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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2007

E 388M • Information Architecture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34925 TTh
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
FAC 10

Course Description

This course investigates the cultural, cognitive, and rhetorical dimensions of information architecture. Information architecture is an emerging field that includes aspects of composition, rhetoric, design, cognitive science, information sciences, computer science, mathematics, and social sciences. As computer technologies have expanded the possibilities for creating, organizing, storing, representing, and communicating information, the sheer quantity of information exchanged has exploded. The new field of information architecture (or "informatics" in a current program proposal at UC Irvine) studies this dynamic process, develops systems to help people better manage it, and plans for changes projected in how information is developed and organized. Theorists currently in the field, including Richard Saul Wurman, Jakob Nielsen, Kevin Mullet, Darrell Sano, and Edward Tufte argue that design, including typography and page design, use of graphics, and organizational structure are crucial to the delivery of information in ways that potential audiences find useful. These elements are often left to editors or publishers in formal publishing situations, or executed poorly in popular media and online communications. Yet they can determine whether information can be easily accessed, apprehended, and interpreted. Similarly, information archives are left in the hands of librarians whose experience and expertise may vary widely from expert to little or no training or preparation. Even well-trained librarians, however, may be ill-equipped to manage the proliferation and dynamic transformation of new media, modes, and genres of work, including web sites, multimedia compositions, collaborative constructions that cross continents and disciplinary boundaries, and online virtual worlds. There are many systems, from library catalogues to Web search engines, to research databases now in use to gather, store, and manipulate information, yet we still often feel overwhelmed, ill-informed, and lost in dealing with them. Wurman has termed our general apprehension information anxiety.

While a great deal of work has been done in areas of information science, library science, interface design, and so on, we believe that little attention has been paid to the deeply rhetorical nature of information architecture, particularly in online environments. This course will look at the cultural and cognitive production, organization, representation, and distribution of knowledge as activity in online environments.


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