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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Messy Information Aesthetics

    I’ve been posting about messy information, so it was with some amusement that I came across a posting with ‘Information Aesthetics’ as the title! However, it refers to the design and layout imposed on information as it becomes tangible, and as such, does not relate to how information is made available and found. It did start me thinking…
    The concept of messiness has to do with the unstructured and disorganised nature of much that is available on the Web – it is not indexed according to taxonomies and classification schemes, but in a messy way involving uncontrolled tagging by ‘amateurs’ or searching across the full text of documents, obviating the need for control and classification. Both approaches sacrifice precision for massive recall. Very messy! But very effective.
    And nobody could say that the results offered by search engines are aesthetically pleasing. But if ‘messy’ is the heap of information leaves (rather than the structured tree of knowledge), search engines do impose some sort of post-hoc structure – a kind of tidiness or aesthetic.

    It has been suggested by those that know (e.g. see the previous post) that the heap of leaves is going to become huge as all digitisation projects go ahead. I think we need some better ‘information aesthetics’ in the new generations of search engines.

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