How to Make and Use Themes

eXie-Composition-Book

Using eXie helps you to create a “frame of reference” to the online content that you have decided to save and revisit.

The first step is to decide what subject matter your collection of content is about.

Subject matter is a general idea.

When you decide a Subject, you are most often thinking of a certain kind of person to whom the content will be generally interesting. And you are deciding on how specific you want the subject to be in order to attract the person to your collection. (Remember that one of these persons is yourself!)

For the content user, Themes identify the ways that the collection of content describes the subject. There is no “correct” or “incorrect” number of themes.

An analogy

The easiest way to decide your subject is to think of your subject as the name of a “library” that people should visit.

Then, to refer to the variety of content that you are collecting in that library, eXie uses the notion of themes and topics to organize the variety.

A theme is a general idea “within” the subject. It is like a distinctive subsection in the library. That subsection is very similar to a category. Your subject is general, and there are a number of types of categories that help to distinguish important ways to recognize, discuss or represent the subject.

A theme identifies an example, a part, or a characteristic of a subject

A given collection of content usually forms because some properties of a subject make the subject important to you more than other properties do. As a technique, the frame you make with eXie uses those properties to point out how the content refers to the subject.

How-to-determine-themes-overall
How-to-determine-themes-eg-for-one-subject

How general or Specific is your subject?

A subject might be “Sciences” and themes might be the different branches of science. Someone might go to your “Science” library and, once inside, look for the “Biology” section. Or, they might go look for the “Oceanic” section or the “Aeronautic” section. This points out that there are differences in what kind of descriptive characteristic can be “thematic”.

Or the subject might be “Transportation” and themes might be the major forms of transportation or the major goals of transportation. A visitor to your “Transportation” library might go inside to get content particularly about “Cars” or “Trains”.

If your content collection was building up mainly about a more specific interest, you might instead start out with “Cars” as your overall subject matter. Then, your themes might be different types of cars, different uses of cars, or some other basic thing about cars that helps identify important varieties within the world of cars. “Racing” cars, “Commuter” cars, and “Taxis” are one kind of theme ; “Luxury” cars, “Family” cars and “Economy” cars are another kind of theme.

What if your subject was Rock Music? There are several kinds of themes that could make sense. Different forms of something are always a handy approach to identifying themes, so here we might use Hard rock, Country rock, Folk rock, Acid rock, Punk rock, Rock-n-Roll, or other “styles”. But if your content collection is interesting to you mainly because of how different “instruments” are most emphasized to make rock music, your themes could instead be based on the instruments, such as Guitar rock, Keyboard rock, or Vocal rock.

What if your subject is already specifically Guitar Rock? Even starting out that specifically, you could have themes such as Electric, Acoustic, or Synthetic. Or your themes could be Lead, Rhythm, and Solo. Also, your themes could emphasize the players in some way, distinguishing Masters, Innovators and Chameleons.

Punchline:

As just shown, themes are differing ways of identifying the same subject, and they do the main work of matching content with what kind of interest the content user has in the subject. This is a pretty familiar thing to encounter.

For example, you may have recognized already that catalogs from a store or business usually take a subject (such as a general type of product) and separate it thematically. They offer different categories or models of a given general product like vehicles, or likewise of gadgets, or outerwear, or even experiences.

The thematic variety reflects that a single collection of content can mean different things to different people. Showing the organization of the content helps people to recognize that the content collection can satisfy their main need or desire. It both attracts people to the collection, and it makes the collection easier to use.

Having multiple types of themes provides a broader coverage of the subject. Also, as a general subject is looked at more specifically, we can see that a specific frame (of reference) can be a “child” of a more general frame. When you make multiple frames, your set of frames can be related to each other, to drill down into specifics, or to spread across different kinds of interests.

Next steps:

Finally, you may have noticed that the tables we just used in our discussion above are themselves “frames of reference”. This is not a coincidence! The organization of those tables has a special feature or logic that turns them into frames. Each row of the table is about something that makes sense to consider about every column.

In a frame of reference, your chosen themes will all be columns. However, the various themes in the frame are all of the same type. Because of that, you will later be able to point out ways of referring to the themes, and each of those ways – called Topics – will be useful for every theme in your frame.

In summary, the themes refer to the subject, and the topics refer to the themes. To see this at work, look for the eXie lesson on How To Make and Define Topics.