User-centred Design vs. 'Good' Database Design Principles: A Case Study, Creating Knowledge Repositories for Indigenous Australians

Australian Library and Information Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 2009, 40 (2), pp. 116 - 131
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In 2006-07, the author was involved in redesigning a database storing traditional knowledge of Australian Aboriginal clans. The project raised issues relating to the design of repositories for indigenous knowledge, including theoretical approaches taken to ontology (knowledge structures, classification systems) and metadata creation. This paper describes the design process undertaken, in which user-centred design principles accommodated an emergent contrast between traditional knowledge customs and "good" database design principles. Theoretical approaches taken to ontology are presented, and the format of the restructured database is discussed in general terms. Assembling evidence from usability testing and qualitative research, the paper concludes that a flexible ontological system was needed to provide the customisability required by indigenous users - a system whose iterations and applications may usefully represent widely differing aboriginal cultures.
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