Pearl Harbor: Equality in Service

Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, USN (1884-1941)

Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  On that day, 19 American ships were damaged or sunk; 171 airplanes destroyed; 1,178 people injured; 2,389 killed; and 14 Medals of Honor awarded.  Pearl Harbor memorials to those who died tend to list the names in alphabetical order.  This is especially significant because one of the names is Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, Commander of Battleship Division One.  The highest ranking casualty of the attack, he was the first U.S. Navy flag officer killed in action against a foreign enemy.  The USS Arizona was his flagship.

In the early 20th Century, the Pearl Harbor memorial would have been a larger than life statue of Rear Admiral Kidd, probably not on a horse because he was a Navy man.  We started seeing lists of names during World War I, with its massive losses and better record keeping.  In that war, Rear Admiral Kidd would have been at the top of a hierarchical list of names.  But in 1962, when her memorial was dedicated, the names from the USS Arizona were carved in alphabetical order, signifying equality of service.  Rear Admiral Kidd is almost exactly in the middle, surrounded by his men.


Anchor of the USS Arizona on display at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix, AZ.

In Hawaii, Pearl Harbor or World War II memorials with names include the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS Utah, the Valor in the Pacific Remembrance Circle, and the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  In Phoenix, the Arizona’s anchor sits atop a base displaying the names of her dead.  The only exception to alphabetical order is the list of Arizona survivors who choose to be buried in the submerged ship.  These names are located near their shipmates on the Hawaii memorial, but for practical reasons, they are chronological.

Rear Admiral Kidd among His Men at the USS Arizona Anchor Memorial in Phoenix









The Arizona accounts for almost half the deaths from the attack.  She remains in the harbor, her superstructure removed and her hull visible under water.  Most of the bodies were not recovered and are considered buried at sea.  The USS Arizona Memorial, designed by architect Alfred Preis, straddles the mid-section of the ship without touching it.  An open air building, reminiscent of a covered bridge, it is high on both ends and shorter in the middle, to symbolize December 7 as a low point from which America recovered.

USS Arizona Memorial


At the far end of the memorial is a wall with the 1,177 alphabetized names of those who died on the ship.  Listings include initials, last name, and rank.  Most are Navy, with 73 Marines in a separate section.  Rear Admiral Kidd and the ship’s captain, Franklin Van Valkenburgh, have an extra line indicating their position in the ship’s command.

Both earned Medals of Honor, as did Lieutenant Commander Samuel G. Fuqua, who became the ship’s highest ranking officer during the attack.  When personnel abandoned ship, he made sure everyone who could evacuate did so and he was the last person off.  Many survivors credited him with saving their lives.  About 90% of those on board at the time of the attack died.  Today, when ships pass the memorial in the harbor, sailors honor the Arizona by manning the rails, standing evenly spaced along their ship’s railing.

USS Oklahoma Memorial

Don Beck’s 2007 memorial for the USS Oklahoma overlooks the harbor.  Here the 429 alphabetized names are engraved on separate pillars, with the group of pillars fronted on two sides by short marble walls containing engraved quotes about Pearl Harbor.  The visual effect is that of a ship with its sailors manning the rails to honor those who died.  Two men from the Oklahoma earned Medals of Honor.  Ensign Francis C. Flaherty and Seaman First Class James R. Ward both held lights in different turrets so the crew could escape.  They did not survive when the ship rolled over.  The Oklahoma was eventually salvaged but sunk while being towed to San Francisco for scrap metal.

USS Utah Memorial (with her exposed hull on the left)



The USS Utah is its own memorial, remaining in the harbor rolled over with its hull exposed.   There are several plaques on a pier overlooking the wreck.  One contains the names of the 58 who died including Medal of Honor winner Peter Tomich, the Utah’s Chief Watertender and a Croatian immigrant.  His citation reads, “Although realizing that the ship was capsizing, as a result of enemy bombing and torpedoing, Tomich remained at his post in the engineering plant of the U.S.S. Utah, until he saw that all boilers were secured and all fireroom personnel had left their stations, and by so doing lost his own life.”

USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center - Remembrance Circle

Also overlooking the harbor is the Remembrance Circle at the Visitor’s Center of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, containing the names of all who died at Pearl Harbor, except those from the Arizona.  Here the names are essentially organized by location, although military personnel are initially divided into their respective branches.  Within each grouping the names are alphabetical.  Based on this photo of an summary plaque, the branches are organized by Department of Defense order of precedence: Army, Marines, Navy.  Today the Air Force would be in fourth place, but at the time it was part of the Army.  Because of the overwhelming majority of Navy deaths, order of precedence continues to evoke equality.  Note also that civilians are first.  At the 1925 memorial to the Revolutionary War Minute Men in Medford, MA, a civilian who died is placed last. 

Located in the Punchbowl area of Oahu, the Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific consists of a wide staircase leading to a Liberty statue with Courts of the Missing on either side of the stairs.  The Courts contain names of those missing or buried at sea from American wars in the Pacific – World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  The World War II missing from the southwest Pacific are memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in the Philippines, where the names are alphabetized within each military branch.

Punchbowl (Honolulu Memorial at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific)

The architects of the Honolulu Memorial, Weihe, Frick & Kruse, may have been influenced by Edwin Lutyens’ World War I Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in Thiepval, France.  That memorial is an open air building with a wide staircase leading to a memorial stone.  On either side of the stairs are areas which could be termed “courts of the missing,” formed by interwoven structural arches.  (I have written extensively about the Somme memorial in IsisInBlog.) 

The names in France are in a full hierarchy, beginning with British Army Order of Precedence and continuing in a listing by rank.  World War I British recruitment strategy built military units from individual towns.  So this arrangement keeps neighbors together, but it does not express equality.  At the Honolulu Memorial, names are organized first by war, then by military branch, then alphabetized.   

Those who died on the USS Arizona, and whose bodies were not recovered, are declared buried at sea and therefore missing, so Rear Admiral Kidd is on the Honolulu Memorial.  As the highest ranking officer to die at Pearl Harbor, his name is among the K’s with other Navy personnel missing from World War II.  Here he is surrounded not only by his men on the Arizona, but also by almost 12,000 Navy personnel whose bodies, like his, were not found.

Photo Credits

Heiter. (n.d.). Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, USN (1884-1941) Naval Historical Center. Photo NH 48579-KN.

Victor-nv. (April 13, 2010). Anchor of the USS Arizona on display at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix, AZ. Wikipedia.

Katherine Bertolucci. (November 29, 2011). Rear Admiral Kidd among His Men at the USS Arizona Anchor Memorial in Phoenix.

Jayme Pastoric. (May 23, 2002). USS Arizona Memorial. U.S. Navy photo 020523-N-9769P-057.

Wally Gobetz. (May 26, 2010). USS Oklahoma Memorial.

Rosa Say. (August 20, 2008). The USS Utah Memorial.

Wally Gobetz. (May 26, 2010). USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center – Remembrance Circle.

Jiang. (December 22, 2005). Punchbowl. Wikipedia.

Dec 2011

11.11.11: The Anthem Veterans Memorial

At 11:00 am on November 8, 1918, Marshal Foch, the supreme Allied commander, gave German negotiators a 72 hour deadline.  They were to agree to his terms or the war would continue unabated.  To pressure his enemy further, Foch did not allow a ceasefire, even when the agreement was signed 5 hours before the deadline.  Fighting continued full-on until 11:00 on November 11.  Then, for the first time in four years, the bells of Big Ben rang over the streets of London.

Waffenstillstand:  “Colorized photograph, which depicts from left to right: German Admiral Ernst Vanselow, German Count Alfred von Oberndorff (1870 – 1963) of the Foreign Ministry, German army general Detlof von Winterfeldt, British Royal Navy Captain J.P.R. Marriott, Matthias Erzberger head of the German delegation Center party member of the Reichstag (1875 – 1921) who was later murdered by Freikorps rightists for his role in the Amristice (sic), British Admiral George Hope, British First Sea Lord Sir Rosslyn Wemyss (1864 – 1933), French field marshall (sic) Ferdinand Foch (1851 – 1929), and French general Maxime Weygand (1867 – 1965).”

The next year, President Wilson declared November 11 to be Armistice Day, honoring those who served in the Great War.  President Eisenhower changed the name to Veterans Day, now including those who fought in World War II and in subsequent wars, still keeping the historic symbolism of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

In 2011, 97 years after the Armistice of World War I, we have the once in a century experience of adding the eleventh year.  The new Anthem Veterans Memorial in Arizona, a beautiful expression of astronomical time, will be dedicated today on 11.11.11.

Designed by Renee Palmer-Jones, it consists of five pillars in graduated heights, representing the five branches of the U.S. military.  At the top of each pillar is a large elliptical shaped hole, gathering sunlight downward through the five ellipses toward a mosaic of the Great Seal of the United States at the foot of the pillars.  Each year on November 11 at precisely 11:11 am, the shadows of the pillars will align into one column and the elliptical sunlight will form a perfect circle shining onto the Great Seal.

Installing the Great Seal at the Anthem Veterans Memorial, November 9, 2011

The design focus of this memorial is the astronomy of November 11, not an arrangement of names.  Yet arrangement principles inform our experience in Anthem.  The pillars are organized by Department of Defense order of precedence.  There are only five units, so this ordering is simpler than the British Army order of precedence used at Edwin Lutyens’ World War I Memorial to the Missing of the Somme in Thiepval, France.

Chronology forms the basic arrangement, giving precedence to the oldest units.  However, even with only five, there are two exceptions.  Three of the units were founded in 1775:  the Army (June 14), the Navy (October 13) and the Marines (November 10).  The Navy disbanded in 1781, only to be reinstated later the same year.  So it appears third, after the Marines.  The Coast Guard was founded in 1790, but it is now in fifth position as a part of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense.  If the Coast Guard returns to the Department of Defense during a war, it would stand between the Navy and the Air Force (1947).

The arrangement and graduated heights of Anthem’s five pillars display an order of precedence, but the equality of the services is also expressed in the placement of their seals at equal heights on the pillars’ narrow sides.  This equality carries through in the benches at the front of the memorial.  Although they are five in number, they are not individually designated with the name of a military unit.

The Anthem Memorial Planning Committee used the fund-raising technique of engraved brick pavers that can be purchased to honor military personnel or to show community support.  Pavers with military names form a Circle of Honor on the ground around the Great Seal and the pillars.  They are primarily organized chronologically by donation date.  Prior to placement, families can request to be grouped together, similar to the “meaningful adjacencies” of the World Trade Center memorial in New York.  Two rows of blank bricks surround the Circle of Honor in soldier row formation, the typical placement of headstones in military cemeteries.

Pavers representing the non-military support of individuals, businesses and organizations, are arranged by size of donation in front of the benches, with the largest donations at the center bench.  The next two funding tiers are at the left and right of the center bench, with the two end benches reserved for the fourth tier.  The pavers within each tier are in no particular order, although they aren’t quite random.  Liz Turner of the Memorial Planning Committee told me they tried to lay these bricks in a manner that was “aesthetically pleasing.”

In its use of astronomical time, the Anthem Veterans Memorial fully honors the historic tradition of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  Its primary symbol is the gathering of sunlight onto the Great Seal of the United States at 11:11 on November 11.  Yet peripheral arrangement decisions add power to this memorial.  Those pillars could be in alphabetical order, but this is a memorial to history.  Order of precedence reflects that.

I will be at the dedication ceremony today in the Anthem Community Park.  The ellipses of the Anthem Veterans Memorial will form a circle of light once a year, but we can only experience the eleventh year once in a hundred years.


Thanks to Steve Seivert, Project Manager for Haydon Building Corp, and to Liz Turner of Anthem’s Memorial Planning Committee for generously sharing their time with me in the last few days before the memorial’s dedication.  In addition to Renee Palmer-Jones, the memorial’s designer, members of the Memorial Planning Committee include Ronald Tucker, who conceived the idea of a veterans’ memorial in Anthem; Steve Rusch, a draftsman who helped build the model; and Jim Martin, an engineer who figured out the astronomy angles.

Illustration Credits:

Waffenstillstand.  Caption and public domain graphic from Wikimedia Commons.

Installing the Great Seal at the Anthem Veterans Memorial, November 9, 2011.  Photo by the author.


Nov 2011

The Anniversary: 9.11.2011

The National September 11 Memorial opened today on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, expressing our grief and our memories of that horrible day.  As in all memorials with names, the arrangement forms our perception of those who died.

Gathering similar concepts together is the goal of information arrangement, the one exception being random, a strategy that specifically lacks meaning.  So I was appalled when random was chosen in 2004 as the organizing structure for the World Trade Center memorial.  In what became the beginning of research into memorial name arrangement, I wrote to the commission suggesting location as a better organizing strategy and posted blogs complaining about random.

I was not alone.  The families of those who died understood that random placed their friends and loved ones into a miscellaneous scattering of nearly 3,000 names.  Unlike the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where chronology allows a soldier to see the names of his fallen friends in one place among the panels, random would make every visit a search exercise.  Families protested loudly but the commission refused to budge.  The impasse went on for years, ending only when these wealthy families threatened to withdraw their monetary contributions.  Then, after hanging on to random for so long, the designers developed an arrangement strategy that grouped the names.  And once they made that switch, they did an excellent job.

The new arrangement is called “meaningful adjacencies.”  Of course, every arrangement structure, except random, can be termed a meaningful adjacency.  The World Trade Center method is unique among memorials in that it allowed families to select placement.  Names can be located within a group, often an employer, and they can be next to other specified names.

The strategy begins with location.  Names are listed in the footprints of the two towers and placed within their associated tower.  First responders and names from Pennsylvania and the Pentagon are on the south.  Names from the 1993 bombing are on the north.  Those on the planes are listed separately from building occupants.

Within these categories are complex meaningful adjacencies, illustrated by father and son firefighters Joseph Angelini, Sr. and Joseph John Angelini, Jr.  Their names are together on the memorial and, at the same time, grouped within their separate firefighting units.  This is accomplished by placing the two units on consecutive horizontal lines, allowing a vertical adjacency for the father and son.  Surviving firefighters can remember them with their units.  Their families can see the two names together.

Random said these people were miscellaneous.  Visitors would have seen thouands of names, reflecting a massive loss of life but lacking personal context.  With meaningful adjacencies, we see them among their friends.  We see a father and son together.  We know they are loved.  They are loved by families who fought for them so we could share a small piece of their time on earth.

Sep 2011

Heroes of a Revolution: Memorials Discovered by the Simmons’ May, 2011 Strategic Information Arrangement Class


(During the CE Course on Strategic Information Arrangement that I teach at Simmons College, participants have the opportunity to write about a memorial in their local area for possible inclusion in my Memorial or Veterans Day blog post.  Today we have a Revolutionary War theme, perhaps appropriate for a college located in Boston.)

The night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere saw two lights in the Old North Church and began his famous ride, alerting colonists in the Boston area that British troops were crossing the Charles River.  Near midnight, he reached the town of Medford, where Dr. Martin Herrick joined the ride, heading toward Stoneham.  Revere continued on to Lexington.  The militia assembled at dawn on the Green and the first shots were fired.  The British then retreated back toward Boston, reaching Menotomy (now Arlington) around 4pm.  It was there the war really began.  This brutal battle caused the most casualties of April 19 on both sides, including civilians.  Two men from Medford, William Polly and Henry Putnam, were mortally injured.

Christina Anderson of ABT Associates, found a memorial to the Minute Men of Medford, located near the public library.  It was erected for the 150th anniversary of the American Revolution. The 60 names are in alphabetical order, with the exception of Henry Putnam, who appears at the bottom described as “Aged 62 Killed in Action.”  Why was Henry Putnam given this honor and not William Polly?

The Medford Historical Society has limited hours, but volunteers Jerry Hershkowitz and Mike Bradford were there when I needed them.  So I called and asked about William Polly.  The key to the mystery is the inscription at the top of the memorial which reads “Roster of the First Company of Minute Men Who Assembled in Medford at the Call of Paul Revere and Engaged in the Battle of April 19, 1775.”  According to Hershkowitz, Putnam was exempted from the militia because he was too old, but he went to the battle anyway and got killed.  On the memorial, there is no way of knowing that William Polly also died.  I learned about it accidentally in my research.

If we think about this in terms of information arrangement, we have three facets:  those on the roster (59), those not on the roster (1), and an intersection of those who died (2).  Perhaps Putnam received extra information to explain his inclusion with the roster, but it creates confusion because someone else died and there is no acknowledgement.

Dating from 1925, the Medford plaque is fairly early among memorials in listing names.  That began in earnest with the First World War.  In 1936, Medford’s Lawrence Light Guard erected a plaque in the lobby of their armory with the names of Guards who served in WWI.  Hershkowitz took a short walk to the armory, now in commercial use.  He noted some names have stars, which he believes indicates those who died, a simple solution fully honoring their sacrifice.


If Menotomy was the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Saratoga was the turning point in September and October, 1777.  A major victory for the Americans, its hero was Benedict Arnold.  Serving under Horatio Gates, he commanded the troops on September 19.  The British won this first day, but suffered major casualties.  After the battle, Arnold quarreled with Gates and was relieved of his command.  Then in the second battle on October 7, Arnold disobeyed orders and entered the battlefield, taking command and leading the troops to a decisive victory.  This win caused the French to enter the war in support of the Americans, an important factor contributing to the success of the Revolution.

Arnold was injured in the battle and unable to return to combat, which may have influenced his treason in 1780.  He also felt a lack of acknowledgment for his military achievements and thought the Continental Congress was trying to cheat him financially.  Then he married a Loyalist woman prior to the treason.  Towards the end of the war, he fought again, this time for the British.

Julie Vittengl of GlobalSpec found the Boot Monument at Saratoga National Historical Park in New York.  Erected by Civil War General and historian John Watts de Peyster, it honors Benedict Arnold as “the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army,” yet only shows his injured leg and does not name him.  Saratoga’s victory obelisk has four places for the four generals involved.  Arnold’s space is empty.  Likewise at West Point, the site of his treason, Arnold’s place as a Revolutionary War General is empty showing only his rank and his birthday.

In the book, Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy, 2003, geographer Kenneth E. Foote identifies four responses to high profile painful events:  sanctification, designation, rectification, and obliteration.  Sanctification creates a sacred space, such as the Saratoga National Historical Park.  Designation tends to be an onsite plaque or small memorial acknowledging the event.  While the Medford war memorials are not sited where the actual events happened, they would be examples of designation.  Rectification returns the site to productive use.  The World Trade Center is undergoing rectification, with office space in new buildings available for lease.  At the same time, the sites’s National September 11 Memorial and Museum is sanctification.  Obliteration removes the location from our memory.  Buildings at crime scenes are sometimes torn down and the vacant lot neglected.

Our national feeling about Benedict Arnold wavers between designation and obliteration.  He served his country in many battles, not just Saratoga.  He commanded that decisive battle, setting the stage for our eventual victory.  Then he turned against us.  We cannot remove him from history, but we can remove his name from our places of honor.  After all, thanks to men like William Polly and Henry Putnam, we won the war and we built our new nation.

(A note on resources not mentioned in the article.  I discovered William Polly in The Minute Men: The First Fight by John Galvin, 1996, and in Paul Rever’s Ride by David Hackett Fischer, 1994.  An article by Thomas Fleming, 2010, “Battle of Menotomy: First Blood, 1775,” clearly described that event.  Jerry Hershkowitz’ primary resource, other than the town itself, was Medford in the Revolution, by Helen Tilden Wild, 1903.  I relied on Wikipedia for information about Benedict Arnold, specifically the pages for Arnold, the Battles of Saratoga, the Boot Monument, and Saratoga National Historical Park.  Saratoga and Lexington & Concord are both described in the Encyclopedia of Battles in North America:  1517-1916 by L. Edward & Sarah J. Purcell, 2000.  Photo Credits:  Medford Minute Man Memorial by Christina Anderson, 2011; Arnold-Boot by Americasroof at Wikimedia Commons, 2006.)


May 2011

Memorials for Veterans Day, Discovered by the Simmons Strategic Information Arrangement Class, November 2010

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A lively Strategic Information Arrangement class continues this month in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science CE program at Simmons College.  The four week class looks at arrangement strategies and persuasive uses of arrangement, including a one week section about names on memorials.  For the May 2010 class, I wrote a Memorial Day blog describing memorials found by class members.  In a new tradition, today’s post honors Veterans Day with memorials found by the current class.


Harvard University provides an elegant memorial to its “associates” who died fighting for the Union in the Civil War.  We learned of this memorial from Jennifer Beauregard, the university’s Assistant Director for Alumni Affairs and Development Library Services.  Located in the Transept of Memorial Hall, the 136 names on 28 wall plaques are listed by school and by class, in alphabetical order within each class.  There is one plaque out of order, but we do not know the reason for that.

The memorial’s donor specified the exclusion of names of Harvard Confederates.  In 2006, artist Brian Tolle built his “Deep Wounds” installation on the floor of the Transept, calling attention to these Harvard soldiers who also died.  As people walked across his lit floor, their footsteps created a “blister” of light behind them, revealing information about a Harvard Confederate, everything but his name.  They were organized so Union and Confederate soldiers from the same class were near each other.

This got me wondering if there are Civil War memorials honoring both sides.  Certainly other colleges and towns, especially in border states, would have Union and Confederate losses.  I didn’t find anything in brief research.  However, I did find a Wikipedia article about the Gettysburg “Great Reunion of 1913,”, which included all participants.


Elizabeth Ryan, Director of Social Media at the start-up company, Textifer, found a war memorial on her Town Green in Longmeadow, MA.  She says names are arranged by war and then in alphabetical order.  Most of the names are from World War II.  Photos on the town website, and a personal communication from a town employee, indicate a separate memorial for World War I.

Many towns in the United States and Britain have war memorials.  There is even a British memorial honoring those who died from a single city block.  I remember visiting the World War II memorial in San Francisco to look at the names of my mother’s friends.  Before moving to Phoenix, I lived in Healdsburg in California’s wine country.  Just like Longmeadow, they have a small memorial in the town square for those lost in wars.


Jeanne Goss of the Research Department at the industrial supply company Grainger told us about the Shuttle Challenger Memorial (pictured) at Arlington National Cemetery.  This is a small memorial, a headstone really, marking the unidentified remains of the Challenger’s crew.  Identified remains were returned to their families.  This has a persuasive element in that the names are arranged in a circle, a geometric shape emphasizing equality.  Yet the names are actually in a complex ordering.

According to a personal (and very fast) communication from NASA, there is only one crew leader, the Commander, and everyone else is equal.  However, it is my observation that the Challenger crew names are frequently listed in the same order:  Commander, Pilot, Mission Specialists in alphabetical order, and civilians in alphabetical order.  This is how they are listed in the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, founded by families of the crew, and how they are listed in official NASA biographies.

However, that is not how they are arranged in the official photograph.  The Commander is in the center first row, with the Pilot at his right hand.  The first Mission Specialist sits at his left, with the remaining four in the second row but not in the above order.

The arrangement in the photograph is partially repeated on the memorial.  Commander Dick Scobee is at the top with Challenger pointing at him like an arrow.  At his right (our left) is the Pilot, Michael Smith.  As in the photo, Mission Specialist Ron McNair is at Scobee’s left.  Then below Smith, the remaining four crew members are listed counterclockwise as described above:  Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist Judy Resnik, civilian engineer Gregory Jarvis, and civilian teacher Christa McAuliffe.  The artist used several elements to select placement for each name, yet the circle creates a primary impression of equality, which is how NASA organizes its crews.

Correction:  I originally wrote this on Veterans Day weekend, which impeded researching primary sources.  However, on Veterans Day, after I posted, I received a response from Cheri Winkler of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.  She had asked Dick Scobee’s widow, June Scobee Rodgers, about the name arrangement.  Here is Dr. Scobee’s response:

“Fascinating question.  Commander Scobee, then pilot Mike Smith is right.  The three mission specialists are alphabetized, then the payload specialist Jarvis, the private citizen Christa.  If it were based on position of job on crew, Judy Resnik would come first of the 3 mission specialists.”


A strategy emphasizing different characteristics is taken by Boston’s Vendome Firefighters Memorial, found by Andrea Goodman, Senior Information Specialist at the economics consulting firm Cornerstone Research.  This semi-circular wall honors nine Boston firefighters who lost their lives fighting a 1972 fire in the Vendome Hotel.  It is the largest number of Boston firefighters to have died in a single incident.  The hotel can be seen above the memorial’s arc.  At that point rests a realistic sculpture of a helmet and jacket, “lying as if left there by a firefighter on the day of the fire.”

On the memorial, the nine names are listed in alphabetical order, expressing equality.  However, on the memorial’s website, the names seem to be listed in hierarchy of rank, with the two lieutenants first.  Then in the PDF program for the dedication, they are in a chronology of service, by date of entry into the Boston Fire Department.  There is honor in length of service, and there is honor in having a higher rank, just as it often appropriate to show equality.  The developers of this memorial gave us all three.


Lists of names are a relatively new development in memorials due to our increasing respect for enlisted personnel and our better record keeping.  For many centuries, memorials were statues of great military leaders.  That is the strategy of the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, NC, discovered by Mary Lane, a Library Manger in that city.  The site of a Revolutionary War battle, its centerpiece is a massive statue of General Nathaniel Greene on his horse.  Persuasive use of size and location convey the impression that this is an important man and an important place.

There are many other memorial structures in the park.  The idea was to locate these on the sites of actual battle events.  Organizing information by location, whether on the land itself or on a website, is a geographic arrangement, but there’s a hitch here.  Like the Alamo, where they destroyed an historic building to make the area more beautiful, the Guilford Courthouse is a park not an accurate historic site.  For one thing, early promoters were not able to acquire all the land, so they redesigned the battle to fit the land they did have.  Current park policy is to relocate these errant memorials to their accurate locations, but some are too big for that.


The Irish Hunger Memorial in New York City, discovered by Meghan Sullivan, a Knowledge Management Information Architect with the Kaplan education company, honors the millions who died in the Great Irish Famine of the 1840’s or who emigrated from Ireland, many to the United States.  A low cantilevered roof on a half acre, it is landscaped to look like the Irish countryside, complete with an actual hut from that era.  You enter or depart the hut though a hallway with streaming illuminated quotations about hunger, both during the Famine and in our modern times.  Meghan’s observations, along with a New Yorker review, indicate these quotes appear at random.

The rooftop garden contains large stones engraved with names of Irish counties.  There seems to be an arrangement here, but we have not determined what it is.  A PDF brochure lists counties in alphabetical order and shows their locations with a numbering system.  However the numbers do not relate to the alphabet nor are they contiguous on the map.  They also don’t relate to the counties’ locations in Ireland.  I found a map showing population changes during the Famine, and that doesn’t seem to be it.

Perhaps the arrangement is explained somewhere at the memorial, but the map would be a good place for this description.  While there is a grand tradition of written reviews, we usually don’t explain art at the site of the art itself.  We expect the viewer to create their own impression from the cues given by the artist.  One’s interpretation of the piece may be quite different from what the artist intended and that’s acceptable and encouraged.

But arrangement is different from other artistic elements.  If not articulated, a structured arrangement exists only in the artist’s mind.  As part of artistic display, organizational choices contribute to our understanding.  But if there are no cues, we have a guessing game, especially when choices are complex.  (See my article about the Wittenbergplatz Holocaust Memorial for another example of an unexplained arrangement.)

At the Irish Hunger Memorial, someone made a decision about placing stones and about assigning numbers unrelated to that placement.  The reasons are not explained.  Our understanding of the memorial, and our thoughts about hunger, would be enhanced if this artistic element was made visible.

For this article, I also made arrangement decisions.  Following the example of the Shuttle Challenger Memorial, I created two categories – memorials with and without names.  Since the unit is primarily about how names are arranged on memorials, I placed that category first.  Within each category, the memorials are in alphabetical order.

It took me a paragraph to explain my strategy, one reason perhaps why artistic arrangements are not often explained.  But that could easily be shortened, especially if we assume certain organizing structures, such as the alphabet, are obvious.

Arrangement:  Memorials with names, Memorials without names

Thank you to those who served our country in war, in fighting fires, and in exploring new territory.  Thank you to the immigrants who gave so many of us a place in this great country.  Thank you to those serving us today who, with great sadness, will one day be memorialized.

Photo Credit:  Shuttle Challenger Memorial by M. R. Patterson

Nov 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.

Arranging to Persuade: Reduction or Persuading through Simplifying


Last month I introduced B J Fogg’s seven tools of persuasion as outlined in his book, Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.  I showed how information arrangement exploits these tools with specific reference to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM).  The VVM arranges its names in chronological order by date of casualty, grouping together soldiers who served at the same time.  In so doing, the memorial demonstrates six of the Fogg’s seven persuasive tools.  This month, let’s take a deeper look at the first tool, Reduction or Persuading through Simplifying.

Reduction strategy is all about cost/benefit analysis.  How much effort (cost) achieves the benefit?  Fogg describes Amazon’s 1-click ordering method as pure reduction.  Before
this innovation, every click in the online sales process was a chance for customers to change their minds.  Will they go on to the next buying step or will they give up and click over to anotherWebsite?  At Amazon, one click seals the deal.  If a mind changes later, there’s a new cost/benefit analysis for the effort involved in cancelling the order.

Many years ago, when Ma Bell stopped being our only telephone company, the new phone services battled mightily for customers.  It became very easy to change your long distance company.  One brief request and it was done.  Sometimes you didn’t even have to bother with the request.  Sign your name to some freebie promo and you might find out later that the small print was an agreement to change phone services.  One step and it didn’t even involve thinking about phones.

Maya Lin’s VVM is a more honorable example of reduction, but her controversial proposal almost didn’t get approved.  Among many complaints about Lin’s design was the chronology, which requires the use of an index to find an individual name.  Critics wanted the names on the VVM in alphabetical order, making the memorial itself a giant index. 

MIT’s John Maeda, in his book, The Laws of Simplicity, assigns organization as the second law.  Organizing arranges similar items together and simplifies our efforts to use them.  Alphabetical order on the VVM would have made it easier to find a single name, but much harder to find a group of names.

First, a vet would have to remember names from more than 30 years ago.  Then he would have to look up each name individually, walking along the panels from A – Z.  To prepare for the effort, he might alphabetize the names of his dead buddies, the ones he remembers, so he doesn’t have to move back and forth among the 144 panels.  The names near each lost friend would have no meaning other than an alphabetic
similarity, or even the same name in some cases.  Names he can’t remember would remain forgotten.  The primary memorial activity here is similar to using a print dictionary, an exercise in the alphabet rather than an emotional experience of memory.

Chronology reduces the effort and increases the depth of feeling.  The vet only has to remember one name.  He finds that name in the printed index and goes to a panel representing the time he spent in Vietnam.  There are all his friends who died or went missing.  If he can’t remember someone’s name, the memorial remembers for him.
They are together again, the vet seeing his reflection in the polished marble among the names of those he lost.  The next time he visits, he won’t need the index.  He’ll know where to find his friends. 

Illustration used with permission from Microsoft.

Arranging to Persuade: Seven Persuasive Tools


The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM) is arguably the most powerful memorial in the world.  Maya Lin’s choice of chronological order for name arrangement may be the primary element of that power.  In making that choice, she engaged six of the seven persuasive tools identified by B J Fogg, in his book, Persuasive Technology:  Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do.  Along with technology, Fogg’s tools explain the persuasive aspects of information arrangement.  He defines a persuasive technology tool as one “designed to change attitudes or behaviors or both by making desired outcomes easier to achieve.”  He further divides these into macrosuasion and microsuasion.  The only purpose of a macrosausive tool is to persuade.  For example, the museum exhibit and computer game HIV Roulette persuades players to practice safer sex.

Microsuasive tools are the persuasive components of technologies whose primary purpose is other than persuasive.  The primary purpose of the VVM is to honor those who died or went missing during that war.  The chronologic arrangement changes the attitude and behavior of visiting Vietnam vets by allowing them to experience their time of service as they stand in front of the names of their lost buddies.

Information arrangement is almost always microsuasive.  Following are Fogg’s seven tools with an explanation of how the VVM uses them.  This is an article about arrangement, so I will mention that the tools appear in the same order in which they appear in Fogg’s book.

1)  Reduction:  Persuading through Simplifying  

People are more likely to complete a simple task.  Amazon offers“one-click” sales.  Press the key once and the sale is complete.  You can change your mind after that, but it’s a hassle.  If the names on the VVM were in alphabetical order, each name would have to be remembered and found individually.  But with chronology, a vet need only retrieve one name from his decades of memory.  The printed index shows where that name is on The Wall, surrounded by others who died on the same day, in the same battle.

2)  Tunneling:  Guided Persuasion 

In the journey of software installation, with a captive audience, the producer may demonstrate product features or try to sell more software.  The VVM also takes us on a journey.  Symbolized as a circle, the chronology begins and finishes in the center of the memorial.  Panel sizes, small at the two exteriors and huge in the center, encourage the view of a journey into a war that started small and grew and eventually ended.

3)  Tailoring:  Persuasion through Customization 

Shopping sites customize the buying experience by offering products based on previous purchases.  The VVM’s chronology gives each surviving Vietnam vet a personal place of remembrance on the memorial.  The names of his buddies will always be in that one location, a location he can return to again and again.       

4)  Suggestion:  Intervening at the Right Time 

Traffic trailers that give your speed as you drive by provide a suggestion at the appropriate moment, while you are driving.  The appropriate moment at the VVM is the occasion of a visit.  Any memorial’s purpose is to encourage thoughts about the memorialized event.  Because the VVM names are in a chronology, vets easily find their friends in one place, eliciting more memories with deeper thoughts.

5)  Self-Monitoring:  Taking the Tedium Out of Tracking 

Self-monitoring technologies include pedometers that record steps taken in a day.  This persuasive tool is not included at the VVM.  One information arrangement technique that does involve self-monitoring is the use of facets.  Let’s say a clothing site offers selection by the attributes (facets) of its products.  A user may first select gender, with the system only displaying products that meet the selection.  The user then selects shirts, changing the display to only available shirts in that gender.  Size may be selected next, etc.  Users self-monitor by evaluating the results of their choices as they proceed.

6)  Surveillance:  Persuasion through Observation

We are all familiar with the announcement that our conversation with a call center may be monitored.  Obviously the call center employee knows this too.  I have not yet seen an information arrangement example of surveillance.  However there is a form of surveillance at the VVM. Visitors leave items everyday at the base of the panels.  These are gathered by the Park Service, cataloged and placed in storage. Knowledge that the offerings become part of the historic record encourages this tradition.

7)  Conditioning:  Reinforcing Target Behaviors  

As positive reinforcement, an online game may award points or prizes to keep people playing the game.  Chronological order at the VVM offers positive reinforcement by helping vets remember their time of service and their friends who died.  These are intimate emotions the vet may want to have again, so the arrangement itself encourages him to continue visiting.

Conditioning, of course, can also be negative.  With information arrangement, negative reinforcement may be inadvertent.  If, for example, alphabetical order had been selected for the VVM, it would just be another list of names, with nowhere near the power of chronology.  But in a different situation, it could be the alphabet that provides the persuasive element.  Like all communication, persuasion changes with context.

Illustration used with permission from Microsoft.

Jul 2010

Names on a Memorial: Into the Earth (Memorials Discovered by the Strategic Information Arrangement Class)

Today is Memorial Day.  On Friday the American military announced its 1000th death in Afghanistan.  Yesterday, British Petroleum announced that it failed in its fourth attempt to stop the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

We study name arrangement on memorials during the final week of my online Strategic Information Arrangement class at Simmons College.  That week includes an optional forum question asking class members to describe a memorial neartheir home.

Jared Stern, a Brandeis University pre-school librarian who also works at the Boston Public Library, told us about the New England Holocaust Memorial by Stanley Saitowitz, with Polish extermination camps represented by six columns extending six feet into the earth and 54 feet into the sky.  Smoke rises from “smoldering coals” toward the columns’ glass panels filled with 6,000,000 numbers evoking the tattoos of Holocaust prisoners.

Some panels have quotations instead of numbers.  Jared included one in his remarks:  “At first the bodies were burned, they were buried.  In January 1944, we were forced to dig up the bodies so they could be burned.  When the last mass grave was opened, I recognized my whole family, my mother and sisters and their kids.  They were all in there.  (Motke Zaidt, a Holocaust survivor who was deported from Lithuania and forced to work the death detail in Chelmno.)”

Beth Toren, Web Services Librarian at West Virginia University Libraries discussed two types of memorials for the mine disasters in her state.  An April 5 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine killed 29 miners.  The community responded by building spontaneous memorials such as one with pieces of coal painted white with the names of those who died written in black.  It sits on lace on the ground with a cross.

The Sago Mine exploded on January 2, 2006, killing twelve miners; one survived.  This has a formal memorial in Phillippi, although it is not complete.  The photo in this post shows Ross Straight’s flat 4’ x 6’ sculpture, with figures arranged as the bodies were found when rescuers finally reached them. 

Beth spoke with the project’s organizer who said the memorial is intended to honor all who died in the mines, but they will only list the names of the twelve who died at Sago.  According to Beth’s paraphrase, “they would never be able to fit all the miners’ names that died in coalmine accidents just in that county on a memorial.”  Today, as oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, we also remember eleven energy workers who died last month when the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded.      

Vermont’s Sharon North Welcome Center on I-89 demonstrates green design with sustainable energy and water facilities.  That’s where Edee Edwards, taxonomy manager at a bio-pharmaceutical services company, found Vermont Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  This first state-sanctioned Vietnam memorial was dedicated two weeks prior to DC’s memorial.  It includes both the names of those who died and of every Vermonter who served. 

The memorial also has separate installations for those who died in Iraq and in Afghanistan.  These include not just names, but photos and remarks about their lives.  Since 1983, an all night vigil has been held every Memorial Day.  Edee said that even though she does not feel connected with the war in Vietnam, “this project ended up not just making me think, but making me feel.”

In the 90’s, the Sharon rest stop almost closed, but Vermont’s Vietnam vets lobbied to keep it open.  Ten years ago, the state selected it to be renovated as a green showcase, designed by Timothy D. Smith.  Using ground source heat pumps, the center keeps warm in the cold Vermont winter and cool in the summer, not by extraction, but by sending reclaimed water into 24 wells to return with the earth’s own heat.  Take a look at the worst oil spill in U.S. history.  Instead of stealing her blood, we should let the earth nurture us with geothermal energy.

Photo Credit:  West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin’s Photo Gallery.  Album:  Sago Mine Memorial Unveiling, May 21, 2009.

May 2010

Names on a Memorial: The Power of Information Arrangement

Today’s post honors Phillip Gibbs and James Green, killed shortly after midnight on May 15, 1970 by police at Jackson State College in Mississippi.  On May 4 of that year, Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer, and William Schroeder were killed by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University.

This post will also be the Memorial Day essay for Discover the Region, where some of my writings will now be published.

Like all language, organized information persuades.  It “directs our thinking,” as biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote about classification.  Information arrangement shapes perception and interaction.  Names on memorials are examples of organized information where arrangement defines a visitor’s experience.  The thoughtful chronology of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial builds a space for individual remembrance.  A World War I memorial does the same, but with a different arrangement strategy, reflecting the difference in the two wars.  In contrast, the random arrangement proposed for the World Trade Center memorial almost derailed the project.  Yet, in another context, random builds community at the Memorial Temples of Burning Man.

By listing names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (VVM) in chronological order, designer Maya Lin gave surviving Vietnam Vets personal spaces for contemplation, spaces that make the VVM our most powerful memorial.  Names are arranged by date of casualty, not date of death.  Those who died later of wounds received in battle are listed on the day of the battle along with their buddies who died that day or went missing.  When a surviving soldier visits the VVM, he need only remember one name to look up in the index.  He finds the panel and sees the names of his friends who died in a battle he fought.  They remain together where he can visit them and remember his own experience.

Architect EdwinLutyens influenced Lin with his World War I Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.  This open structure of 16 huge columns, with intersecting arches and a truncated tower in Thiepval, France lists more than 72,000 names on its huge columns, names of British soldiers missing from a single battle.  Like the VVM, the memorial gives survivors an individual place of remembrance, but the two use different arrangements to achieve the same goal.  The VVM honors over 58,000 dead or missing during a 20 year war.  The Somme memorial lists those missing from a five month battle, most from a one day massacre when British troops surged into waiting German lines.

In World War I, Britain recruited Pals Battalions.  Men who signed up together could serve the entire war with their buddies.  Cities and towns mustered their own fighting units, sending them off to France with names like the Sheffield City Battalion.  On July 1, 1916, many of these towns lost nearly a generation of young men.

The names on the Somme memorial are arranged by British Army Order of Precedence.  That’s how military units appear on the parade ground.  These units came from individual towns, so the arrangement has the effect of organizing missing soldiers by their home towns.  Even today, with only a few remaining World War I vets, relatives and neighbors have their own place of remembrance.

Michael Arad, designer of New York’s National September 11 Memorial, ignored individual places of remembrance when he selected random as the arrangement.  This would have dispersed names from each company all over the monument.  Instead of a personal place to remember fallen coworkers, survivors would have had to hike to see each name.  The arrangement infuriated surviving families and they eventually refused to contribute to the memorial fund.  At that point, the design committee reconsidered and offered “meaningful adjacencies.”  Families can now place their loved one’s name within a group or next to an individual.  Many names will appear with the companies they worked for, but they might also be with special friends.  In one case, a married couple who worked at different companies will now be forever together on the memorial.

The designers of the National September 11 Memorial paid dearly for an arrangement error, losing money, prestige and the community’s good will.  They went from simplistic random to perhaps the most complex arrangement on any memorial with individualized name placement and multiple types of groupings.  If the designers had originally selected an obvious arrangement, such as geographic by floor, survivors would have had their places of remembrance.  They would not have needed strong family associations to fight against the arrangement and ultimately to fight for a more detailed names design.

In the right context, however, even random can build private spaces of remembrance.  David Best did this at Nevada’s Burning Man art festivals.  His Memorial Temples in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004 reflect the Somme memorial as arched open structures, topped with a tower and filled with names.  Burners inscribe the names they want to remember anywhere on the memorial.  The effect is random, but each inscription describes a private remembrance.  For the week of the festival, Burners have a personal place to grieve, a place they have chosen.  When the Temple burns on Sunday, individual memories and the combined memories of all Burners float into the evening sky.

May 2010