Dorian Taylor

Intentionally Intensional Information Architecture

Friday, March 24 11:15 am – 12:00 pm

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Session Summary

Information architects know all about categories—but how do categories get made? How do we decide what to put in them? We have plenty of ways to make sense of information messes, ways that would be largely recognizable to thinkers from centuries ago. What methods exist which are only feasible with the help of a computer? Moreover: why would we want to use them?

Saving time and manual labour is nice and all, but not nearly as interesting as an entirely new dimension of capability. That dimension is intension—yes, with an ‘s’. Categorization is a form of extension. Intension is categories turned inside out.

The problem with systems of categories—taxonomies, ontologies, navigational structures and the like—is that they are often only tenuously informed by the things they are meant to categorize. This leads to information resources being shoved into categories which they barely fit, or worse: the dreaded “Misc.” category.

What if, instead, we could begin with an amorphous mass of content, and then mine it, in bulk, for structure? What if, in successive operations, we could attach structure to the content, and then structure to the structure? What if we could then analyze that structure, not only to show us how well our taxonomies fit, but also show us ways of partitioning the content that we didn’t even think of?

The purpose of this talk is to show you how you just might go about doing that (hint: semantic web), and what the results are. We’ll start with a content scrape of a real website, and end with a new structure, showcasing new possibilities for organizing, navigating, and experiencing content.