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Tools for Uncovering Arrangement and Meaning

If we don’t understand the data, information, and content we’re working with, how can we attempt to explain it to others? Worse yet, how can we (and they) make informed decisions based on it if none of us really understands? I’ve spent the past year and a half finding and experimenting with tools to help solve some gnarly enterprise information architecture problems. I was immersed in a world of information that is often duplicated, stale, or untrustworthy, and I was asked to make sense of it. Traditional IA tools couldn’t provide the answers. I wasn’t trying to design a website or app, or produce a deliverable for its own sake — I was trying to understand the information piling up around me, and help others make decisions based on it.

Using my own work as an example, I’ll help you answer and explore questions like:

- Should we choose our tools not for what they produce, but for what we can learn from them?
- Where can we even start when we’ve got a large amount of data to figure out?
- What can we learn by playing with information and transforming it in different ways?
- How might we better understand the scope, limits, relationships, patterns, and structures in our information?

Finding useful tools can be difficult, and they can be found in unlikely places. We’ll look at several uncommon tools that have been valuable in my own work, including Gephi, Google Refine, and Tiddlywiki. I’ll share my successes and failures and discuss how I’ve learned to evaluate these tools. If they are unfamiliar, I’ll show you enough to get started using them immediately. After brief overviews and basic examples, you’ll be armed with ways to improve your own work, and new directions to explore!

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Tools for Uncovering Arrangement and Meaning

  1. 1. @adcockm IA Summit 2014 San Diego, CA Michael Adcock
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  4. 4. @adcockm Responses to Fred’s question included: SPSS, Nvivo, Dedoose, ATLAS.ti
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  13. 13. Thanks to @Katalogofchaos for the inspiration! @adcockm
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  15. 15. Dan Klyn proposes: FRAMES @adcockm
  16. 16. Karl Fast (or maybe Stephen Anderson!) in Wednesday’s IA Summit “Design for Understanding” workshop @adcockm
  17. 17. Adapted from Abby Covert’s “Make Sense: Information Architecture for Everybody”
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  19. 19. “But simple is good, in my view, because you can carry it around in your head. And simple is also good because you can combine many small, simple things to figure out a big, complex thing.” -- Andrew Hinton
  20. 20. “Allow the information to tell you how it wants to be displayed. As architecture is “frozen music,” information architecture is “frozen conversation.” Any good conversation is based on understanding.” -- Richard Saul Wurman January 2000 issue of Knowledge Management @adcockm
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  22. 22. making-a-home-for-information-architecture
  23. 23.  WHAT  does the tool want to do?  is the tool good for?  does it consume?  does it produce?  is the effort required to learn & use it?  HOW  can we trust the tool?  can the tool(s) be adapted if necessary?  do the tools fit together? (possible? anything missing?) @adcockm
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  40. 40. Plugin from: @adcockm
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  62. 62.  What have we learned by playing with information and transforming it in different ways?  Do we use tools we’re comfortable with, or tools that help us frame information in certain ways?  Would we rather be an expert at using certain tools, or an expert at choosing effective tools to use? @adcockm
  63. 63. @adcockm Tools for Uncovering Arrangement & Meaning Michael Adcock