Social Navigation Of Information Spaces


Mary Hodder



Assignment 1:  social navigation

        The search for recommended titles brought about two distinctly different experiences.  Both searches were done going deep.   In other words, I wanted to drill down 25 steps if possible, to see how far and extensively the threads would go.  I decided that in going this far, the indent method might work best to show the trail of recommended books.  However, after going 11 steps with the non-fiction book, there was so much looping back to previously recommended titles that I was forced to start over and go through another thread.  In this search for a non-fiction book, I found that a general title on Japanese prints recommended many more subject specific books on particular printmakers by a wide variety of authors (in Blue).  At the end of the recommendations, a couple of titles on Japanese history and culture came up, and the most recommended books seemed to be a couple of books central to academic study of the subject.  


In the second search for a fiction book, I found that would typically recommend other books by the same author (in Red).  There was looping, but I was not forced to start over as the author had written enough books to go a few steps.   After that, authors with similar style and subject matter were recommended, mostly magical realism books by Spanish authors (in Green).  However, seemed to want to recommend books by the same author as the one selected, first, before recommending other’s work.


Assignment 2:  legibility: remembering spaces   asking directions/constructing campus map

        I started at Cross Campus Drive on the west side of the campus, where the Campanile is in view.  Many people would gesture at the Campanile, and then have some trouble describing where to go next, as they often didn’t know the names of buildings or paths, and sometimes remarked on the lack of signs.  Only one person seemed to leap over a significant part of the campus, connecting the area just east of Sather Gate to Hertz Hall, and when I questioned it he assured me they were very close.  A few people directed me left or right at the library without defining which one, but the most interesting repeated assumption people seemed to have was to refer to “above” or “up” as either east up the hill, or north up the hill.  They seemed to divide the campus into “quadrants” where they understood the Cross Campus Dr. and the path between North Gate and Sather Gate as the dividing points, and then directed me more specifically within the quadrants.  However, many people didn’t know much about the middle of those quadrants, describing those areas as “a bunch of buildings” to cross through before getting to Bancroft or Hearst.


Assignment 3:  legibility: understanding spaces   talking about things/mapping newsgroups from verbal directions     map
            I looked at an email list I am a part of to see where the paths and directions might lead.  The discussions are fairly simple and mostly consist of questions and answers, comments to answers, or further questioning.   I focused on an intense period of discussion where over three days there were 75 email related to one topic, the code red virus.


Assignment 4:  legibility: reading spaces   reading the street

        This map shows signage between Dwight Way and Bancroft Ave. on Shattuck Ave.  I took digital photos, but the signs are difficult to make out.  I include one picture as an example to show how difficult it is to capture the information from signs for business names, addresses or non-textual images, without lots of other information also included.  All of the buildings are of the same approximate height, there are no parking lots in this four block area.  Larger signs are displayed in larger text, neon signage is shown in red and signs in blue are those visible while driving.  All signs available to drivers were also available to pedestrian traffic, but sometimes only across the street.   However, this was rare, and primarily came up in the Jazz School sign, where cars and pedestrians across the street could view it, but not those on the same side of the street. 


Assignment 5:  geometry and topology of physical spaces   permeability maps for Foreign Cinema Café & South Hall

        I chose the Foreign Cinema Café, for a couple of reasons.  It has an architecture where traffic can move in a complete loop, once inside the main space, there is a huge view from the inside to the outside cinema display, there is reserved and unreserved café seating, and the space is huge, both in height and in floor space.  The host and staff seem to manage the traffic effortlessly.  There doesn’t seem to be lots of flow from Mission through the long hall way to the host, and yet somehow the café is always full when I am there, with at least 200 people including the staff, both inside and out in the unreserved seating either watching a movie or sitting on the deck working on laptops or reading.


          I looked at South Hall at a time when it seemed that many rooms were locked or closed. I tried to represent as much as I could determine from that that state.  The basement and first floor appear to have the most flow, the second floor has some and the third floor appears to have much less flow. 


Assignment 6:  geometry and topology of information spaces   an email thread is not a tree

        I looked at the same group of email from assignment 3, but examined how the email threads worked, and where the embedded messages went.  Every email, except the first, contained the embedded messages of the previous thread.  This email discussion and what I found in looking at the email from the authorship skew was that the members seem to work in a very cohesive fashion, assume a certain level of knowledge, are respectful and helpful towards inexperienced users, are rarely sarcastic about anything but Microsoft, and have the desire to converse in a quick way to address issues the group focuses on.  However, members are spread around the globe and work in very different ways in their own work groups, although it is not apparent in the email threads. 



Assignment 7:  pattern languages for physical architecture   patterns of design at a cafe

        The Foreign Cinema Café has some of the patterns Alexander describes, such as large windows and natural light areas, outside space, cozy spaces such as areas on the deck and at tables inside around the fireplace, solid doors with glass, low window sills, frames with thickened edges, natural materials, and windows overlooking life.  This last element exists in the inside area, where dinners can look out through the huge windows to the courtyard, where seating is informal and in the evenings movies are shown up on the back wall.  Here are two photos:  inside and outside.  These photos were taken while the café was still under construction, but they show the huge spaces, windows and views, as well as where sunlight can enter into the space.


Assignment 8:  pattern languages for information architecture   patterns of interaction in e-space

        I focused on pattern roles of specific email, and defined how those roles typically manifest in the list group looked at in Assignments 3 and 6.  I found several patterns, and found that certain authors repeat those patterns and rarely deviate from them.  Authors tended to manifest one role, possibly two.  The patterns of email tended to fit into these categories fairly easily.  Only one or two of the 75 email I surveyed didn’t, and these were email from people confused about the point of the list or trying to get somewhere else.


Assignment 9:  physical interaction   plotting positions on sproul plaza

        I found the drumming interaction the most interesting, between the drummers themselves and those watching them.  It was the only example I found where social positions and physical positions might be related in prominence.  I chose two distinctly different times of day to look at the use of the plaza and found very different interactions and presences.  The early morning use was quiet, purposed, and mostly about walking through the plaza to get somewhere else.  The evening was for a few people about walking through, but the real users were the drummers and the audience, who interacted in an interesting non-verbal way around the music and the positions of performer and receiver, centerpiece and periphery.


Assignment 10:  virtual interaction   plotting positions in active worlds

        Active Worlds was interesting, but not nearly as active or revealing as Sproul Plaza.  However, I felt that if more people were there and spent more time in the space learning to use it, it could be as rich as the Sproul Plaza experience.


Assignment 11:  subject-oriented design   homeless design

        After interviewing two homeless people, on Shattuck Avenue, around 8pm on a Monday night, I had some difficultly coming up with ideas for creating an information design for the homeless.  Both people were intoxicated, and while I was talking with them, indicated that rather than having some sort of information or other device design, they really wanted a house.  They felt this would be the most helpful solution to their problem.  However, I thought further about the realities of living on the street, and decided to try to come up with something that was useful, would be sold at a low price ($5.00) so as not to become too much of a commodity, and that might aid them in finding food and shelter, and other daily needs.  I thought of an information “wand” that might be attached to a shopping cart like a key chain, and have a simply scroll bar with LED display, that could be waived near a kiosk for updating via inferred, that would display locations of services and times of availability and would be extremely simply to use.  Government service agencies, NGO’s and non-profits could log into a web interface and update service information, as well as other homeless or interested parties via local library web access or via kiosks located in public places.


Assignment 12:  boundaries and subjects    mapping your week, mapping your life

          During a normal week, the majority of my travel is within two miles of my house in Berkeley, with occasional trips to SF and the Walnut Creek area.  I decided to use icons and lines instead of a real map with overlay as an experiment to see if it might show more about where I go.  Colors and thickness of lines refer to the kind and number of trips.  On my world map, I experimented with using age numbers located on the map, with darker and larger numbers referring to places I have spent more time.  I added numbers with a plus sign to show places I want to go and how long I expect it to be before I get there.


Final project description


Assignment 13:   boundaries and mixed spaces cafes as mixed information spaces       

        Why would people talk to each other in a café, when they appear to actively try to create private space around them to study, read, talk to people they are with or people-watch?  I thought about situations where people in public places do have discourse, something like the pub atmosphere where people might go after work, talk politics and discuss whatever comes into their minds with whoever is around and wants to join in.  With this in mind, I tried to come up with an old/new way of making a comfortable space for talk, that might be something like the pub, where others not participating could still “listen in” and still other café discussions could be joined via a video link, and transcribed talk.


          Since I was sick for most of this week, I was not able to go to SF and the Foreign Cinema Café.  I tried to come up with an idea that would work in a café around the corner from my house, but that would take off with some of the concepts used at the Electronic Café.


Final Presentation