Posts Tagged With: architecture

Linear or Non: Which is Better?

One of our readings last week was Afternoon: A Story, by Michael Joyce. While this was in some ways a very unusual and innovative story, I don’t know if I could say it had any advantages over a more traditional storytelling method.

In a traditional story, it’s generally expected that the reader will follow a linear path, page by page, from beginning to end. This might seem limited by modern standards in the digital age, but I think there are many advantages to it. In a traditional linear story, the tale is being told in a coherent, straightforward way. There is a beginning, a sequence of events, and an ending; the same ending every time. This means that the reader, if they ever read the story again, knows what to expect. It also means that two people can both read the story and discuss it, knowing they’ve both read the same story.

“Afternoon,” on the other hand, is different every time you read it. I’ve read sections of it four separate times now, and each time I’ve had a different experience. There doesn’t seem to be anything predictable about it.

Does this nonlinearity make it better, or worse?

I can see some entertainment advantages to a nonlinear story. When I was a kid, I frequently enjoyed Choose Your Own Adventure stories, which allowed you to take the same story down a different path each time you read it. A reader is more likely to re-read such a story, knowing they can enjoy a different experience each time. Other similar nonlinear media includes certain video games, and DVDs where the movie has multiple endings.

These nonlinear stories have just as much disadvantage, however. Sometimes, a reader might WANT to experience the same story again. The more complex the divergent paths in a story become, the less likely it is that the reader can ever experience the same story again.

This would become even more pronounced in a code poem that utilized a randomizer. In that case, odds are the reader will NEVER experience the same story again.

I think one of the big differences here is the difference between storytelling and entertainment. Both qualify as “art,” but one is vastly different from the other. I don’t think “Afternoon” qualifies as a “story” in the way one is traditionally defined. It doesn’t have a clear plot or ending. While it is still entertaining, and still artistic, it doesn’t have the same effect on the reader. Is it even possible to say what it is “about”? I have a hard time, after multiple divergent readings, really understanding what was going on in the story. Many of the individual “pages” seemed so disconnected from each other that it was hard to follow what was happening from one to the next. It seems like this is the price to pay for a more “artistic” piece; it becomes more unusual and unique, but at the same time harder to really understand.

In a way I’d compare that to the ideas of abstract art. A piece of art with no defined form can be interpreted differently by each person who views it. A more defined piece of art, however, simply is what is is (setting aside deeper analysis of symbolism and metaphor within a work).

I don’t know if it’s fair to say either a linear or nonlinear story is “better” or “worse.” However, it definitely has disadvantages that make it more complex and harder to understand.

Categories: information architecture | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

#Iamondays The Lack of Mapped Images?

Christen tweeted about Interaction Design Foundation, which is a webite that shows a lot of free educational materials involve Interaction Design. I clicked this link, after I prepared to be wowed. However, I was rather disappointed. The website seemed to lack the interactive design as well as any existence of mapped images. While the website is easy to navigate, it’s a bit plain and dull. This seems kind of ironic as it’s promoting interactive design. The colors are black, white, and gray. The only color that seems to stand out is the blue buttons at the top right of the screen that highlight the users to join them, log in, or publish something with them. I supposed these colors are used to emphasize the most important elements of the website. This could further indicate that you must join in order to participate in this website. The headlines and subtitles are typically bold. There’s not a lot of confusion happening on this website. There is a toolbar across the top, which displays exactly what the bleak images and subtitles display on the homepage (the main information of the website). Furthermore, if you scroll down on the homepage, each section is displayed again, with an image and a summary of what you might find in each section. I find that this design seems like it may be too much. I’m not sure I’d agree that it needs to display the main ideas three different times on the same area, what do you think?

I decided to click on the section labeled “Free Wiki Bibliography”. Again, this section of the website was well organized and easy to navigate, but it was full of text only. I thought that each section could have been created into a mapped image. For instance, each conference on the Wiki Bibliography could’ve had timelines that were interactive. Instead, the user must select a specific date, click on it, and further read through the information available. As Edward Tufte argues in Beautiful Evidence, data is more credible when contextualized (p. 22). If each event was contextualized in some way, it would become much more credible and easily associated with.

The website requires a lot of clicking around and exploring. I decided to check out the “Free Encyclopedia” section. By clicking on this link from the home page, I’m then directed to a page of 35 titles of self-help articles involved in some type of interactive design or service. Other than the titles, I had almost no knowledge of what was behind the articles. I wanted to click on something that might offer more user interaction, so I decided to look at “Visual Representation”. Each article is available in a tablet or PDF version, and offers links to a forum or a question form for the author. I thought these were neat buttons introduced, but they seemed a bit oddly placed at the top of the article.  This specific article on “Visual Representation” involved a lot of different approaches. It not only offered text, but also video, graphs, and data as well. As Tufte states, users must understand “what the words mean in relation to the image, and what the images mean in relation to the words,” (p. 88).  For instance, in this specific section of the website, you might not understand the importance of “The Grid System” if you failed to read the article or watch the videos on Visual Representation.

There’s also a “free image” library, where one can use as long as they adhere to the “copyright terms of each individual image”. I find this attribute pretty awesome, as most pictures involve Creative Commons, which is something the world should be pushing for. When I clicked on “Join us” in the top right corner of any section, I was surprised by what came on the screen. A nice interactive design showed up, that allowed me to become a member. I could write my name in an actual certificate. There are nine different certificate templates I can chose from and place on any number of websites if I wanted to. I could find my network on an actual map. I could list my skills based on types of technology. I found this small section of the website to be the most inviting and enriching. Each image tied in with the specific section it was explaining.

Another tiny little tool I found to enhance the website: you can click that little tree in the top left corner any time to return to the home page. The tree represented a home. To me, this is a metaphor in itself. Trees grow tall, humans grow tall. I’m a big fan of this tree, especially as I assume it’s the logo image of the company. The tree appears as a big, white oak tree. Instead of buds on the ends however, are pieces of paper. I think this logo could be incorporated much more into the design, as it’s a metaphor that speaks for the company itself.

Categories: #IAMondays, Alphabetic Text Analysis, class activities, images, mapping, pictorial images, technology, tufte | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

#IAMondays: Symbols as Metaphors

So, Devon posted a rather interesting site with some interactive icons.  While the overall design was very simple, the Simbly website has an interesting interface.  The icons shown on the site can be dragged around, which I found to be a lot of fun.  I even went so far as to record a video of bowling with the icons.

Looking back at this site after discussing and reading about metaphors, I got to thinking about the nature of symbols.  They’re essentially metaphors.

We understand icons and symbols only through other things.  The icons themselves are intangibles; you can see them, but not touch them (unless clicking on them counts as touching them, but if it does, THAT is a metaphor).  We don’t think of them in terms of the code that makes them function, but instead we think of them as objects.  If they’re objects, then it’s arguable that a website is a container, which contains the objects of icons.

Yet icons on a web page can be seen as more than just objects.  They’re perceived as having different functions and meanings.  We understand these meanings through the use of metaphor.  Here’s an example from Symbly:

A ‘battery’ icon from http://www.symb.ly/

When we look at that icon, we see a battery.  Beyond that, we see it as a partially-full battery, indicating that it needs to be recharged.  Yet even beyond that, we understand it as a symbol that represents the state of the physical battery (typically one inside a cell phone), and the icon is communicating that state to us.

All together, what we have here is a symbols that communicates to us the state (full/empty) of a physical object (the battery).

We can only understand that by breaking it down into multiple metaphors.  The icon itself is a representation. It isn’t the battery itself, but instead it tells us something about the state of the battery.  If we consider the OBJECT AS CONTAINER metaphor, the battery would be considered a container, and what it contains is electricity.  We know that, through our sensory perception, we can view a physical object and judge it’s state of fullness.  The battery icon draws on this basic concept by showing MORE white-filled area to represent MORE electricity in the container.

Yet the icon depicted on the Symbly site takes this a step further.  That icon is not actually representing the state of a physical battery; it is an ‘object’ that can be used on any website for a variety of purposes.  The actual use would depend upon the design of the site in question, though that use must almost necessarily be limited to our understanding of the meaning of the icon.  Depending on the context it is placed in, it could represent the state of a battery, the battery itself, the concept of electricity, or a number of other things.  Regardless of the actual placement and usage, the icon would be understood through the metaphors that connect it to the physical objects we think of when we see it.

Furthermore, the icon can represent other things that might not be related to an actual physical battery.  On the Symbly website, the icons are for sale at a certain price (a few are free, the rest come in ‘packs’ priced at £1.99).  Thus, if the icon represents an OBJECT and we can conceive of OBJECTS AS MONEY then therefore the ICON IS MONEY.  That is, the icon has a value related to how much we pay for it.  This is despite the fact that the icon itself has no physical existence; it is nothing more than a series of electronic signals that represent 1’s and o’s of binary code which are in turn translated by a CPU and processed by a video card before being displayed on a computer monitor by flashes of light.  Yet we pay money for it.

Does this mean that binary 1’s and 0’s are ALSO money?

 

Categories: #IAMondays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This Blog Post Is A War

Blogging, as a practice, exists as a one-person discourse.  It can turn into a two (or more) person discussion with comments, but in many cases a blog post is written, posted, and then never directly modified after that.  Depending on the nature of a particular blog, it can end up as a stand-alone piece of writing, in which case it can be seen as similar to a book or other published work.  Other blogs, of course, directly encourage comments and discussion.  The writer can decide whether or not to allow comments, whether to filter the comments (such as by deleting spam, flaming, or other negative posts), and whether to reply to them.  Thus a blogger has full control over whether their post remains a one-person discourse or a ‘conversation.’

As we learned, there is a difference between whether a discussion is considered a conversation or an argument.  Thus a blog post (and the resulting commentary) can also be considered either a conversation or an argument.  In this case, I consider this blog post to be an argument.  I am making a point (that this blog post is an argument), I am offering evidence to support my point (by describing the ways in which it is an argument), and I am attempting to persuade any readers to accept my point of view.

(The fact that it’s an argument about whether it’s an argument is rather meta.)

Obviously, this particular blog post is likely to generate responses (since they’re required for class participation anyway).  Regardless of the nature of the responses, I feel confident that I can continue to apply the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor to this blog post by claiming THIS BLOG POST IS WAR.

You might be inclined to disagree with this statement (which, if you do, automatically makes me win, since you’d be arguing).  If you disagree with me that THIS BLOG POST IS WAR, we would have opposing viewpoints, and I would be trying to convince you that mine is correct.  Even if you choose not to voice your disagreement, the THIS BLOG POST IS WAR metaphor still applies; I could claim victory without resistance, which is what happens in war when one side surrenders, and surrender is one of the valid conclusions to the WAR metaphor.

There is, however, another possible perspective.  You could claim that by agreeing with me, this would be only a conversation (not an argument) since there needs to be conflict in order for it to be an argument.  However, if you take this perspective, there are only two possible outcomes, both of which would lead to your defeat.

1. You disagree with me and claim that this is only a conversation, at which point you are making an argument against my point, and have thus been drawn into my argument.  We would then be on opposing sides trying to convince each other, and thus the WAR metaphor will have been satisfied.

2. You can decide to agree with me in order to keep it as a conversation.  However, by agreeing with me, you will be taking the stance that THIS BLOG POST IS WAR.  My goal, as stated above, is “attempting to persuade any readers to accept my point of view.”  If you agree with my point of view, I have accomplished my goal, and thus achieved victory without a fight.  Thus, even if you attempt to hold only a conversation instead of an argument, you have played into my hands, and thus I prove my point that THIS BLOG POST IS WAR.

Perhaps this is why the WAR metaphor is so prevalent in our society (such as the WAR on drugs, the WAR on poverty, and so forth).  While there are some people who like to claim “it takes two to argue,” I’ve demonstrated here that this simply isn’t the case.  If one person attempts to argue, and the other refuses, they are playing into the metaphorical concept of WAR as already discussed.  This concept extends into the WAR metaphor further by the idea that one side in a conflict can choose to surrender without a fight; they are still considered ‘conquered’ even if they never attempted to put up any resistance.

Categories: class activities | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

#IAMondays Information Architecture Analysis

Messages for Japan Homepage

Website accessibility and ease of use are extremely important for authors and creators to understand. The more intuitive and easy-to-use your website is, the more successful it will be. It is valuable to consider what your website visitors are looking for in their online experience–and their needs are often based around the type of website being created. For example, the website http://www.messagesforjapan.com/  allows people to write to victims of the earthquake and tsunami that affected thousands of people. This website forms a community of understanding, hope, and relief for victims, and allows people all over the world to see how survivors are coping with their loses.

The goal of this website appears to drive its functionality. The homepage shows three columns that offer viewers a chance to see photos, read messages already written, or view the messages on a world map. This showcases the main purpose of the website up front–it is a messaged-based community that shares thoughts across the world. Each of the columns is interactive, and enlarges when hovered over. Because of the use of pictograms, it is easy to understand what each section means even if you are not extremely literate in English. There are also option along the bottom to change the language.

The “Read Messages” feed, which I was drawn to first, is constantly updating with new messages. I love that this feature shows the messages in both Japanese and English. I think it creates a more personal feel by showing the text in the language of the victims. When you click on the section it opens an interactive tree with message bubbles functioning as “leaves.” If you hover over the messages they display in Japanese and English, and some have a “From” section that allows you to see who sent the message and their country of origin. The bubbles, or leaves, also update automatically, but there is an option to refresh the entire tree when desired. The design is very functional and easy to understand. The color choices are soothing, and the leaf that allows visitors to write their own message is green rather than pink, making it stand out. Being able to sort through the messages by simply moving the cursor makes sense and seems extremely intuitive. Although this site is technologically advanced, it is not over complicated or showy.

In the photos column on the front page there are a few smaller sample photos that draw you in and make you want to see more. When you click the camera icon, the link brings you to a beautiful page filled with tags that move as you slide your mouse around. The description in the top left explains that tags with these messages were hung on trees, so the pictures on the website are displayed in a similar fashion. This creativity continues to add more connections between the Japanese people and those sending or viewing the messages. Like the messages page, you can sort through the pictures by simply moving your mouse from left to right. One of the only issues I found on this page was that the picture tags in the back row can be hard to see, but if you click on the pictures they do enlarge, and you can sort through all of the pictures easily. If I were to change anything, I would make it so that the back row of tags was visible in between the front row when the cursor is moved. I think that it what they were going for, it just didn’t work super well.

The last section I browsed through was the world map page. This page shows where in the world messages come from. I think it is fascinating and touching to see where the message of hope and support are being sent from, and I think this page does a very nice job of illustrating, with little dots, where messages are being sent. My only desire is that the color of the map was darker. It took me a long time to realize what color the ocean was and what color the continents were. This could just be my eyesight, but for people with visual disabilities this would definitely be a problem.

Overall, this website does a good job of illustrating creative design, intelligent use of space and color, and easy-to-use functions. Of course there are always places to improve, but each pages works well to grab people’s attention and help communicate the goal of the website. This is just one example of unique web design. Make sure to keep your eyes open for more functional designs and layouts as you browse the web!

Categories: #IAMondays | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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