Chronological order can build timelines that illuminate the concepts within a domain. It’s a simple and effective strategy for an initial organization of subjects that include time-based documents, such as news articles. When materials are organized by date, the full spectrum of a topic is arranged into an easily assimilated structure that helps the organizer to understand the subject and to develop categories and select vocabulary.
Information producing events have life cycles. A newsworthy event generates material as long as it is newsworthy. Then we move on to the next event, which generates its own material. When documents are organized into a chronology, the material for each event is automatically gathered together, creating a logical listing of incidents that have impacted the subject area.
A timeline generates several useful tools for domain analysis. The process helps organizers understand the subject by articulating the issues and clarifying their evolution. Information about one event is displayed in the order that it happened, so developments read almost like a story. The entire group of constituent events is also arranged as a timeline and the progress of the full subject arena is visible within a specific time frame.
Following the plot of an event by reading news stories is an engaging and painless way to learn a subject. The organizer gains knowledge about the issues and the vocabulary. If clients contribute to the news, as participants or analysts, the timeline helps articulate their point of view, which significantly aids the development of useful categories for the client’s domain.
Obviously overlap in the timeline is inevitable. Sometimes there are follow-up or even preliminary stories that happen outside the primary time frame, but these tend to be peripheral. In general, the main body of documents about a given event will be written when the event is attracting the greatest interest of writers.
I used an initial chronologic construction to organize information for a save-the-carnivores environmental group that tends to operate in a reactive mode. Anytime there is a sighting in a populated area, news is generated and the group must respond. One valuable result of my timeline was an easily accessible list of newsworthy encounters between these animals and humans.
An event impacting this group could be a newly published report on the animal or its habitat. First the report is issued, along with promotional press releases, which generate news stories. Then there are responses to the report by groups who like the carnivore and groups who do not like the carnivore, all of whom issue their own press releases, which generate more written material. By now the report is big news, so there are also background stories on the issues facing the animal and the people who live in its habitat.
With this simple exercise of putting material into a chronology, I have gathered valuable resources for domain analysis into one place and automatically organized them into a logical time-based structure. I have the report, which contains important information about the issue. I also have press releases and news articles which summarize and analyze the report. So I can read an entertaining news article instead of a boring report. Then the responses of the pro and con groups give me the full spectrum of opinions.
I now have enough knowledge and data to build a category structure. The structure can be specifically for the report or I can expand the ideas of the report into the full domain. For example, I can build a hierarchy that defines the pro and con issues facing this animal or carnivore conservation in general. I can also build a structure for organizations involved in the report, including the issuing agency and the pro and con responding groups.
Ultimately the initial chronological order is replaced by a more complex topic-based structure. Putting information into order by date is easy and fast. It’s a good way to start the organizational process because topics just fall into place. For an organizer working with the chronology, category relationships become evident and the domain’s vocabulary is easily assimilated. Simply arranging material into a timeline offers new knowledge about events that impact the client. This helps the organizer interpret domain topics into structures that reflect client experiences, providing for clients a satisfying interaction with their own information.