The Information Architecture Institute
A conference on designing
complex information spaces of all kinds.
New York City, October 4 and 5, 2007

Archive for August, 2006

Ian White, Urban Mapper


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I first heard about Ian White because of his Panamaps, city maps that contained layered information visible as you tilt the map.

I had the fortune of meeting him a couple months ago, and he totally geeked out about the design of data for mapping systems. He’s clearly frustrated by Standard Operating Procedures for geospatial data, and is passionate about how the design of *data* leads to better designed experiences. He’s even built a business around it.
The Design of Data is what he’ll be talking about at IDEA. Ian is the latest speaker to be added to the program. He and Ali will make a GIS tag-team!

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Meet Ali Sant!


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I’ve known Ali Sant for 10 years now — she worked at the Exploratorium when I volunteered there after returning to San Francisco.
Here’s what she has to say about the projects she’ll be discussing at IDEA:

TRACE: Mapping the Emerging Urban Landscape
Digital networks and wireless technologies are radically reforming the contemporary notions of urban place. As network technologies move away from their hardwired roots, they are activating an urban dynamic that is  no longer based on referencing static landmarks, but on a notion of the  city in which spatial references become events. These developments imply a changing pattern of urban reference in which invisible boundaries of connectivity alternately thicken or marginalize the urban territories they overlay. TRACE is a project, by artist Alison Sant, that examines the layering of physical space  with the on and off zones of the wireless network. The project seeks to blend the corporeal experience of the city with the invisible qualities of the network, creating a narrative mapping of the hybrid space between them. This mapping is one that challenges purely static notions of public space to promote a temporal logic of the city that reflects the fluctuating character of the wireless network.

Redefining the Basemap
Current collaborative mapping projects using locative media technologies have often overlooked the conventions of the base map as a site for reinvention. Although these projects are ambitious in their aim to propose alternative organizations of urban space through the way it is digitally mapped, they remain bounded by datasets that reinforce a Cartesian and static notion of urban space. This paper questions the methodology of the base map as it is utilized in these projects, and proposes alternative approaches for mapping the city. Specifically, it looks at the city as a space of events, defined by the ways in which it is used rather than the orthogonal geometry by which it is constructed; and highlights several key examples from the history of urban planning and art practice that provide models for such alternative mapping strategies. By focusing on the limitations of the base map, I hope to provoke new ideas for these emerging projects.

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Discount Registration Deadline Extended!


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So many folks are traveling in August, it seemed unfair to not let them take part in the discounted registration. We’ve extended the deadline to September 15 to allow folks to register after returning from vacation.

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Sigh. NPS can’t make it.


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I found out today that the National Park Service representative had to back out of her commitment to IDEA.

So, I’m on the lookout for someone engaged in information-dense service design to come speak. If you know someone, email idea2006 AT iainstitute.org

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Information Visualization - Why Now, Where It’s Headed


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Michal Migurski, who will present at IDEA, gave a talk at Adaptive Path’s UX Week titled “Data Viz: Why Now?”

In the last few years, it feels like information visualization is coming into its own, and the prognosis for the next few years is quite bright. As Migurski’s presentation points out, because 1) data got cheaper and 2) flash got better, the barriers to entry for visualization have dramatically lowered. And so we’re seeing a fluorishing of visualizations in more places — on the Web, sure, but also in physical spaces.

For example, the Seattle Public Library features a series of visualizations by George Legrady that expose the activity of the library — statistics on the materials checked out, floating titles organized by Dewey Decimal Number, the “Dewey Dot Matrix Rain,” and the “Keyword Map Attack.”

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OMFG - We got Linda Stone!


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This morning I had a delightful phone conversation with Linda Stone. (You can also learn more about her from an older bio.) Linda has an extensive history in multimedia design and development, going back to Apple Computer in the 80s, and including Microsoft in the 90s.

Linda has once again achieved prominence with her latest meme, continuous partial attention. It’s a condition of the contemporary information worker — constantly scanning the periphery for newer, potentially more valuable information; subject to distraction; difficulty with focusing on any one thing for any length of time.

Thanks to the miracle of podcasting, you can listen to her presentation on CPA at the Emerging Technology Conference.

I wanted Linda to address our event, because I think the situation she’s identified presents a challenge for designers of complex information spaces — how do we develop systems, environments, and tools that fit within this context of partial attention? I think it does much to set up the discussions that will happen at IDEA, so she has been given the first slot.

In our discussion this morning, she mentioned that her understanding continues to evolve, and this won’t simply be a rehash of her ETech or Supernova talks.

I am very excited!

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Meet Betsy Ehrlich, from the National Park Service!


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Two and a half years ago, I marveled at the high quality and consistency of the National Park Service brochures collected on a southwestern road trip. Poking around the Web, I found they had extensive materials on the designs of their brochures, wayside exhibits, exhibits and museums, and audiovisual media, all tied together with a strong graphic identity.

So, when planning IDEA, I knew I wanted a representative from the NPS to share with us how they are able to maintain such quality and consistency, given the complexity of their charter (380 parks, each of which is run independently, spanning from Guam to Maine, with a range of interpretive needs).

Emailing the NPS, I eventually made contact with Betsy Ehrlich, whom I had the fortune of meeting on Friday. Here she is:

Betsy and I hung out for two hours. She showed me around the Interpretive Design Center, and we talked about the structure of her presentation at IDEA. Among the things that excited me was finding out that her group also manages the training for park rangers — this means they’re not just responsible for media, but also influence the experience visitors have with, if you will, the Park’s customer service representatives. Talk about holistic experience design!

Some behind-the-scenes photos:


Drawer of Brochures


Wall of Graphic Standards

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More on the Central Library


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The Seattle Public Library’s Central Library is easily the most aggressively modern piece of public architecture in a long time. It embodies much of the philosophies behind IDEA, with it’s mix of physical and virtual, information and substance.

Principal architect Joshua Prince-Ramus spoke about the library at the TED conference earlier this year, and a video of this is available for viewing. (Scroll down).

The images about the library that Joshua shows in his talk are included, among many others, in the Concept Book OMA created for the project. The Concept Book is a fascinating browse, and demonstrates just how deeply information architecture is embedded into the space.

Don’t forget, City Librarian Deborah Jacobs, who was instrumental in the development process, will be speaking at IDEA!

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36 Hours in Seattle


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Today’s New York Times features a travel piece on 36 hours in Seattle, perfect for those wanting to spend the weekend in the “Emerald City” before the event.

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