Information Structures

Shana Penta || Jake Martin


In DTC 356, the course focus has been information structures, beginning with initial development, their uses, their complexity, their importance, and finally, how they have been changing to accommodate technology and the users changing needs. Together, we have developed an infographic and web site, which combined demonstrates our understanding of the information structure, essential elements that influence the structure, and elements of the three orders of order. The presented infographic is on a hand-coded website. It includes descriptive text boxes that further display our fundamental understanding of what an information structure looks like from a graphical structure to a system that houses that graphic.

Information structures were created by a developing need to sort information, a better way to understand complexity, and categorization became essential to developing knowledge for physical data. As collections of information became more extensive and more complex, creating sub-categories, or lumps and splits were necessary. Thus, the second order of order was developed. The use of information structures includes a means of organizing and categorizing collections of data, including but not limited to books, music collections, hyperlinks, and even a recipe box. Each user requires the information to be sorted and categorized in a way that best suits their needs. Information structures can be very complex and require an understanding of the full scope of any topic to which they are applied. As our access to information has expanded, especially in the digital medium, the method of sorting has morphed into something entirely different than the first two orders of order.

Due to changing needs, accessibility, and the way information structures are built and applied have changed dramatically from the beginning, where the first and second orders of order were used to sort information. In a digital era, the third order of order developed through non-psychical presentations of data. The importance of information structures in digital format is immeasurable. The more leaves on the tree, the more information that the user has to make an informed decision.

Split into two categories, the three orders of order, are physical and digital. The first order of order is limited to only physical data; there is just one reality; one item in one place and does not allow for more. This method is outdated unless organizing a silverware drawer. The second order of order only knows what it knows. It provides an outline or list in addition to the first order’s method, sorting alphabetically or numerically, allowing users a means to find explicit content, especially when searching within printed material.

The third order of order has no overarching system of miscellany, no implied order. This disorder allows users with social knowledge to control to contribute and sort any way they deem necessary while giving up control of the data. The power of the miscellany is that everything can connect through metadata or tags. These tags are smart leaves. By placing as many leaves on a tree as possible, the user filters data on the way out. The user must look past the messiness of uncontrolled information and determine the meaning.

Together these elements are represented in the infographic on the site. A creation by Jake, it also represents the many ideas of information structures we have learned about throughout class and uses the structure to explain the divide between physical and digital data. On one side, all of the important aspects of organizing physical data are listed, and on the opposite side, the same is listed for digital types of data. The three types of order are also listed at the top on whatever side they usually fall. The first order of order lands in the physical category, the second-order is in the middle of the two, and the third-order is in the digital category. As we have created infographics many times for this class, it seemed fitting that one would also be a part of our final project for the course.

Infographics are a great way of conveying information because it is an excellent way to split the data into separate sections that are related to each other. By doing this, it helps to make the work more understandable and more comfortable to go through and is a great way to get information out quickly across social media and the rest of the internet. As well as this, the use of different graphics and color schemes makes the learning more fun for the user and gives them images to relate to the topic. It is much more fun to learn by going through an infographic than reading a textbook or article online.

However, since infographics are usually very brief and quick to go through, they do run into the issue that a user cannot go into detail about the information given. This is why we decided to make an infographic that goes more into depth about the information it is describing. Shana did this by not only coding the website but finding out a way to map coordinates on the infographic, so when a user clicks on any of the orders, a click will take the user to a new page that explains the topic in greater detail. As infographics are not usually interactable, this also creates a new connection between the user and the work they are viewing.

The parts that make up an information structure can be both physical and digital. These categories can be further split into first order, second order and third order of order. The presentation of both the website and infographic represent our understanding of these complexities. It further demonstrates a clear understanding of the teaching of the course.