May 29, 2007
GSD&M's Andy Hunter and Information Visualization

A wide variety of people read the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog on a semi-regular basis but may not completely understand what it is we do. First off, all the information on what C3 is and what we do here at MIT is available here.

Basically, a core group of researchers--led by Henry Jenkins and Dr. Joshua Green--work here on research projects. The team is made up primarily of graduate students in the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, with involvement from a few others, and as part of a community that also includes affiliated faculty and researchers not just here at MIT but located across the country, and even around the world. (Look through our people section for more.)

Our project is funded by a variety of corporate partners who engage with us on our research, collaborating with us. It's not a client relationship but rather a fluid partnership in which people on both the industry and academic sides of many of these questions of "convergence culture" have conversations and share work.

One of the brightest minds we have to share work with is Andy Hunter over at the GSD&M Idea City blog. GSD&M, the Austin, Texas, based advertising agency which is a member of the consortium, focuses its public work on looking at the new directions of advertising content.

I was particularly interested in Hunter's recent piece on The Coming Age of Branded Intuition, in which he looks at the importance of utility and contextualization on the part of brands.

I was thinking about his work in relation to some of my own recent thoughts on the importance of information to fan communities and brand communities alike. Most Web sites seem to be built particularly based on aesthetic considerations, focusing on the importance of the design and visual appeal rather than the types of functional issues outlined by Hunter.

I was talking with someone the other day with a media company about why it is that people seek out so many other places for information rather than the "official" source, but I just feel that IMDB and Wikipedia often provides more in-depth information and easier-to-find information than the "official" sources for a lot of media content, and fan sites often provide more analysis, history, and explanations than a slick-looking official site ever has.

The focus on pull media has not completely filtered over to the way companies think about their Web pages, and the amount of information available plays an important part in that and in the discussion Andy is highlighting about the importance of navigating that information. He writes, "As visual interfaces on the web become more accessable, it seems only a matter of time before brands begin to use these platforms for users to get an intuitive understanding of what they want, what they need, or simply a tool to 'surf' information in a way that's less deliberate and more guided by 'feel'."

His thought piece is worth a read-through, and it points to a variety of interesting tools about information navigation.