Further adventures of Small Pieces

I finally finished reading Small Pieces
Loosely Joined
. It took me quite a while because I was also writing a review
of it for Boxes &Arrows, which should be coming out as soon as they finish gutting and revising it so that it
makes sense. This is a tough book to review in 1500 words, and I cranked out a
wheelbarrow full of other stuff I was trying to say that I ended up taking out.
So, as a supplement, I’m going ahead and putting this very long and winding post.

If you’re interested in more of what I liked and wondered about in the book, read
away. If you really don’t care, that’s fine, it’s the Web! You can click to someplace else.

Continue reading “Further adventures of Small Pieces”

Touch my wiki.

I just updated my bio page at IAwiki: AndrewHinton. I must confess, I haven’t been using wikis as much as I thought I might once I figured them out. But mainly it’s because I haven’t taken the time with them that they require to really make a dent. It’s like a huge communal garden. And I’m not much at gardening. Hell, I’m not much at homeowning either (I just cleaned my gutters after putting it off for a year; one of them is bent in the middle from all the crud it had collected.)
Perhaps I just haven’t encountered a wiki that really sucks me in strongly enough? I honestly grow bored of Information Architecture after a while and want to do something else. If there was a good wiki out there that collaborated on a huge story or narrative world of some kind, that would be excellent. Surely somebody has done that? Anybody know of one? (Comment if so.) I should go looking.

Design is a group thing. Why don't design schools teach leadership?

Peterme writes about some folks getting together for a friendly little retreat to discuss the intersection of Architecture, IT, Engineering and Communication design (each a circle in a Venn diagram) in some Thoughts on Design with a Big D.
I posted a comment. I’m not sure if I just ended up repeating what he already said, but I think what I was trying for was an explanation of how teams are going to evolve to greater depths of expertise for individuals, then people between those experts who can synthesize what they know and do, and yet another level of people who can manage the whole bunch while synthesizing the synthesizers…
Continue reading “Design is a group thing. Why don't design schools teach leadership?”

How many stories does your architecture have?

I’ve been reading bits and pieces of storytelling in business-storytelling in organizations, an archived set of materials from a symposium on the subject, hosted at Xerox-PARC.
I’m intrigued by what narrative and story have to do with IA. It isn’t addressed directly as such in this seminar, but there’s plenty that’s applicable.
If you think of an information architecture as a three-dimensional experience of storied language, where some stories are predetermined, some are created by the user, and some are created collaboratively between users, it becomes an Escher-like hall ideas and expression.
The Internet is a huge hall like this, with very little predetermined structure, but an information architect can create structural occasions and opportunities for others to follow. It could be a linear narrative (anything from an ecommerce workflow to a case study walkthrough) or on the other end of the spectrum, a wiki.
If we think of stories in the truly contemporary way, as socially constructed narratives that have as many dimensions and facets as reality itself, and we strip away the atoms and much of the baggage of conventional time and space, is what we are left with something very much like the Internet, or its more popular manifestation, the Web?

Dropping magnets on the moral compass

CNET has a story today on the latest obsession of our esteemed Representatives in DC: House passes ban on “morphed” erotica.

An excerpt explains: In their April ruling, a 6-3 majority of the justices wrote that Congress’ first try at banning "morphed" porn was akin to prohibiting dirty thoughts. "First Amendment freedoms are most in danger when the government seeks to control thought or to justify its laws for that impermissible end," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought." Prosecutors argue that the COPPA bill is needed, since otherwise it is too difficult to prove that an actual child was involved in the production of an electronic image on, say, a seized hard drive. .

Here’s another example of how weird the world is getting due to technology, and how morality itself is often shaped by the medium.
Anybody who thinks this is an easy question is missing the big picture (so to speak).
If a picture is worth a thousand words, and the picture is not of something “real,” then what do the words say?
We used to not have to worry about this problem. It was obvious in an analog world, or at least provable with the help of experts, that a photograph had been doctored, or that a film had been edited and lit to fool the eye.
Not so with CG creations. They’re getting better and better. When they show someone doing the physically impossible (like Spiderman) no big deal, because 1) what he’s doing is obviously a trick and 2) it’s not especially illegal or harmful to anyone except street thugs and supervillains.
But take a few minutes to deftly edit the image of 21 year old woman engaged in sexual activity to look like a 16 year old youngster, and even though what you’ve done is somewhat disgusting, it didn’t hurt anyone physically. Yet you could end up in prison. That seems absurd, right?
But how about this… you’re trying to find and prosecute members of a child porn ring. The only physical evidence you have is a bunch of jpegs on a computer showing pictures like the one described above, along with other scenes. The technology has made it so that we cannot assume these pictures are showing the real thing, although in this case based on testimony of others involved you pretty much know it’s really going on.
If you can’t grab this sicko with the evidence in hand, because it’s possible that it’s “morphed”– now what do you do?
I’ve certainly oversimplified this, but the bottom line is that what we have taken as ‘reality’ over the last couple of centuries is being dissolved before our eyes. Even eyewitness testimony and fingerprinting are known now to be much less conclusive than we could previously, comfortably assume.
So, now, how are we going to sort the baddies from the virtual baddies? If only technology could give us a way to see into one another’s hearts?