Web Genre and the Emergent Properties of Web Sites

Post signed by: Maya Dimitrova, Institute of Control and System Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences

Previous posts: Gestalt Processes in User-Web Interaction: A Two-Side View & User-Web Interaction: Gestalt in Information Retrieval

Maya tries to explain the process of development of the Web as a social medium and the emergence of Web genres with the Gestalt theory, explaining it first from a psychological
perspective.

4   User Account of the Emergent Properties of Web Sites

4.1 Holistic understanding of aspects of Web genre

In the discussed studies on Web genre a multidimensional structure of the genre components is assumed. For a multidimensional structure, however, it is important to test the orthogonality assumption. The main hypothesis in our studies has been to see if users perceive these dimensions as independent, so that they can be meaningfully displayed as orthogonal projections. We have conducted structured tests (Web-based survey) and observational studies of the ways users perceive (imagine) Web documents and their “independent” features – brainstorming session and post-hoc interview with a Web design expert . It seems to be relevant to present some of the results here for an illustration of the internalized aspect in Piagetian terms of the user perception (idea) of the Web sites.

Five participants from a cognitive science course took part in a brainstorming session. They were asked to generate “first-come-to-mind” free associations with four groups of Web documents as they would have imagined them. The four groups of documents are the following: brief-technical, brief-popular, extended-technical and extended-popular. The participants were allowed 5 minutes on each group of documents. The results are given in tables 4 and 5. The participants gave 16 descriptive items for the brief-technical documents, 23 for the brief-popular (table 4), 35 for the extended-technical and 36 for the extended-popular documents (table 5). The main outcome was that except for two of the words – “abridged” and “summary” (brief-technical vs. brief-popular), all of the descriptors of the four groups of documents differed from each other. This we have interpreted to give support to the idea that genre dimensions are perceived (imagined) by the users as independent. […]

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