singularity industries

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Live from Barcamp: How to bluff your way through an interview on Information Architecture

By: Coleman Yee, Room 3, 02:00PM

Why does anyone need an information architect?

Ans: The basic goal is to make a website user friendly. Make information easy to find.

Going further, it’s easier to build small houses than large complexes with plenty of rooms, wiring, pipes, etc… It’s the same with information architecture. How do you design a system that stores and retrieves information that saves you time and money?

2:15 Coleman just shared www.amazon.com as a good example. Do we go to Amazon to get something we have in mind, or do we go in there knowing already what we want? Amazon knows this.

2:17 The information architect can present information that’s drawn from previous databases, studying trends, and present that relevant information to a relevant customer. It automates the “recommendation” function you might find from a store helper, much like www.stumbleupon.com and www.last.fm although these examples are more closer to the semantic web.

2:20 Coleman asks, How would you go about redesigning your website?
– There’s context. What is the goal of the website? Usually the goal of the company. Look into the company’s stakeholder interviews to find out what a company’s key messages and positions are with regards to their stakeholders.

– Beyond strategic direction comes content. Current content on a current website is probably not enough. You need to conduct a content audit / inventory

– Next comes the users. Who are the people using the website? You can conduct Surveys, Focus groups, Interviews and Observations. (I wished he could expand more about this, but he’s moved on to another example now.)

2:26 Coleman cites an example of ship captains who use the Internet via satallite and need information that is not data packet heavy. IA helps tackle such requirements.

2:27 Design. – Hierachal? The information architect has to come up with a reorganisation of the content database that increases productivity and user experience.

Wireframes – No design element. Shows text layout, functionality.. it kinda looks like a black and white skeleton of how your website would look without skin.

2:32 So, like a real life architect, the information architect comes up with the blueprint, and a contractor helps build the site, designers can help skin it.

2:34 Coleman has a sense of satisfaction when people tell him when a site is user friendly. Awwwww… Group HUG! (courtesy of iantimothy)

That’s it! From the people next to me. “That’s the most educational talk i’ve heard at Barcamp.” “IA is awesome!”

Filed under: technology

Who is killing our newspapers?

Let’s get one thing straight first: in order for an ideal democratic society to exist, we require a reliable and independent media reporting objectively on public events that help a society’s stakeholders make their own informed choices (represented by their elected government.)

“The media, however, contribute also in positive ways to the functioning of politics and public life. The media provide the setting or stage on which public life is played out, (emphasis: my own) and they continue to provide the scrutiny and critique of the players in public life that is central to the democratic process.” (Craig, G. 2004, The Media, Politics and Public Life, Allen & Unwin, pp.22 – 23)

Yes, i’m quoting from an actual book source and not a hyperlink to a recently published blog. I think this demonstrates the weight of an accredited publishing source, and not just a whim. (ironic though, that i choose a digital and free medium to publish my own thoughts.)

But regardless of the benign point I’m trying to make of which medium deserves our due attention, i hope to set the stage for a concern far more pressing, and that is the implied death of democracy that comes with the death of journalism.

And with the slow decline of the print medium, is a generation of good journalism going to die away with it? It’s under this question that I hope to frame my concerns and make some sense of what is happening around us today.

it’s disheartening when you read an article like this, and realise that a lot of good journalists are being retrenched because advertising rates are falling and newspapers cannot support their organisational structure anymore.

as consumers, i don’t think we really think much about the state of journalism.. but i’m here to make a case that journalism is a valued profession in any society. democratic at least. without good quality journalism, we can only rely on ourselves to mediate the events happening around us.

like how we’ve been praising new media for highlighting the issues that really matter on the ground, that’s what good journalism did before web2.0

but somewhere along the lines, journalism, with print, tv and radio all became bloated and i think many media companies lost the plot as they realised that mass communication went hand in hand with mass consumption. in some sense, as a society, we consumed media at an alarming rate, and that gave rise to inflated budgets, ideas and egos..

what we have today, is the mob (us) turning our backs on journalism as we find free sources of news. it’s a similar thing that happened with the record industry.. but somehow i don’t feel that bad about losing redundant label executives.

but tell me that i’m losing good journalists, and i sit up to take notice.

a vast majority of us might not care about good journalism, like some of us do not care about good music. and that scares me.. or at least makes me wonder what this future’s going to be like.

a possible future
1. journalists have to diversify in skill sets. it’s no longer enough to just be able to write, you have to start being a adept photographer, podcaster, videographer and technologist. why do i say that?

because one of a journalists’ job is to capture the spirit of the times. and sadly, you can’t just do that with words alone. if the standard of journalism is to rise above citizen journalism, to produce content that not any man on the street can recreate, the professional journalist has to function under such conditions.

2. newspapers will have smaller readerships, multiple services, stronger brand presence and perhaps independent.
Almost everything that afflicts the media today is a bloated industry, that has flourished in terms of content because of the investment. But as free content continues to take centerstage, quality content suffers.

media outlets have to regroup, reorganise and deploy resources where they matter the most. such actions will need to address the fragmenting audience that plagues every media channel because ultimately, that leads to advertising rates.

by diversifying, ad revenue can be collected from multiple sources, and also, while an audience is fragmented, they are still considered part of a larger collective that give their attention to a media channel.

ie. each channel gets less revenue, but multiple sources pay the bills. it’s only a modified revenue model.. but if you made money from TV, Radio, Web & Print.. it might change things.

This is by no means exhaustive, and I do appreciate if you can share your thoughts as well.

Filed under: media, , , , ,

Mass Effect: New Media Lemmings?

While watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, I came across this dialogue in Episode 24 between Motoko Kusanagi and Kuze, where Kuze explains the manipulation of the masses due to the prevalence of information via the Internet. In it, he explains in rather far fetched terms, how he intends to save them all from such a demise by fully merging with the Net.

This notion of manipulation due to a lack of media and technological literacy is also perpetuated by Cass Sunstein’s analysis of the so-called “free net” in this article: “The Internet is Making Us Stupid

While Kuze’s solution is closer to the realm of science fiction, I do think he raises valid points about how most of us are using the Internet and Technology today. In no uncertain terms, everything is a large goop of grey with no real opinions, apart from those whom we follow.

To be literate, is to understand what is happening around us, and having an opinion so that we can continue to make sense of this world that we live in. But information has changed from a prized resource into a cheapened commodity. Sure there is wisdom of the crowds, but in some aspects, we’re also facing mob mentality without really understanding why.

I suppose that’s what gotten Senior Minister of State (Information, Communications and the Arts) going apeshit over the reactions of netizens, professing disdain at our apparent lack of self-regulation.

But he does not understand that changes do not happen overnight. People conveying different thinking on the Net should not mean that we are lawless citizens, but the Singapore Government should re-look at how some of its policies really aren’t that popular or even beneficial to Singapore’s citizens. If anything, they should be glad that feedback is actually given and that they do not have a colony of lemmings. Oh wait, maybe that’s why they aren’t glad.

But as you will see from the dialogue below, if the masses begin to dig past the surface of information, and make meaning of the information they consume, interpret it in such a way that adds value to our cultures and societies, information will not be cheapened, and a much higher calling becomes clearer. For now, information is merely passed from contact to contact, but how does that affect us if we don’t start thinking for ourselves?

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Kuze: “I went on a journey, just because I wanted time to reaffirm my motives, and to see whether I could execute the revolution or liberation that I had envisioned.”

Motoko: “What is this revolution you speak of?”

Kuze: “The transfer of people to a higher structure. What this means is that people should discard their rigid system, and unite with the Net.”

Motoko: “Unite with the Net?”

Kuze: “Due to the incident on the Peninsula, I began to look at life philosophically. I found a paradoxical order, exploitation by the strong, and corrupt structure. What disappointed me the most, however, was the irresponsibility. The masses didn’t try to create anything on their own, and don’t understand anything. And yet, if they find information convenient for themselves, they rush to ingest it, and are therefore manipulated. Without motives, they consume the infrastructure called the Net. Their actions may bring unintended results, but they feel no responsibility whatsoever. My revolution is also an act of revenge against such people.”

Motoko: “Revenge?”

Kuze: “I’ve always felt a disparity between my body and my mind because I’ve been a full cyborg since childhood. I’ve always wanted to discard this inconvenient body if I could and set sail for the sea of the Net. The Asian refugees gave me a reason to live. They said that my manmade face was a very good face and flattered me by saying my Ghost is expressed within it. I then realised, for the first time… that the body and the mind may be invisible, and I was able to think of myself as a human being with a physical body. However, even those people went in the direction of convenience once they encountered palatable information. It seems human beings were created to descend to lower heights from the very beginning.”

Motoko: “So how do you propose to enact your revenge?”

Kuze: “I will take the memories and ghosts of those who are connected to me away into the Net. If a nuclear bomb is dropped here, they will lose their physical bodies, but they will obtain a chance to force and evolution.”

Motoko: “What is the possibility that they can retain their individuality on the Net?”

Kuze: “That I don’t know. But as pioneers, they can become entities that enlighten those who remained in the lower structure and make them continually aware of the higher structure. In the same way man felt respect and terror toward spiritual entities in antiquity.”

Motoko: “So that’s your revenge and salvation for the ones who disappointed you.”

Kuze: “Yes, though I believe it to be a revolution.”

Filed under: culture, , , , , , ,