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From zzstructures to mSpaces: New ways to compare Web navigation tools

monica schraefel and michael mcguffin
monica schraefel and michael mcguffin

Surfing the Web could become a much more effective experience thanks to new approaches endorsed at this year’s ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) Hypertext Conference.

In its current state, the commonly used link in a Web page allows people to search the Web and to use hyperlinks to jump from one page to another. The down side is that when people click links, pages load on top of one another and unless they can recall the route taken, it is easy to lose much of the content of the search along the way.

For their comparison of new models, called Hyperstructures, for representing information on the Web, dr monica schraefel from the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton and Michael Mc Guffin from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto received an ACM SigWeb Special Research Distinction, Awarded for Excellent Presentation of Theoretical Concepts.

Their paper describes hyperstructures including zzstructures (developed by ECS Visiting Professor Ted Nelson) and mSpaces (developed by schraefel), in terms of graph theory. Hyperstructures allow hypertext information like the Web to be presented in ways that show not just the links between pages, but the multiple relationships between the information in the pages.

For instance, one view of a group of musicians might show how they are all from a particular country; another might show how they all create a particular style of music, or all had their first performance before they were six. The formalizing of hyperstructures into well-known graph-theoretic terms allowed the authors to make specific comparisons between zzstructures and mSpaces in particular. No such comparison, either formally or conceptually, between these hyperstructure approaches had been previously described.

The aim of creating both the formal descriptions and the resulting comparisons was to provide a clear means for designers to compare the attributes of these hyperstructures so that they could decide which approaches best suited their information design requirements.

dr schraefel comments: ‘By considering new models for representing information which go beyond generic organizing structures like the lists we see from a Google search, we can consider equally new approaches for representing hypermedia information spaces that let us explore the relationships among the information, rather than just the data in a page. Relationships within information let us develop different kinds of knowledge about something. We hope that our comparisons of how we can represent these relationships will act as the basis for designers to be able to make informed design decisions about the attributes they might want to use from these structures if they want to design richer information spaces than what the Web currently allows.’


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Posted by Joyce Lewis on 20 Oct 2004.