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L. Bollini1, G. Palma2

1Milano-Bicocca University (ITALY)
2Politecnico di Milano (ITALY)
The paper is aimed to introduce the application of the Cognitive Maps concept to the web information architecture and interface design for knowledge management and sharing. Cognitive Maps allows the visual representation of the information architecture highlighting the hierarchies, the nodes hypertextual and conceptual connections between site contents, in more general sense, to the semantic relations between concept and nodes.
The interaction with the content is based on a generative dynamics of ryzomatic connections in order to express the cognitive and perceptive richness of the Human User giving a more direct representation than the usual static structure tree.
To approach the problem, a model has been designed in order to provide an immediate check using a set of objective parameters based on contents and selected between the most significant criteria for the target of the site.

The Opsis Identifier Descriptive Model (OIDM), has been generated by the systematic use of the conceptual maps applied to the design of the web sites and is based on the mathematical concept of representation in the space of an object starting from a set of three values, the so called 3D space coordinates.
These values will be selected taking into account reference to the purposes of the site and for each of the coordinates is created a staircase (discrete classification) to which it is assigned a score (objective the most possible, even if personal for every item representing the contents of the site (or item of the menu).
The translation in the two-dimensional plane of these relations can be reconstructed in its complexity by means of a visual representation of the data and by means of interconnections (links) using cognitive maps, introduced for the first time by Novak and Gowin to represent the knowledge and to support learning and retaining.

The maps are organized by means of conceptual-semantic nodes interconnected by preposition links; they can be used in order to represent the learning and the knowledge using a non-linear processes. The maps present a simultaneous visualization of the site macroareas and at the same time the different layers of information nesting. Exploiting the visual-hypertextual-relational structure they are more efficient than the usual hierarchical-verbal tree structure in order to cope with the human cognitive processes and in order to explore and to learn in a complex, rich information structure.

Multimedia Authoring software tools are exploited to produce cognitive Maps based on contents organized by means of the OIDM model.
The experimental project Designing-X (cultural web site for students, young designer, researchers and professionals developed with the partnership of the publishing house MODO and with the Politecnico di Milano) shows a practical, specific application of the concepts the paper is based on.