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Understanding Context

Book Description

To make sense of the world, we’re always trying to place things in context, whether our environment is physical, cultural, or something else altogether. Now that we live among digital, always-networked products, apps, and places, context is more complicated than ever—starting with "where" and "who" we are.

This practical, insightful book provides a powerful toolset to help information architects, UX professionals, and web and app designers understand and solve the many challenges of contextual ambiguity in the products and services they create. You’ll discover not only how to design for a given context, but also how design participates in making context.

  • Learn how people perceive context when touching and navigating digital environments
  • See how labels, relationships, and rules work as building blocks for context
  • Find out how to make better sense of cross-channel, multi-device products or services
  • Discover how language creates infrastructure in organizations, software, and the Internet of Things
  • Learn models for figuring out the contextual angles of any user experience

Table of Contents

  1. Praise for Understanding Context
  2. Foreword
  3. Preface
    1. The Practical Bit
    2. Who Should Read This Book?
    3. So This Book Teaches Methods for Designing Context?
    4. Why Information Architecture?
    5. What Will You Learn from This Book?
    6. A Tour Through the Book’s Six Parts
    7. The Personal Bit
  4. Acknowledgments
  5. I. The Context Problem
    1. 1. Everything, Yet Something
      1. Birds in Trees, Words in Books
      2. Scenario: Andrew Goes to the Airport
      3. Breaking It Down
    2. 2. A Growing Challenge
      1. Early Disruptions
      2. The Role of the Web
      3. Case Study: Facebook Beacon
    3. 3. Environments, Elements, and Information
      1. A Wall and a Field
      2. A Conventional Definition of Context
      3. A New, Working Definition of Context
      4. Modes of Information
      5. Starting from the Bottom
  6. II. Physical Information
    1. 4. Perception, Cognition, and Affordance
      1. Information of a Different Sort
      2. A Mainstream View of Cognition
      3. Embodied Cognition: An Alternative View
      4. Action and the Perceptual System
      5. Information Pickup
      6. Affordance
        1. Affordance is a revolutionary idea
        2. Affordances are value-neutral
        3. Perception of affordance information comes first; our ideas about it come later
        4. Affordances exist in the environment whether they are perceived or not
        5. Affordances are there, whether they are perceived accurately or not
        6. Affording information is always in a context of other information
        7. Affordances are learned
      7. Directly Perceived versus Indirectly Meaningful
      8. Soft Assembly
      9. “Satisficing”
      10. Umwelts
    2. 5. Attention, Control, and Learning
      1. A Spectrum of Conscious Attention
      2. Environmental Control
      3. Memory, and Learning the Environment
        1. What is Memory?
        2. Types of Memory
        3. An Embodied Perspective on Memory
        4. Learning and Remembering versus Memory
        5. Learning and Remembering are Entangled with Environment
        6. Environment, and Explicit versus Implicit Memory
      4. What Does All This Mean for Design?
    3. 6. The Elements of the Environment
      1. Invariants
        1. Examples of Invariants
        2. Variants
        3. Compound Invariants
        4. Invariants Are Not Only About Affordance
        5. Digital Invariants
      2. The Principle of Nesting
        1. Nesting versus Hierarchy
        2. Digital Environments and Nesting
      3. Surface, Substance, Medium
        1. Digital Examples
      4. Objects
        1. Phenomenology and Objects
        2. Manipulating and Sorting
        3. Objects with Agency
        4. Digital Objects
      5. Layout
        1. Digital Layout
      6. Events
        1. Affordances and Laws for Events
        2. Events and Time
        3. Digital Events
      7. Place
        1. Digital Places
    4. 7. What Humans Make
      1. The Built Environment
      2. The Social Environment
      3. Meaning, Culture, and “Product”
  7. III. Semantic Information
    1. 8. How Language Works
      1. Looking at Language
      2. Signs: Icons, Indexes, and Symbols
        1. Icons
        2. Indexes
        3. Symbols
      3. The Superpowers of Symbols
      4. Signification Conflation
      5. Language Is Contextual
    2. 9. Language as Infrastructure
      1. Language and the Body
      2. Structure of Speech
      3. The Role of Metaphor
      4. Visual Information
      5. Semantic Function
      6. Tools for Understanding
      7. Semantic Architecture
    3. 10. The Written Word
      1. The Origins of Writing
      2. What Writing Does
      3. The Structure of Writing
      4. Rules and Systems
    4. 11. Making Things Make Sense
      1. Language and “Sensemaking”
      2. Physical and Semantic Intersections
        1. Digital Intersections
      3. Physical and Semantic Confusion
      4. Ducks, Rabbits, and Calendars
  8. IV. Digital Information
    1. 12. Digital Cognition and Agency
      1. Shannon’s Logic
      2. Digital Learning and Agency
      3. Everyday Digital Agents
      4. Ontologies
    2. 13. Digital Interaction
      1. Interfaces and Humans
      2. Semantic Function of Simulated Objects
      3. Modes and Meaning
    3. 14. Digital Environment
      1. Variant Modes and Digital Places
      2. Foraging for Information
      3. Inhabiting Two Worlds at Once
      4. Ambient Agents
  9. V. The Maps We Live In
    1. 15. Information as Architecture
      1. Contemplating “Cyberspace”
      2. Architecture + Information
      3. Expansive IA
      4. About Definitions
    2. 16. Mapping and Placemaking
      1. Maps and Territory
      2. What Makes Places
      3. Railroads, Chickens, and Captain Vancouver
        1. Atlanta
        2. Vancouver
      4. Organizational Maps
    3. 17. Virtual and Ambient Places
      1. Of Dungeons and Quakes
      2. The Porous Nature of Cyberplaces
      3. Augmented and Blended Places
      4. The Map That Makes Itself
      5. Metamaps and Compasses
    4. 18. The Social Map
      1. Conversation
      2. Social Architectures
      3. “Proxemics” as a Structural Model
      4. Identity
      5. Collisions and Fronts
      6. The Ontology of Self
      7. Networked Publics
  10. VI. Composing Context
    1. 19. Arrangement and Substance
      1. Composition in Other Disciplines
      2. Qualities of Composition
      3. Something to Walk On
    2. 20. The Materials of Semantic Function
      1. Elements
      2. Labels and Ontology
      3. Relationships and Taxonomy
      4. Rules and Choreography
      5. The Organization as Medium
    3. 21. Narratives and Situations
      1. People Make Sense Through Stories
      2. Intentions and Intersections
      3. The Tales Organizations Tell
      4. Situations over Goals
    4. 22. Models and Making
      1. A Fresh Look at Our Methods
      2. Observing Context
      3. Perspectives and Journeys
      4. Structures for Tacit Satisficing
      5. Blueprints, Floor Plans, Bubbles, and Blobs
  11. A. Coda
  12. B. About the Author
  13. C. Understanding Context
  14. Index
  15. About the Author
  16. Copyright