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IIID   Expert Forum for Knowledge Presentation
Conference   Preparing for the Future of Knowledge Presentation


Elzbieta Kazmierczak,
Peter Storkerson

  Preparing for the Future of Knowledge Presentation
First Symposium of the Expert Forum for Knowledge Presentation


Illustration: Roman Duszek © 2003

About the Symposium by the Symposium Organizers

“Preparing for the Future of Knowledge Presentation” was the first conference of the Expert Forum for Knowledge Presentation. It was one of two symposia, which took place back to back at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology under the consolidated name “2by2”.

The symposium’s first premise
    The premise was that with the increasing complexity of information and communication, and the increasing involvement of design in the construction of content, information design is in a transition from the presentation of information to the representation of decision-making and action. This paradigm shift entails the design integration of information with human thinking comprising knowledge, decision-making, and action. This requires an enlarged theoretical preparation in the analysis of communication.
The differentiation between data, information, and knowledge represents a critical conceptual step.
    It requires that designers recognize the qualitative difference between the presentation of information, and the representation of the values and decisions that relate to users’ goals. The passage from raw data to information, knowledge, and finally, to wisdom served as our conceptual springboard for defining the scope of the symposium (Figure 1). It represents human thought processes that are involved in assimilating the raw data of the external world and discerning its meaning to human needs and values. Data becomes information when it is placed in a frame of reference, and it is made into knowledge when it is framed so as to enable users to define and make decisions pursuant to their goals.

The idea of the user as a passive consumer of information, or the notion of the user as the sole active participant of communication is out of date. In the age of information, users are required to make decisions over systems that are too complex to monitor, or too difficult to understand. Financial advisors transform myriad pieces of information into the actionable knowledge. These functions are increasingly performed by communications in which both users and information are active participants in a decision-making process. In short, design is being asked to enable human decision-making through the representation of knowledge as opposed to the representation of information that must be made into knowledge.
Figure 1. From Data to Wisdom
The symposium’s second premise

  It was that the challenges of communication in the twenty-first century make it mandatory that designers effectively integrate the knowledge of other fields into their work. The concerns that information designers face are shared across a number of disciplines. Our intention was to indicate that the various fields can benefit from working together on common problems of presentation of knowledge.

Our goal in this first symposium was to address the emerging common themes of the new paradigm. The presentations evoked lively discussions about the relevance of theoretical frameworks to practice and about the importance of practice in the development of theoretical tools for approaching new demands of knowledge presentation. An important part of our goal was to highlight the rich and varied nature of the field and the variety of resources that will be needed to tackle emerging needs. We invited participants from a wide range of disciplines and practices to form a group who addresses concerns of knowledge presentation from varied directions. The symposium gathered information and interface designers, experts in collaboration, finance, education, social sciences, and cognitive science.

Our keynote speaker
Neil MacKinnon   Professor Neil MacKinnon of Guelph University presented Symbolic Interaction and Knowledge Presentation. He proposes Affect Control Theory (ACT) as an approach to address the integration of affect and intellect into a common system of measurement that can be applied to interaction and the interpretation of information. MacKinnon’s work demonstrates the relevance and researchability of emotion and its relevance to design.

Four sessions
    1. Communication and Conceptualization, 2. Making Information Flow: matching information to human activities, 3. Identifying User Needs, and 4. New Media, New Contexts, New Knowledge: preparing for the future of knowledge presentation. In each of those sessions, we had three or four presentations followed by open discussions for all participants.

Session 1   Communication and Conceptualization.

It addressed the transition from data to wisdom in terms of thought processes.

Corin Gurr’s Cognition and Diagrammatic Representation presented “a theory of diagrammatic languages that explains how meaning can be attached to the components of a language both naturally (by exploiting intrinsic graphical properties) and intuitively (taking consideration of human cognition)” (Gurr).

Krzysztof Lenk & Paul Kahn’s Diagrams for Communication Between Designer and Client highlighted the critical and necessary role of diagrams as devices to support decision-making, showing the practical implementation of Gurr’s topics in the context of designer-client communication.

Session 2   Making Information Flow: matching information to human activities.

It addressed knowledge management, collaboration and creative processes that depend upon knowing and thinking about the right things at the right times.

Elizabeth SandersParticipatory Designing: information and adaptation focused on the “participatory culture [that] is emerging on a large scale. Everyday people, not just designers, are using the new digital tools to express themselves and to communicate. People who once were satisfied with being “consumers” now are becoming “creators” …In order to drive the human-centered design revolution, we need to tap into the imaginations and dreams not only of designers, but also of everyday people” (Sanders).

Jorge Frascara’s Prospect and flow: making environments intelligible argued, “Relevance is key for setting in motion the learning effort.” Using J. Appleton’s and J.J. Gibson’s “notions of prospect and affordance [as] key tools for the effective presentation of visual information”, Frascara called for field research into “…the presentation of complex sets of information that could be interpreted by different cognitive styles” (Frascara).

Barbara Mirel and Leif Allmendinger presented Visualizing Complexity: getting from here to there in ill-defined problem landscapes. They proposed “…a model, which describes how experts explore problem landscapes, putting information and their own conclusions together in different ways in order to satisfy contending goals and agendas.”

Session 3   Identifying User Needs: putting knowledge in context.

It focused on the transition from theory to practice in terms of a selection of empirical and case studies. They represent areas of application that are important to the well being of the general public such as medicine, finance and transportation.

Wes Ervin’s Strategies for Visualizing Financial Risk explored the representation of complex sets of information—in this case investment portfolios—as long-term investment decisions with real consequences.

Karel van der Waarde’s Producers, Regulators and Users: balancing conflicting demands in medical information confronted the problems of translating the multiple informational demands of drug companies, government regulators, and doctors into informational messages that patients can use comprehensibly.

Rune Pettersson’s Gearing Communications to the Cognitive Needs of Receivers: findings from visual literacy research presents results of cognitive studies that bear directly on design decisions.

Roman Duszek’s case study, Warsaw Subway Information System: the design process, presented the way showing design process as user centered research demanding prediction of user goals and contexts of action, spatial locations of decision-making, and human physical/cognitive attributes.

Session 4   New Media, New Contexts, New Knowledge: preparing for the future of knowledge presentation.

It focused on emergent issues and the future: the impact of the internet, literacy, and new digital interfaces that will soon be in common use.

Gunther Kress Multimodality, Representation and New Media explored entailments of the shift from print to screen. He compared the affordances of media and the impact of hypertext on literacy, including the design needs of users who must themselves organize information into intelligible units.

Aaron Marcus’ Driving Miss Daisy: usable, useful, pleasurable vehicle UI design explored the practical and potentially life threatening obstacles to designing digital automotive interfaces that can be utilized quickly and intuitively by drivers, operating in high speed and high stress emergency environments.

Audio and video posting of full presentations is to follow this summer.
June 3, 2004

Program Directors and Symposium Organizers
Elzbieta Kazmierczak

Holds an M.F.A. in Graphic Design and an M.A. in Art Education. Ms. Kazmierczak is an illustrator, designer, and independent researcher, currently working on a book on meaning-making and diagrammatic modeling in design.

Peter Storkerson

Holds a Ph.D. in Communication Design from the Institute of Design, IIT, Chicago, IL. Dr. Storkerson teaches communication design at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL and conducts research in cross mode cognition.

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