Creating Reflecting Interfaces: Discipline, Project, and Audience Specific Internet Archives

  1. 1. Michael Fegan

    MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online - Michigan State University

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The commercial internet company Qwest has run several national commercials commenting on the internet's ability to provide unparalleled access to information. In one commercial, a man walks into a small, dusty bar in the desert and asks the barkeeper what they have on the jukebox. The barkeep responds they have every song, ever written, in any language. Although the internet does not yet offer this volume of information, the commercial points (unconsciously) to the necessity of providing access to information in familiar packages and with familiar metaphors -- in this case a jukebox. Online archives, libraries, and institutions have thus far been concerned with issues of digitization, storage, and portability of information to the internet. Only recently have questions of interface and how interface influences user's access to these warehouses of information come into discussion. Search engines and archives have in large part created and used search interfaces for the faceless, general user or reproduced the environment of the professional researcher. Both of these search metaphors require either the language of the database, the researcher, or the archivist to access information. To use these resources, users must have a great deal of previous knowledge on their subject (to use keywords or browse topic galleries), or have existing technical knowledge (booleans or sql language) to wade through the large amounts of information at any one site.

Recently there has been a shift in emphasis away from large-scale digitization projects, general usability interfaces, and internet-wide search engines to small, user or topic based information resources. These projects create limited resources that speak to specific audiences and use familiar modes of language and metaphors to help these users find relevant information quickly and easily. This speaker will discuss this shift and the necessity of creating smaller, need or discipline specific information resources as well as creating interfaces that speak to the needs and questions of specific audiences. More specifically, this presenter will examine the scope of projects like IMDb - The Internet Movie Database ( and interface innovations seen in the Ask Jeeves search engine ( innovations we have used in creating Civics Online (, an online archive/resource created specifically for k-12 teachers and students studying U.S. History and Civics.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at New York University

New York, NY, United States

July 13, 2001 - July 16, 2001

94 works by 167 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ICCH (21), ALLC/EADH (28), ACH/ALLC (13)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC