Notes on “A Taxonomy of Ambient Information Systems: Four Patterns of Design”

October 19, 2008

A Taxonomy of Ambient Information Systems: Four Patterns of Design: Zachary Pousman, John Stasko.

It is useful to discover meaningful dimensions on which ambient information systems vary. With multiple dimensions identified, a space is created which reveals clusters of similar applications and holes. The clusters can be named to create a common vocabulary for discussion. The holes focus our attention on opportunities for innovation.

In this paper, the authors describe a four-dimensional classification system for ambient information systems. They locate 19 existing applications within this space and identify four clusters which they call “patterns.”

The four dimensions:

  1. Information Capacity
  2. Notification Level
  3. Representational Fidelity
  4. Aesthetic Emphasis
The authors don’t make any sort of comparison between their taxonomy and previous taxonomies. This might be considered a fault in the paper but I think the intuitive appeal of the given taxonomy is sufficient argument for its use. The classification system seems to match the important features of ambient information displays. I’m not too worried about the construct validity or face validity of the system.
That said, the authors ought to present rubrics and show some evidence that novice users of these rubrics classify applications in the same way. I would hope for high inter-rater reliability but I think they would need to construct their rubric carefully to achieve it.
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