Strategic Information Arrangement at Simmons in November


Burning Man Memorial Temple

The Temple of Joy at Night by Jim Hammer and Burning Man. More photos by Jim Hammer.

Strategic Information Arrangement: Theory and Techniques

Online CE Course at Simmons College in November, 2010

Instructor:  Katherine Bertolucci

Fee:  $250 (Simmons GSLIS Alumni price $200) for the four week online course.

(Click “Register,” top of the page on the left)

“Strategic Information Arrangement” takes an entertaining look at the building blocks of order, especially arrangement styles for organized information.  These are the skills you need to display information, whether in taxonomy, classification, or structured lists. Understanding these strategies helps you build ordered arrangements that persuade users. Lack of understanding can inadvertently send users in the opposite direction. Since all information has order, even if only random, each arrangement structure you build is an opportunity to persuade or to accidentally dissuade.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil believes “order is more profound than information” because it “fits a purpose.” This course helps you develop profound order with fifteen list structures, six hierarchic methods, and five persuasive strategies. Katherine’s client Snoopy is on hand to explain some of the concepts. Nevada’s Burning Man art festival and the Rolling Stones also make an appearance. You learn how each technique fits a unique purpose and how to persuasively exploit these techniques.

We also review the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme from World War I, each with similar information and goals, yet requiring different name arrangement strategies.  Memorials reviewed by members of the May class are featured in Katherine’s blog post, “Names on a Memorial:  Into the Earth (Memorials Discovered by the Strategic Arrangement Class).”

In the optional assignment, you design a hierarchic structure with provided material.  Assignments are critiqued by Katherine, the only organizationalexpert focusing on persuasive arrangement.  See her Arranging to Persuade series on persuasive technology tools in this blog and at Discover the Region.

Instructor: Katherine Bertolucci is an information management consultant and owner of Isis Information Services in Phoenix, AZ. She specializes in the development andarrangement of subject-based classifications, taxonomies, and other formats for persuasive information presentation. A pioneer in non-traditional classification, Katherine built her first taxonomy in 1978. Clients include poets and transnational corporations such as Procter & Gamble and Thomson Financial. Known for her work with Snoopy, Katherine’s programs are entertaining and informative. She is former Chair of SLA’s Library Management Division and Information Futurists Caucus. Katherine’s essays on information arrangement appear on IsisInBlog. Print publications include “The Future Still Awaits Us: Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity on Wall Street” (Searcher, July-August, 2009),”BeyondFindability: Organizing Information in the Age of the Miscellaneous” (Searcher, February, 2009), and “Happiness is Taxonomy: Four Structures for Snoopy” (Information Outlook, March, 2004). Contact her at

Photo Credit: “The Temple of Joy at Night,” © Jim Hammer and Burning Man. More photos by Jim Hammer at

Sep 2010

Arranging to Persuade: Tunneling or Guided Persuasion

Long Tunnel

Fogg’s Principle of Tunneling:  “Using computing technology to guide users through a process or experience provides opportunities to persuade along the way.”

            This month we take a journey to tunneling in our series on B. J. Fogg’s seven tools of persuasion from his book Persuasive Technology:  Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.  Fogg cites software installation as a tunnel.  That frequently involves staying near the computer and answering questions every so often.  You are a captive audience as the installation proceeds.  As such, you may experience promotions for other products or about the benefits of your new purchase.  You and the company share a journey of software installation, with the company selecting the sights along the route.

              In his narrative, but not in his Principle, Fogg defines a tunnel as a committed journey, like an amusement park ride.  Once you sit in that gondola (or begin software installation), you’re committed to the entire journey.  In information arrangement, tunneling encompasses a wider definition.  You are enticed along a journey that you may or may not complete.  At any point you may decide what you are looking for is not worth the effort, or you may complete the journey, ending it only when you find what you are looking for.

One example of persuasive tunneling is the arrangement of a grocery store.  Many people pop into the store just for a quart of milk.  Milk sometimes goes bad suddenly so you pick it up on a quick errand.  That’s why milk is always at the back of the store.  If it was at the front, you would buy that one item and head on home.  When it’s at the back, you travel through the store aisles, experiencing other products and perhaps buying something else.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM) provides a more complex tunnel.  Its 140 panels increase in height from 8 inches at the ends to over 10 feet in the center.  Names are inscribed in chronological order by date of casualty and alphabetical order within each day.  So it would seem that visitors take a journey from the beginning of the war to the end.

That is the case, but the journey actually begins in the center.  Maya Lin wanted the VVM to symbolize a circle so the names begin and end at the tall center panels, indicated by the only two dates on the Memorial, 1959 and 1975.  No other dates appear.  Walking along the panels, the only indication of a new day is the beginning of a new set of names in alphabetical order.  Even though this is the journey of the Vietnam War, it does not feel like a persuasive tunnel, since we only see a massive display of names.

Many visitors believe the chronology begins at the short left panel.  That’s logical since we read from left to right, not from the center to the right to the left and back again to the center.  When we experience the VVM from left to right, the shape of the memorial helps us feel the shape of war.  A few deaths at the beginning, building to a crescendo at the center and winding down to just a few names at the end.  In this case, because we know the names are in chronological order, the shape of the VVM creates a journey along the panels, persuading us to experience feelings about the progression of war.

Illustration used with permission from Microsoft.