Hierarchical hypermedia structures in one digital community project-- WebHouse--were found to be unpopular among users ( Hedman 1997), but isomorphic de-compositional structures received positive regard when deployed in the Learning Tree digital library ( Hedman and Jacobsson 1998). Early investigations suggest that these isomorphic hypermedia structures performed functions that were differentially perceived in the projects.
In the WebHouse project we developed an application prototype that allowed users to generate their own web-based organizational spaces consisting of web pages. The structures were hierarchically arranged into organizations, groups, and individuals:
Users interacting with this prototype were in general critical to its rigid hierarchical structure. As a result we were driven to rethink the entire project. In Learning Tree an analogous hierarchical structure was received with positive regard:
Thus the same logical "scaffolding" was deployed in both instances: dynamically constructed hierarchical hypermedia structures. In addition, the user interfaces were similar. What accounted for the differential perceptions of the underlying scaffolding in each case?
We suggest that there is an obvious answer to this question. In the first case the users saw themselves as acting in a digital community, while they did not do so using the digital library. On the one hand, a digital library is something you primarily use to get information -- the primary process is orientation. On the other hand, a digital community suggests something different. A digital community suggests a place of habitation -- the primary process is accommodation.
Orientation means knowing ones field of possibility within a particular software artifact. Classical HCI has focused almost exclusively on this area ( Schneider