Paul Kahn

Paul Kahn

Paul Kahn is currently an independent teacher, writer, and information architecture consultant. He was co-founder and President of Dynamic Diagrams from 1991 which became part of ingenta in the fall of 2000. He served as Chief Technology Officer of ingenta until leaving to pursue independent projects. He holds a degree in English Literature from Kenyon College. His work with text processing systems began at Harvard University in 1977 as an analyst and production editor, and continued in the role of an application specialist for Atex, Inc. and as a member of the hypertext research staff at Brown University's Institute for Research in Information and Scholarship (IRIS), where he served as director from 1990-94. He taught interactive design part-time at Rhode Island School of Design from 1996-2001.

He is the co-author of "Mapping Web Sites" (with Krzysztof Lenk), "From Memex to Hypertext: Vannevar Bush and the Mind’s Machine" (with James Nyce) and portfolios published by Richard Saul Wurman in "Information Architects" and "Understanding USA". He has published articles and conference papers in graphic design and computer science journals. He is currently based in Paris, France.

Abstract: Information Architecture: a New Discipline for Organizing Hypertext

Hypertext has always been about allowing us to connect information in creative and useful ways. Anything can be linked to anything. This is the promise and problem of hypertext. It is possible to link things well but far easier to link things badly. The result is spaghetti writing to go with our spaghetti code, masses of senseless trails and tunnels where the reader loses all sense of attention and purpose. The computer science community responded to this diet of pasta with new practices, promoting interoperable, repeatable, reusable, object-oriented programming tools.

What are the problems of spaghetti writing? Collections of information are too big to grasp. The are invisible, feel chaotic, and result in lost and dissatisfied users. Information architecture for the web is the practice of connecting things well, a new discipline born from the lack of coherence of things linked badly.

A major part of information architecture for the web is the design of hypertext. Information architects analyze, plan, organize, visualize, design.

The practice of information architecture involves discovering the kinds of information the site contains, matching this information to the needs of the users, and determining the appropriate metadata structure.

Most web sites are divided into sections. Try seven sections, plus or minus two. What is the purpose of the hypertext, we ask, How do you use it? Can items can be found one, two, or three levels down? What are the global and local navigation elements at each level? What are the related items? What can we present to the user on the web that cannot be done as well in any other medium? How will he read the page?

The Information architect must understand text coding systems, such as SGML/XML, as well as the possibilities of database storage and retrieval. He must be able to think like the user, and create an organization that will help the user understand what the site contains. He must understand the interaction model supported by web browsers and the associated technologies to determine how the user interface will behave. The information architect must mediate the requirements of a client, who wants to present information, and the needs of the user, who needs to find and consume that information. He navigates a narrow, twisting course between the desirable and the possible, to determine the appropriate solution.

This talk will explore current best practices in the design and organization of online publications. What can hypertext research learn from these practices?


Wendy Hall

Wendy Hall

Wendy Hall is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, UK. She is Head of the Intelligence, Agents, Multimedia (IAM) Research Group in the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton which includes the recently established Digital Libraries Research Centre and the Faculty of Engineering's Learning Technologies Centre. Her research interests include the development of multimedia information systems and their applications in education, industry and commerce, open hypermedia systems and link services, digital libraries, multimedia databases, content-based retrieval, agent systems and user interfaces. More information about her research interests and work can be found by looking at her publications and past and current research projects.

Her group developed the open hypermedia system, Microcosm, and she is a director of Multicosm Ltd, now Active Navigation Ltd, the company through which Microcosm has been commercially exploited. The Microcosm software was an ITEA'95 award winner and a BCS IT award winner in 1996. The company has also developed a commercial version of hypermedia link service for the Web based on IAM's Distributed Link Service project. The commercial product is known as Webcosm.

Wendy was awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2000, and became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the same year.

Abstract: Mostly Linkless

Reader's familiar with the works of Douglas Adams will get the pun! This presentation will explore what has happened to hypermedia since the advent of the World Wide Web. In particular we will consider why there is so little use of hypermedia in the Web. Associative linking is at best added value and at worst irrelevant to most Web sites. Search engines are the dominant means of finding information, but everyone is aware of their limitations. This is all set to change as we move into the world of pervasive computing and increasingly access the internet through hand-held devices. Agent technology will become the dominant means of building distributed information management systems. This together with the development of the Semantic Web will enable us to build environments which provide users with highly personalized and adaptive global information spaces to navigate through. The presentation will consider the role of hypermedia in such environments will there be more links or less? The answer is of course 42.

Last modified: Thursday, 29-Nov-2001 15:32:18 CET