Design activity #6: revise, reflect, refine

Design activity #6: Revising, reflecting, refining
We’re in the bubble!
Recall the overall map of our project design process:
At this point, we have drafts of all three of the documents that together make up our design, and
we’ve performed the first five activities at least once. We know what we’re doing, and everything
from here on in is just getting it done, smoothing it out, making the details sing, right?
Nah, we’re just getting started! At this point, we have a set of artifacts, some of which (the
scenarios, the sketches) lay out various aspects of our evolving vision, and one that (the brief)
starts to explain that vision. Now we really have the wherewithal to present a case to ourselves
and our fellows, and to interrogate that case. “This is what I think I’m doing, and this is how I
think it works,” we can say, and then we can ask ourselves, what are the underlying judgments at
work here? Are they the right ones? Is there perhaps some hidden contradiction or conflict that
I’ve been ignoring but that shows itself out in inconsistencies between my different artifacts?
All of you little pinballs will have to bounce your own way around your activities and artifacts,
potentially reworking and reshaping them quite significantly, perhaps less so, but all the while
coming to a more active sense of the ways in which the what, why, and how of your design fits
together (or how it doesn’t). Be strong and take the smacks, because whenever you question the
very foundations of your being, your resulting design is stronger for it, even if it means you need
to throw out what seems like good work. It’s only been a few weeks, and you haven’t had to build
anything complicated, so who cares? This kind of freedom is seldom to be had in the Real World.
Although we will all be facing somewhat different challenges at this point, there is one notion
that I want all of us to put some reflection behind as we work to identify, articulate, explore, and
interrogate the judgments that underly our design choices: the idea of control. What do we feel
like we need to control, and why? What control do we owe to our audience? What changes if we
give up some aspects of control?
In many of your draft briefs, I noted a deep connection between your authorial goals for this
project and your personal views, which for some of you are quite strongly held. It seems like for
many of you a challenge of this project is to reach a potentially skeptical or indifferent audience
INF 385U, Digital Media Collections
Spring 2010
without unduly diluting your beliefs. This aligns with a particular view of authorship as the
creative individual seeking to express an inner truth. Is this the only idea of authorship we can
employ? The particularities of the form we are struggling with, the online resource collection,
seem to work against such complete, individual control, and potentially against traditional ideas
of authorship. We can select resources according to certain criteria, we can put the resources into
defined structures, we can describe them in particular ways, but we cannot dictate what the
resources say or how they say it. (They are videos, of varying quality, for better or worse.) Too,
we cannot control our audience’s path through the collection, and if we do not acknowledge and
respect both their likely information needs and their existing expectations for this genre of
artifact, we will lose all hope of control and persuasion as they abandon our carefully crafted
work for some other of the Web’s glittery mirages. And, of course, the position that we strive to
articulate may not be what we personally think. (This is something to keep in mind as we prepare
to do this all again, but in teams, and in the service of a client, a situation rather closer to Real
So, for next week, March 4, I want everyone to reflect on this idea of control and how it has
played into your design judgments. Be prepared to participate in a class discussion that explores
how traditional ideas of authorship and control have shaped your project direction and decisions.
How does our common idea of what an author is and does work for this project? If the fit of the
concept is inexact with this type of document, the online resource collection, then what do you
choose to adapt, and why: the idea of what an author is and does, the idea of what a digital library
is and does, the idea of what a digital library audience is and does? Or what else might need to
(Psst...the work you put into thinking about this might well inform the reflective essay portion of
your assignment. To remind yourself of assignment particulars, in terms of deliverables, goals,
and evaluative criteria, check the course Web site/syllabus...)
INF 385U, Digital Media Collections
Spring 2010