SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Less Spatiality, More Sema
Re: [Sigia-l] Less Spatiality, More Semantics?
From: Peter Merholz (peterme_at_peterme.com)
Date: Tue Mar 25 2003 - 10:54:51 EST
The session was also the most provocative for me. I ended up contextualizing
much of the rest of the conference in what I heard there.
> After mulling this over, I've decided I don't really understand what Andrew
> 'meant' (heh) by his use of the word
> 'semantics' AT ALL.
Andrew was careful to distinguish spatial processing from semantic
processing. He acknowledged that both are important, but that, currently, we
as IAs favor supporting spatial processing, largely because it is easy.
What Andrew means by spatial processing, as I understand, has to do
primarily with the notion that we "navigate" information, and that we have
to create tools (navigation bars, breadcrumbs, explicit hierarchies) to
assist people in navigating it.
In doing so, we don't address the separate, and possibly deeper, issue of
*semantic* processing. We're not very good at helping people deal with the
meaning of information, and capitalize on how people process semantically.
I felt this tied right into Mark Bernstein's section on his panel (as well
as his later talk), where he encourages IAs to acknowledge the messiness and
complexity of information, and not to obscure this with an oversimplified
structure designed to ease navigation and promote findability. His point is
that these attempts at easing navigation actually make it harder for people
to find stuff, and for them to draw understanding from the material, because
these navigational devices obscure the actual relationships of the
A big theme of Mark's talk(s) was "multivalence is not a vice," which I also
think ties into this quite neatly. In an effort to achieve clarity and
understandability, we often attempt to reduce our presentation of
information so that everything we offer has a single, obvious purpose. Mark
finds such reduction foolish, claiming that there's no information that
isn't multivalent, that couldn't be used to support a variety of purposes,
and that we need to acknowledge, and, perhaps, celebrate that.
One thing that both Andrew and Mark commented on is that what they're
talking about isn't easy to grasp, present, develop methods for. They're
challenging us to tackle a difficult issue, instead of relying simply on the
more facile crutch of just spatiality.
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ASIST IA 03 Summit: Making Connections
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