Pros and Cons of Horns Information Mapping vs. My preferred Methodologies

Recall your preferred theory from this module’s discussion forum. Now, for the blogging assignment, select a different theory of Information Design and create a post on your blog that explicates both the pros and cons of that particular theory. In fact, if you want to elaborate on your least favorite theory, be sure to note it as such within your post. This same post will also need to explain how your chosen theory of Information Design could be implemented in a blog environment, and demonstrate how you could be using or plan to use your selected theory in practice on your own class blog.

As discussed in the previous discussion forum, I had a hard time narrowing down where I fell on the spectrum of my preferred methodology theory.  I related pretty well to Brenda Dervin’s, but I also was intrigued with Nathan Shedroff’s user-centered approach.  I will still stand by and argue the point that they are ultimately very similar in what they plan to achieve.  My favorite method, so far, has been the 6 W’s and the <6><6> (What we see and what we show). (Roam) Being the analytical person I can be they seem logical in this perspective that I would lean more towards this approach.  However, I have battled with where I stood on each of their theories and came to the conclusion that I am more like Brenda Dervin’s approach.  She classifies Sense-Making a type of theory of information design that is not a new field, but we are just now classifying it as such.  There has always been data in the world that has needed to be designed when we create information in order to make sense of all the data being thrown at us.  Even with new technology it still allows for us to do what we’ve always done, but at a much larger scale.  (M2 Instructor Commentary) It was in her lists that I finally found what I related to, Mandates a particular kind of theory, one that focuses on information as made and unmade in communication; as designed by all humans, individually and collectively, in struggle and meditation; as relevant to both making and unmaking order and chaos; as relevant not only to the centered human but also the decentered human; as pertinent to the human heart, body, and spirit as well as the human mind.  This theory of information design would mean that we create order out of chaos and chaos out of order when order restricts or constrains them.  In other words, this would redefine what we mean as failure and success.  Information design is a tool designed by human beings to make sense of a reality assumed to be both chaotic and orderly.  (Jacobson, pgs. 39-43)

Having said that and reflected, I still feel I fall a bit on each of the theories except for Robert E. Horn’s.  Maybe it could be how I see myself as such, or the fact I didn’t quite get his ideology.  I just couldn’t grasp his methodology at all.  “The art and science of preparing information so that it can be used by human beings with efficiency and effectiveness.”  I would get the sense that this was more centered on the histories of Information Design and given today’s technology this new profession of historicizing it isn’t as incorporated as the other methodologies are.  I understand that by looking at the history of information design we can get an idea of the different components it contains and where the field might be going in the future.

Let’s examine this the non-profit organization I work for is undertaking the task of implementing a new plan for the Society.  It sounds great, but the full picture of this plan doesn’t appeal or look good for a good majority of employees working for them.  Taking into consideration Horn’s theory the history behind the first plan for the organization I work for it is still the same.  They are all about mission and helping others to achieve the help they need.  I think in the society we live in that most have backed away from what religion represents these days.  I know I have.  I’d never tell anyone what they would want to believe in, but to have it thrust upon me, is another story.  Yes, I work in a very catholic organization and I don’t practice it, at all.  I’ve watched this society for nearly a decade and I have to wonder: why now?  We recently acquired a woman who, like Lila (Roam), to help with restructuring.  They want to implement the term: connect the dots, connect their employees to work in an efficient and effective way.  However, this plan has produced some panicked and concerned dedicated employees on the stability of their jobs.


Using Horns method, which it seems likely that the Society I work for has done, it seems like it is benefiting some and not all.  When I hear terms like outsourcing our mail and think of what information mapping is, I have to wonder what they plan to accomplish if not condensing employees.  While Information Mapping sounds like a great concept, I think it falls short on the follow through.  We are a mailing facility that offers a service to donors to help aid in our mission to help others.  I know they did an outstanding job for Nepal when they were in crisis and I know we will also lend a helping hand with our mission when Mexico needs aid.  This is how Maryknoll, the organization I work for operates.  We have project managers that oversee programs and we work to provide the aid, just as a charity or an organization like the Red Cross would.  Of course, we need the information mapping as the building blocks to information design.  I just have to wonder what as a Design Society this will accomplish?

The Pros are definitely what I imagine them to be: compiling the information and mapping them with this discipline with efficiency and effectiveness.  The Cons is that it may not always be effective or efficient.  You will run into road blocks and as I suggested panicked and concerned human beings.  In chapter 5, The Six Ways of Seeing Dan Roam Lila left a company that would bend over backward for her.  She took on a challenge to rebuild a Chocolate Company that needed her training management skills.  When she ran into some struggles she had to think outside the box and work a new plan to help achieve a better training plan for all the employees.  I can argue this was an implemented theory of Horns by having the information mapped out, but really she used the 6 W’s that helped her see the big picture.  Lila effectively and efficiently spun a new pattern of training in a way that helped this company.  She didn’t use information mapping, she actually, in my opinion, with the 6 W’s and <6><6> what we see and what we show ended up using a variety of methodology theories that worked for this Chocolate Company.  After reading the about Nathan Shedroff’s and even the theorist Brenda Dervin, I started thinking.  Did she possibly utilize his and Dervin’s and how?  I think she took all the information she acquired and used the 6 W’s and <6><6>, but I think she did a bit more than that to get the success she had with the new training plan.  She took chaos and made it orderly while transforming it into meaningful information creating a story with interaction design and employing all the senses in the display field heading as it expands to encompass more and more of the disciplines.  She did an outstanding thing by re-writing what an old system wasn’t making work for them.  And this is why I truly believe that Horn’s theory while a sound theory it is not up to par as the others.  I gather its information is effective and efficient, but the big picture leaves us with much to be desired.

I’ve found that since hearing this new plan being drafted for where I work and hearing from a co-worker who previously worked for Reader’s Digest that this is a domino effect.  Instead of using a methodology they are implementing ways of cutting costs to effectively and efficiently (Horn’s Information Mapping) still work their mission.  In the end, avoiding a Reader’s Digest or unfounded employee cut could be helped by using other methods and Roam’s ideas.  It will be very telling in the coming second draft what that will be and if a new method to their plan will be executed.

Works cited:

Jacobson, Robert. Information design. MIT press, 2000.

Roam, Dan. The back of the napkin (expanded edition): Solving problems and selling ideas with pictures. Penguin, 2009.


Posted on October 26, 2015, in ESC, School and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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