14.0592 cognitive effects of formatting

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 01/15/01

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 592.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
             Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 06:58:40 +0000
             From: peter storkerson <pstork@tiac.net>
             Subject: Re: 14.0590 cognitive effects of formatting
    This is a very large but, theoretically  at least, poorly charted region.
    Tuftes work is elegant, along with Bertins Semiologie Graphique.
    Unfortunately, while these are good on the level of functional readability
    and visual hierarchy, they are largely a-theoretical on the levels of
    meaning making.tufte's is very much a rule book of good practice.  Put
    simply, they presume meaning making and the communicative devices used that,
    at some point, need to be questioned.
    There are probably 3 types of sources: Cognitive psychology, communication
    design (my field), and semiotics. Much of the work in psychology deals with
    images mostly as illustrations. The very good work is generally on too
    anatomical a level to be directly used to understand meaning making so
    you'll have to make the connections, but it is invaluable. Communication
    design is lacking theory because it's at a difficult epistemological
    You might look in the field of  visual semiotics I think that the majority
    of work in that field is as much about the approach as results. With respect
    to documents, this material seems to function on a symbolic or critical
    level, i.e. the sign systems used and how they might function, not how they
    come to be recognized and chosen. This is not the same as the cognitive
    level, which is anatomical, i.e. what are the cognitive affordances offered
    by a given set of resources (text, diagram, image, movie, etc.) : 1 What a
    presentation is: i.e., what are the strategic characteristics  that affect
    its meaning.
    2 How does a presentation build a cognitive object .
    3. What are the cognitive affordances of different modes of communication.
    Here are some references:
    Lanigan, Richard: Phenomenology of Communication
    Scott, Richard: On Viewing Rhetoric as Epistemic. Central The Central States
    Speech Journal Vol. XVIII, #1
    Visible Language,  V. 26, # 3-4 (all articles)
    Kosslyn, Jeffrey. Image and Mind
    Proceedings of the 9th Euro mini conference on Human Centered Processes,
    (blowing my own horn) www.tiac.net/users/pstork/ Narrative and diagram,
    Context and Interpretation

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