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The Electronic Broadsheet


In an ideal newspaper, readers use less time searching through news and more time concentrating on the actual content. One way of achieving this is to provide pertinent navigational clues. First, let us examine how readers navigate through traditional newspapers.

4.1 Navigational Clues in Traditional Newspapers

To navigate through newspaper pages can be a frustrating experience. A Sunday edition of The Boston Globe contains around 200 broadsheet pages. Only a small percentage of the information is interesting to the average reader (see section 3.2.1) but finding that information can be hard. Newspapers give their readers some navigational clues. Many include an index and "pointers" on the front page as well as page numbers on every page. Bigger newspapers contain multiple sections that often are structured with regard to their content, e.g., the "arts" section.

Since newspapers use a rather fixed format from day to day readers navigate more easily through a familiar newspaper. This will also be exploited by the ideal paper, but it is not sufficient.

4.2 Maps

A map is a 2-dimensional representation of a domain at a smaller scale. The represented domain can be of two or more dimensions. Most often the domain is a piece of land, but it can also be a mathematical object, e.g. the Mandelbrot set [Mandelbrot 82] .

Maps are isomorphic, i.e., the map is identical with or similar to the domain it represents in form or structure [Fishler, Firshein 87] . This property is also called iconic or analogical. Cartographers try to create a scaled-down view of reality to assist users in the understanding of spatial relationships.

One important aspect of maps is the information they do not convey. Maps are selective, they present a selective view of reality only showing some features of the domain [Hodgkiss 81]. The cartographer selects the features that will become amplified while most of the information in the domain is discarded. A road map will try to give the user navigational clues that may be useful when driving a car by amplifying major roads, cities, and state borders. A topographic map tries to escape flatland by including contour lines to visualize the third dimension.

Colors play an important role in maps. Tufte [Tufte 90] lists four ways color can enhance a map and uses a topographic mountain map as an example:

[..] the fundamental uses of color in information design: "to label" (color as noun), "to measure" (color as quantity), "to represent or imitate reality" (color as representation), and "to enliven or decorate" (color as beauty). Here color "labels" by distinguishing water from stone and glacier from field, "measures" by indicating altitude with contour and rate of change by darkening, "imitates reality" reality with river blue and shadow hachures, and visually "enlivens" the typography by quite beyond what could be done in black and white alone.

A standard code for the use of colors in maps has evolved. Topographic information is printed in brown, water features are shown in blue and cultural (man-made) features in black and red. An interesting by-product of this use of colors is that one, by taking color separates of maps, can isolate features and produce special purpose maps [DOI 80]. By removing one or more separates one will amplify the remaining information in much the same way as the map-making process amplifies selected features.

4.2.1 Different Types of Maps

Most maps are drawn using lines and to some extent shading. These rendered images are known as "line maps" as distinguished from photomaps which are derived from a photograph. Color-enhanced information, e.g. a reference system, is often rendered on top of the photograph to ease the use of a photomap. Photomaps are often used in areas with few contours and a low density of cultural features, e.g. flat swamp terrain. Photomaps are also used in weather reports to indicate cloud movements in the atmosphere. State lines are rendered on top of the satellite photos, and the photomaps are often shown in sequence to visualize cloud movements


First designed by Henry C. Beck in 1931, the London Underground Diagram has gained widespread popularity [Walker 80] . It is used by millions of people in London every day and has been imitated by most cities with a subway system. The diagram is commonly referred to as a map, but it is not drawn to scale and is therefore not isomorph. If enlarged to the actual size of London it would diverge significantly from the actual geography of the city--a fact soon discovered if one tries to use the diagram as a walking map. Isomorphism is sacrificed to give downtown areas better coverage, i.e., the density of information is roughly the same all over the diagram while downtown areas in reality have a much higher density of Underground installations. The result is a product that is highly functional for its purpose.

4.3 Maps in Virtual Worlds

Realizing the potential of maps as navigational tools in an interactive environment, the SDMS project in the MIT Media Lab implemented a virtual

"Dataland" [Bolt 84] . However, Bolt argues that there is no map in Dataland:

Importantly, the items in Dataland are facsimile in nature: books look like books, calendars like calendars, and so on. Dataland is not a map of the data. It is the data. The nature of the display is "out there," visually self-evident.

In my opinion, the representation in Dataland has the characteristics of a photomap. However, the naming issue is of secondary concern to the user--what counts is the spatial clues present in the representation. Bolt reports that new users found navigation in Dataland to be intuitive and almost immediately could focus on what information was there to look at, not how to get at it.

Another approach to virtual maps is described in [Henderson, Card 86]

Maps are useful tools for spatial orientation in both real and virtual spaces. One way, maybe the best, of making navigation through news easier is to provide a map. News articles naturally lend themselves to two-dimensional representations, and a good map should be present in the ideal newspaper.


The ideal paper is far from reality. Presentation technology cannot yet take on the challenge of providing an electronic newspaper as described in the first part of this thesis. But, the continuously advancing technology has provided us with "paperlike" displays that can start competing with newsprint. The Electronic Broadsheet is an attempt to transcode the newspaper metaphor into an electronic medium using state-of-the-art presentation technology. The second part of this thesis describes the implementation of the Electronic Broadsheet.

4.1 - Navigational Clues in Traditional Newspapers
4.2 - Maps
4.2.1 - Different Types of Maps
4.3 - Maps in Virtual Worlds

The Electronic Broadsheet - 30 JUN 95
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