Doctoral Seminar: Information Design

Fall 2000 (01-1)

Instructor: Dr. Stephen Hirtle and Dr. Anthony Debons
Office: SIS 736 / SIS 660
Office Phone: 624-9434 / 624-9433
Email: /
Seminar Meets: Wednesday, 12:00-2:50pm, IS 503

Overview and Purpose

A fundamental issue in development of user-centered information systems can be considered under the umbrella term of 'information design'. Ben Schneiderman, Edward Tufte, Alan McEachren, and Donald Norman are familiar to names to Information Scientists for using design principles to improve both paper and computer displays. In this seminar, we are going to back up one step and look at slightly more fundamental issues, such as, what is the nature of information, or how can information design be formalized to be implemented in future information systems.

The course will be divided into three parts. In the first section, we will be reading a recent MIT Press book, edited by communications expert Robert Jacobson, on Information Design. In many ways, this book raises more questions than answers them. However, it will provide some fundamental references and establish a common vocabulary. We will then turn to Albert Borgmann's "Holding on to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium." (I will leave it to you to decide which side of the millennium turn we are now on). This is a sole authored work reviewing historical material on the nature of information. In his book, the philosopher Borgmann discusses natural information (pre-literacy), cultural information (the role of writing and other symbol systems), and technological information (the information age). Finally, we will examine a collection of readings on social informatics, which might be defined in terms the impact of information technology on social structures. We will begin with an article by Rob Kling from D-Lib Magazine. Additional readings for this section are still being developed.


You are welcome to participate in one of two ways, either informally or for credit. All participants will be expected to take a lead in directing the discussion for at least two weeks during the term. This will include extra-careful reading of the week's materials and perhaps supplementing the discussion with examples and other citations. Those taking it for credit will be required to write a short summary paper or conduct a demonstration design project on the topic of your choosing at the end of the term. The final two weeks will be reserved for presentation and discussion about the projects.

Required Readings

WWW Links

Weekly Schedule

Aug 30

Part I: Information Design

Sept 6 Theoretical Foundations
Jacobson, Chapters 1-3

Sept 13 Human-Centered Design and Way-Finding
Jacobson, Chapters 4-6: Buranarach

Sept 20 The Practice of Information Design
Jacobson, Chapters 7-10: Hughes

Sept 27
No Class Meeting - Geographical Domain Conference

Oct 4 Technologies of Information
Jacobson, Chapters 11-13: Lee

Oct 11 Technologies, continued
Jacobson, Chapters 14-16: Peachavanish

Part II: The Nature of Information

Oct 18 Natural Information
Borgman, Chapters 1-5: Peachavanish

Oct 25 Cultural Information
Borgman, Chapters 6-10: Lee

Nov 1
No Class Meeting - GIScience2000

Nov 8 Technological Information
Borgman, Chapters 11-15: Hughes

Part III: Social Informatics

Nov 15 Social Informatics
Kling (1999); Kling (2000); Sawyer (2000): Buranarach

Nov 22
No Class Meeting - Thanskgiving Break

Nov 29 ASIS&T'2000 Report
Debons and Dragulanescu

Dec 6 Social Navigation
This week, we will cover a variety of Social Navigation Tools, including

Dec 13 Project Presentations and Wrap-up

Stephen Hirtle,
Last Update: Nov 28, 2000