Annual Meeting Contributed Papers 2009 START Conference Manager    

Information System Design for Communication: The Use of Genre as a Design Element

Melanie Feinberg

(Submission #32)


An information system is not merely a container for documents; through the ways that resources are selected, organized, and made available to users, information systems themselves work as expressive media, enabling the communication of a specific point of view on the collected materials. By analyzing information systems themselves as documents, we can better understand how information systems communicate these perspectives more and less persuasively, and we can use this understanding to facilitate the design of information systems for communicative purposes. This study examines one communicative mechanism available to information systems: the selective adaptation of genre conventions. Using theories of genre developed in rhetoric, composition, and applied linguistics, I show how two systems for organizing information, the Prelinger Library and the Warburg Institute classification, exhibit deviations from typical genre conventions for libraries, and I show how these deviations work as rhetorical tools to facilitate effective communication. Such conceptual understanding of how information systems function expressively can then be translated into the design context, to facilitate the construction of information systems that systematically and purposefully communicate original, creative points of view regarding their assembled collections, and so enable learning, discovery, and critical engagement for their users.

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