The analysis of the area of human knowledge and how the understanding of this cognitive aspect of a person contributes to the ability to design unique information architecture continues to draw much attention. By evaluating the existing literature and analyzing the findings, the essay aim of exploring the connection that exists between human cognition and information architecture design has been accomplished. In the process of the analysis, context-awareness was defined as a significant factor that influences human perception of user’s interfaces. Person’s ability and patience to learn new features and explore more detailed content derive from the prevailing physical and social contexts as well as pervasive digital elements. Thus, an individual during lunchtime might have higher cognitive load ability than when being in the workplace. The paper concludes that there is a growing need for context-aware adaptive systems, which will be realized only if the information architecture and behavioral psychology establish more objective cooperation structure.
Keywords: context-aware, cognitive, information architecture, connection design
Context-Aware Cognitive Information Architecture
People often say that the world is changing or that it world has changed. It is truly so since today world relationships with objects, places, organizations, and people are shaped by meaning and not mostly or only by physical proximity, which is more characteristic for the past. Digital presence and identity have changed human thinking, understanding of things, and behavior. As a matter of fact, a person’s digital identity is persistent even when he or she does not sitting in an office behind a computer screen; hence, reality has been reshaped. Such an active environment demands dynamic information architecture (IA) to serve humans and their new needs better. Previously, the cognitive aspects of information architecture primarily focused on the perception and expectations in content presentation. Conventional consideration of perception as a reality largely contributed to the oversimplification of IA design. As a result, impressions became the fundamental IA construction principle, which the designers used in their attempts to create positive lasting perceptions.
IA designers utilized this connection between knowledge and information architecture with the aim of enhancing the human experience. Although this approach initially seemed flawless, it failed to recognize that users’ needs, capabilities, and perceptions vary by situations; hence, the need for dynamic IA design came from the user’s context. Indeed, it is a huge challenge, particularly in the wake of a complex user’s conditions that include physical and social aspects as well as pervasive digital elements. The aim of this paper is to explore the connections that exist between information architecture and human knowledge and behaviors in ever changing user’s context. Presumably, establishing of these relationships may lead to the appearance of new design perspectives and, perhaps, develop better structured interdisciplinary cooperation between behavioral psychology and information architecture.
Information architecture can be defined as a process of organizing, simplifying, and designing of information (Ding & Lin, 2010). To present content in a simple and organized manner, a designer needs to integrate and aggregate information systems or spaces and, at the same time, create ways for people to find, understand, exchange, and manage data (Lee, Jung, & Nass, 2011). Consequently, users stay on top of information system, which increases their capacity to make right decisions. Morville and Rosenfeld assert that appropriate information architecture must be informed by context, content, and user (as cited in Weinreich & Groher, 2016). While agreeing with the oversimplification model, which the designers commonly use, they note that the human knowledge and IA concepts are intertwined within adaptive and complex information ecology (Weinreich & Groher, 2016). The researchers also emphasize the dynamic and organic nature of the information architecture designs as well as broader cognition and understanding of things in the environment, in which they exist (Weinreich & Groher, 2016). These statements and observations can only prove the crystal clear connection between cognition based context-aware adaptive systems and IA. Programmers and IA designers have to meet the challenge to create and develop paths with the potentials to bridge physical digital and cognitive spaces (Lee et al., 2011). Even if information architects accept the challenge, they also have to confront the question of how similar paths and spaces should be assured to be convenient for users with different perceptions and existing in indefinite contexts (Lee et al., 2011).
Although the notion of perception has been widely known to mean reality, a multitude of settings that change the way a human perceives things contradict this common belief. The visual perception, which is the mental associations that the users have about particular items, has been shown to be under the impact of their current contexts (Ding & Lin, 2010). Even though a person’s first gaze may carry the lasting impact as they comprehend what he/she sees to be the reality, the result of that first impression gets under the influence of the contexts, in which it happens (Strang & Linnhoff-Popien, 2005). Therefore, the complexity of the context seems to affect the processing of perception based on the evolutionary cognition experiences. The concepts of perception, memory, and experience related to human transference and user’s connections with expectations and reality can, therefore, be intertwined with the current user’s context (Strang & Linnhoff-Popien, 2005). This awareness is important since it forms the point of convergence between information architecture and context-aware adaptive system that computational experts seek to develop (Strang & Linnhoff-Popien, 2005). In addition, user’s perception and expectations relate to his/her cognitive load ability (Weinreich & Groher, 2016). Cognitive load, in turn, entails the amount of mental processing power that a person must use to access content and complete the desired tasks from a site (Weinreich & Groher, 2016). Information architects always ensure that they maintain the cognitive load at the bare minimum level even, sometimes, at the expense of content. The argument here is that the content becomes irrelevant or counterproductive if the majority of the targeted users are unable to meet cognitive load (Weinreich & Groher, 2016). By integrating visual perceptions with design principles in order to limit cognitive load, programmers can increase IA design usability. It is reasonable to suggest that the combination of the context and cognitive factors as well as IA relationship will enhance users’ experiences and capabilities.
According to Resmini and Rosati (2011), information is continually becoming pervasive. Just as humans have ubiquitous access to data, the systems face growing increase in access to individuals’ information (Resmini & Rosati, 2011). It becomes possible because of ease of access to permanently connected mobile devices equipped with GPS, accelerometers, gyroscopes, microphones, and light sensors among others that collect data and upload it into the systems (Ding & Lin, 2010). A network of such devices can gather significant amount of data not only about an individual but also an entire geographical region. Similarly, growing use of social networks allows users to have constant access to friends’ and other people information (Ding & Lin, 2010). All of these new information dynamics have the potential to influence the design and use of systems and services. The open access to possibly relevant information allows applying of more opportunistic actions but only when the data is visible (Resmini & Rosati, 2011). As indicated above, what a person considers to be relevant can change with situation. For example, an individual who is relaxing at home and doing nothing in particular can handle relatively larger cognitive load than the one who is in the office and faces the challenge of accomplishing multiple things before the end of the day. Therefore, the IA designers might give the systems a bigger part of access to personal data in certain cases and enable them to adjust the content presented to users on the base of their openness to new input (Resmini & Rosati, 2011). In spite of its great potential, IA situational awareness remains elusive to achieve primarily because at any given time every person has own different physical, social, digital, and cognitive contexts being affected and affecting individual interaction of IA systems and services (Resmini & Rosati, 2011).
IA designers are concerned with creating of software that can helps the users being a source of information and also staying cognizant of their environment and feelings. Although it is a very challenging endeavor, considering the fickle nature of human beings and their inner differences, context-aware adaptive systems can be considered frontiers with the future with more personalized and interactive IA designs. Previously, the emphasis was placed on the effectiveness and efficiency with little time being devoted to awareness and discovery. Realization that the context affects the psychology of cognition and perception calls for a more balanced approach to IA designs.
Balancing Awareness with Immediate Use
It is interesting that the majority of today people expect to be able to use new products even without consulting the manufactures manuals. Aware of this prevalent behavior, a significant number of IA designers ensures that their interface supports immediate use (Lee et al., 2011). It is typically achieved by employing of minimalistic design principle, due to which only the most relevant content and high functionality are included into the user interface (Lee et al., 2011). Such simplification as a way of limiting the cognitive load contradicts designers’ goals of providing all the necessary information and functionality (Ding & Lin, 2010). As a result, awareness of potential systems use is paramount, particularly in this era when people transition from the desktop computers to smaller mobile devices. In such conditions, it is impossible to rely on the experience in the utilization of the new IA system (Ding & Lin, 2010). The shift from the large screens to smaller mobile displays has placed further constraints to IA designers since they have to choose between information and complexity on one hand, and smaller user interface that limits the amount of content that can be displayed on the other hand (Resmini & Rosati, 2011).
Carroll and Rosson call this phenomenon the active user paradox where the users prioritize immediate use rather instead of spending time on learning and optimizing of the new systems (Fu & Gray, 2004). According to them, “computer skills tends to asymptote at relative mediocrity”; it is clear evidence of the tendency of IA systems users to follow long complicated systems and strategies even when new, swift, and efficient approaches have been developed (Fu & Gray, 2004, p. 921). In their attempt to explain the phenomenon, there are two reinforcing conflicts of motivational and cognitive characters, which represent the background of the active user paradox (Fu & Gray, 2004). These cognitive tendencies of individuals to apply what they already know in order to interpret new situations amplify the need to appreciate the connections that exist between human behavior and information architecture design (Fu & Gray, 2004). Minimalistic and simplifying approach can be used to mitigate and resolve such conflicts; it is commonly being done today (Fu & Gray, 2004). It is a paradox simply because one aspect of the IA design is greatly enhanced at the expense of the others.
Context Signals and Scope
Context awareness is defined as the ability of a designer to promote and mediate the interaction between users, devices, and other people that help in navigation of unfamiliar places (Strang & Linnhoff-Popien, 2005). Although the given definition is accurate, the modern one would include physical and digital spaces within the impression of unknown places. Since the human-IA connection strengthens, the need for more context-aware IA systems increases. The designers benefit from having an identifiable set of discretely defined variables under consideration only through creating and sustaining of this vital relationship (Strang & Linnhoff-Popien, 2005). This limitation makes computational learning approaches, classification techniques, and employing machines learning discussed above easier to implement. So far, the location has been the commonly used context variable (Strang & Linnhoff-Popien, 2005). Although it is possible to limit context scope by few factors based on location, it would require significantly rich understanding of the user’s context.
Dealing with Context
It is interesting and important to consider how IA may be viewed from the other side of context viewpoint that represents individual situations. As for a person who organizes data and creates paths for others to find knowledge, an information architect’s main challenge in developing of context-aware users’ interfaces lies in the fact that expected patterns of data are less coherent than ones in static systems (Weinreich & Groher, 2016). Useful models depend on the prevailing context, which makes the pervasiveness of the context both complex and interesting design challenge. However, the number of its aspects that may be applied in each system can be limited by only considering indicators of particular importance to every specific case. Besides, the determination of the most appropriate signal is inevitable in the actual practical implementation of context-aware cognitive human-IA connections. Given the above discussion, information architecture potential to implement context-aware adaptive systems lies in the designers’ ability to adopt a human-centered holistic perspective of context. In addition, the application of IA design to context-aware systems can also allow the programmers to focus more on the discovery (Weinreich & Groher, 2016). As a matter of fact, a lack of objective thinking in terms of human knowledge and ability to stay on top of information may be the main reasons for why more steps have not been made in relation to IA and human information behavior. Individuals interested in this area of study must focus on the specific problems for them to make progress, which measurable and quantifiable results characterize. What is more, appropriate application of information architecture will help in narrowing the design space in the daily data use and identifying of users’ characteristics by the system.
Evidentially, there exists a growing demand for information structures that dynamically adapt their content and behavior at runtime in response to changing user’s preferences, requirements, and contexts. The initial steps towards the development of such innovative experiences lie in the capability of the designers to understand the relationship between human thinking and information architecture completely. Although theoretical works consider context awareness and self-adaption separately, the practical application demands integration of the two concepts. In this paper, a convincing argument aimed at showing the relationship between human behavior and the ability to create IA designs that would be both user-friendly and informative was evaluated. Designing of the meaningful information architecture seems well-suited to address the issues of context and cognition.