The Library


Information organization for the Post-Modem audience

by Elaine Winters


You could make a case for saying that the way we organize and present information has a fair amount to do with how and what we are thinking about the physical universe, generally.

As an example: when we understood the world to be organized in accord with Newtonian physics, we only presented information linearly. Our communication theory was: sender> message> channel> receiver.

Brains were considered not much more than storage facilities, with some capacity for reorganization - - soft tissue hard drives

Now, communication theory seems to think more about a mutually created event that is circular, or a mobius strip, rather than something in a linear series. Constant interactivity is almost a routine aspect of nearly every communication.

We acknowledge that something dynamic goes on between presenter and receiver.

Physics has evolved new ideas, and our ideas about information organization are different. Information is now more frequently thought of as a process.

Presentation, has become a mutual event. Passivity is out.

As options for presenting information, explode with new technologies, it is becoming practical to consider organizing the information, and then adapt, based on the decision about in which media to make it available.


Top eight list for success in information organization:


* 1) Audience identification is only one task in this information presentation process, and it is necessary in any communicative profession .

Consideration of the changing nature of an audience is more important than ever. The information must be flexible, because we recognize that it will change the audience as the presentation is happening.


* 2) Develop an organizing vehicle for the information you want to gather.

Some people use index cards, or hypercard; I use a spreadsheet with my own, unique, column headers. There's a good variety of project management software that can be obtained. Pick something that works for you; be prepared to adapt, and adopt new vehicles.


* 3) Determine the possible variables in the audience, and understand how they impact what you're trying to do. . Get help, if you think you'll need it, as early as possible in the process.


* 4) Know the technological sophistication of the evironment with regard to what, and for whom, you're organizing this information. If the answer to this is a huge curve, then think about stages as part of the organizing schema.


* 5) Find, and study, examples of information organizing plans that your potential audience might be exposed to on a regular basis. (EG: How fares are paid on public transit? Where and how are the instructions presented?)


* 6) Find a comparable example of the local standard of the information you're organizing. You can count on expectations to be contraditions. (The preparation standard for the delivery of information for a newspaper advertisement in one part of the world, as a sample, may be very different from other parts of the world, and from what you have in mind.)


* 7) How are traditions presented? How does your audience learn traditional stories and values routinely?

This is particularly important when working in a culture you're not terribly familiar with; it could be a significant clue to the organizing principle of the audience. Again, if the answer to this is a significant curve, think in stages as part of the organizing schema.


* 8) Know what you want to say; the organizational objectives should be clear, appropriate, and adaptable.

Schema need to reflect not only the facts and figures but the organizing habits of the audience.

All the technological bells and whistles - new and exotic software - et alia will not compensate for poorly organized material that is culturally inappropriate.

© 1997, Elaine Winters. All rights reserved; permission to duplicate by any means is granted only in writing. To contact Ms. Winters, visit her Web site at or send her an email.

About the author: Elaine Winters (, is a work in progress and still under construction. She has lived and worked in Asia, the South Pacific, and North America. This is her second article for the IICS website; the first appeared in February, 1997 and is available in the Library.



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