Re: What is Information Mapping

Subject: Re: What is Information Mapping
From: John G Bryan <bryanjg -at- UCUNIX -dot- SAN -dot- UC -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 1993 21:32:30 -0500

Re: Information Mapping

A theorist/consultant named Robert Horn originated so-called
information mapping. He has published some interesting articles
on the subject that not only discuss but also illustrate the
concepts. Despite much of the jargon that swirls around the
subject, we are all already doing some amount of information
mapping when we chunk text, use multi-level headings, use
hanging indents, use paragraph breaks, use bullets and dingbats,
and in other ways signal a text's heirarchy of meaning. Horn
formalizes the practice and makes various rules about the size
of chunks and the extent of sections/modules. What he also does
that drives some readers nuts (including me) is overwhelm the
image of the page with non-textual graphic elements: grids,
heavy rules, numbers and bullets and hyphens. Edward Tufte
complains bitterly in his wonderful books about chartjunk, grids,
and "ducks"--all graphic elements in charts and graphs that add
nothing to the data or the reader's understanding of it. Tufte
would hate information mapping because of its high ratio of ink
to data. I agree but also have another complaint about the
oppressive graphic presentation of information mapping. It makes
text elements that usually signal importance through their variation
from the norm into the norm itself. When we see an indented bulletted
list in the middle of a page of gray text, our eyes are immediately
drawn to the list because it is a variation from the norm. In what
I have seen
f information mapping, everything on the page consists of such
elements. Thus, the norm is no longer a block of gray; instead the
norm is a series of lists and isolated chunks. The result is that
nothing stands out.

It's an interesting idea with an ugly result.

John Bryan
University of Cincinnati

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