information architecture spring 2009

Course Description

In this course we will be considering the evolving, networked, symbiotic relationships among information, texts, and technologies. We will be looking at how information is structured, classified, and situated within larger ecologies. We will read, critique, and put into practice theories on metaphor, ecology, classification systems, font, color, mapping, visual rhetoric, evidence presentation, and creativity. As a way to engage in the dissemination and exchange of information we will be blogging on the site of the International Association of Online Communicators-an organization dedicated to thinking critically about how people communicate (that is, move information) in online environments-and will construct our own fonts and color palettes that make rhetorical arguments.

The course has a significant reading component. Each of the texts has been selected to highlight a particular idea(s) on information architecture. Our discussions will be lively, complex, and, at times, maddening. In the end, however, each of us will think in new ways about language, technologies, society and how we interact with them all. And by learning about, using, and reviewing new Web 2.0 applications like Twitter, Ning, Twine, Blern, and many others, we will see how the web is both fueling and responding to new modes, constructions, and systems of information.

Brief Description of Semester-Long Projects

We will be completing three overlapping semester-long projects.

Blogging at The International Association of Online Communicators
Each student will have an account on the blog site of The International Association of Online Communicators where they will create posts that discuss, share, and forward ideas about information architecture. The posts are to be composed for a sizable readership community that is interested in how communication is changing as a result of new web technologies. This assignment will require students to find and post about news stories and other blogs that discuss things relating to information architecture. Students are also expected to read the blog on a regular basis, and comment on posts and/or reference posts in their own posts. There will be no formal prompt for blog entries. Nor is there any requirement on the length of a blog post, nor the format that posts take or use (text, video, image, and so forth). As we will see (and you may already be aware) post characteristics are determined by a host of factors, including author goals, subject matter, and time.

This semester-long assignment will stretch our understanding of what the genre can do. Requirements: Minimum of 2 posts per week per student, one of which must respond to the weekly reading in a way that is meaningful to IAOC readership. Students will also post on the blog a review of one Web 2.0 application and one Twitter application (see below for details).

@Twittering #ias09
Twittering is micro-blogging, a form of communication that, like text messages, uses only 140 characters (including spaces), and it is quickly becoming the communication medium of choice for people around the world. According to Hubspot’s “State of the Twittersphere” for the 4th Quarter of 2008, “Twitter has about 4-5 million users, about 30% are relatively new or unengaged users; An estimated 5-10 thousand new accounts are opened per day; Traffic has grown over 600% in the past 12 months (Compete.com); Twitter.com became one of the top 1,000 websites by traffic in May 2008 (Alexa.com).” It is, in short, a phenomenon-and as a result we are going jump in with both feet and Twitter throughout the semester. Each student will be responsible for at least 3 tweets per day (a post on Twitter is called a “tweet”). Tweets do not have to be about class.

One of the great things about Twitter is the number of free applications and tools that have been created to facilitate Twittering from the desktop, mobile phone, and the web, as well as give you information about your twitter usage. You can get your Twitter grade, connect Twitter your Google calendar, and find your latest Twitter stats. As a result of the plethora of apps, each student will choose and review one Twitter-related application. The review will be posted on the IAOC blog and the application will be demonstrated in class. Furthermore, 1 student each class period (the student functioning as the secondary lead-see below) will be dedicated as the in-class Twitter-leader, leading an online interpretation/discussion about what is going on in class while class is taking place. This activity will challenge us to think about the potential for and implications derived from synchronous online and real life discussions. To get started finding the apps and tools, try Twitter Downloads and/or Mashable’s Twittermania.

Information Ecology
Through our discussions of the readings and uses of web technologies we will be considering how we as human beings are located within “information ecologies.” Bonnie A. Nardi and Vicki L. O’Day (1999) “define an information ecology to be a system of people, practices, values, and technologies in a particular local environment. In information ecologies, the spotlight is not on technology, but on human activities that are served by technology” (p. 49). Beginning with the reading of Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart, the main project for the semester will be to investigate and then represent our own information ecologies that are comprised of multiple on- and off-line interrelated, symbiotic spaces. The final representation will be a 36″ x 56″ poster created using PowerPoint that incorporates the visual rhetoric, font, color, mapping, and other theories we will discuss this semester.

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