Journal of Information Architecture

SPRING 2010, VOL 2 ISS 1 — Trajectories

A Good Start

Editorial

When we started planning the Journal in 2008 our initial goal was simply to take this much needed thing off the ground to see how it would fly. Now, after a little more than two years, I am happy to observe that the Journal has had a good start, it has attracted a lot of interest, and it has been well received by readers, by authors and by reviewers alike.

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Topic Maps

From Information to Discourse Architecture

Topic Maps is a standards-based technology and model for organizing and integrating digital information in a range of applications and domains. Drawing on notions adapted from current discourse theory, this article focuses on the communicative, or explanatory, potential of topic maps. It is demonstrated that topic maps may be structured in ways that are “text-like” in character and, therefore, conducive to more expository or discursive forms of machine-readable information architecture. More specifically, it is exemplified how a certain measure of “texture”, i.e. textual cohesion and coherence, may be built into topic maps. Further, it is argued that the capability to represent and organize discourse structure may prove useful, if not essential, in systems and services associated with the emerging Socio-Semantic Web. As an example, it is illustrated how topic maps may be put to use within an area such as distributed semantic micro-blogging.

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Beyond Findability

Search-Enhanced Information Architecture for Content-Intensive Rich Internet Applications

This paper details a way to extend classic information architecture for web-based applications. The goal is to enhance traditional user experiences, mainly based on navigation or search, to new ones (also relevant for stakeholders’ requirements). Examples are sense making, at a glance understanding, playful exploration, serendipitous browsing, and brand communication. These new experiences are often unmet by current information architecture solutions, which may be stiff and difficult to scale, especially in the case of large or very large websites. A heavy reliance upon search engines seems not to offer a viable solution: it supports, in fact, a limited range of user experiences. We propose to transform (parts of) websites into Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), based, beside other features, upon interaction-rich interfaces and semantic browsing across content. We introduce SEE-IA (SEarch-Enhanced Information Architecture), a coherent set of information architecture design strategies, which innovatively blend and extend IA and search paradigms. The key ingredients of SEE-IA are a seamless combination of structured hypertext-based information architectures, faceted search paradigms, and RIA-enabled visualization techniques. The paper elucidates and codifies these design strategies and their underlying principles, identifying also how they support a set of requirements which are often neglected by most current design approaches. A real case study of a complex RIA designed for a major institutional client in Italy is used to vividly showcase the design strategies and to provide ready-to-use examples that can be transferred to other IA contexts and domains.

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Maturing a Practice

The authors of this paper position pratice-led research (PLR) as an effective agent in the transformation of the seemingly inherent and natural acts found in casual practice into the formal arrangement of accepted truths and regulated practices of a discipline for user experience design (UXD) and information architecture (IA) communities of practice. The paper does not intend to exhaustively define discourse analysis, discipline practice or pratice-led research per se, but rather to introduce practitioners and the fields of UXD and IA at large to the basic concepts of PLR so as to begin establishing discussion and awareness.

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