multi-modal interactions between participants? Does it offer the chance for persistence within a single location? We’ve found that seeing similar problems solved for different spaces (physical vs. web) helps highlight what solutions are specific to the platform, versus the design challenge itself.

PM: I guess the logical follow up to that is, “Such as…?” What kinds of similar problems have highlighted platform-specific solutions?

JB: For example, bottom-up content systems, which I would apply to both bulletin boards and collaborative storytelling projects, work quite differently in Museums and public spaces, whose very peculiar attributes change the types of stories and content that people will engage in.

Museums don’t tend to lend themselves to persistence, like a community-based site or bulletin board relies on, because people generally visit a site once a year. There is a constant flow of strangers, much more a group of passersby, then a community of people beholden to each other and their reputations. I haven’t seen good examples of digital interfaces for commuters, but they would be an interesting hybrid of these two models.

So you get less easily into conversations, but can get a depth for the “collective collage”, some group archive that has a group of individual submissions whose collective adds up to a larger item, which websites have a hard time matching, specifically because the screen is small, and doesn’t show the large collective very well.

I’ll show some built and one proposed project that deal with variations on this theme, including one large-scale ambient interface for commuters and residents, that has bottom up reporting on traffic and news.

[to be continued…]

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What David Guiney from the National Park Service plans on speaking about

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Amidst a sea of stars, a personal highlight for me with IDEA is having the National Park Service contribute. David Guiney sent along the outline of what he plans to discuss. I thought I’d share it to tantalize you!

Session 1:
Communicating the Stories of our National Parks
Complex Information and Diverse Media Solutions

The National Park System

  • Natural areas — e.g.,Yosemite NP, Everglades NP
  • Historical and cultural areas — Gettysburg NMP, Cabrillo NM
  • Trail parks and systems — Lewis and Clark Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Recreation areas — Lake Mead NRA, Gateway NRA
  • Special sites — The White House, Statue of Liberty
  • The NPS Message Project

The Palette of NPS Media and Programs

  • Personal services
  • Events
  • Signs
  • Wayside exhibits
  • Museum exhibits
  • Historic furnishings exhibits
  • Publications
  • Brochures and handbooks
  • Park-produced publications
  • Bookstore sales
  • Web sites
  • New media
  • Audiovisual programs
  • Theater programs — new Selma to Montgomery film excerpt

Session 2
Communicating the Stories of our National Parks
The Challenges for Media Professionals

» NPS Innovations in Park Media— Harpers Ferry Center
The Center was established in 1970 to bring media specialists together in one place to share talents and resources. What have we learned from this experiment?

» Centralization (HFC, regions) vs. local control (parks)
In the mid-1990s the NPS shifted power from central offices to parks, making it more challenging to effect develop and enforce national standards in media. Who should set the media standards?

»Government model vs. business model
NPS media professionals are asked to work more like contractors in the private sector, but remain under the constraints of a bureaucracy. How can media planners, designers, and producers thrive in this sometimes contradictory environment?

» Insular model vs. partnership model
NPS sites have always been islands of government real estate within a secure boundary. Now we are more and more dependent on partners and volunteers to greet visitors and develop media. Are park rangers and NPS designers on the way out?

» Information (facts) vs. interpretation (minds & hearts)
Facts have lost favor in the NPS, with more energy going toward relevance and making emotional connections. What is the proper balance between information and inspiration?

» The virtual vs. the real
There have been reports that visitation to parks is declining, perhaps because many people, especially the young, are preoccupied with computers and digital media. Should the NPS be offering lots more digital and virtual experiences, or should we be focusing on providing opportunities to see and appreciate the real things that make up our natural and historical heritage?

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