IA Summit: Linkosophy

by April 14, 2008

Andrew Hinton’s closing plenary at the 2008 IA Summit detailed why the central concerns of information architecture may be best served by a community of practice.

  • In the past, computer systems were centralized, closed and directed by hierarchy. The Web allowed you to link amongst hierarchies and enabled an explosion of content.
  • Computers are conduits for communication. Content is something to talk about. Information is there for our need for conversation.
  • The Internet sped up conversations by allowing them to move more quickly. The Web is a culture acceleration device.
  • There are cognitive limits to what we can consume. Information & conversation need to be managed and shaped so people can find what they want.
  • This is the central concern of information architecture: how can we shape context and connections in information spaces.
  • Community of Practice: is a group with a shared concern or passion for something. They do it better as they interact regularly. A practice is a shared history of learning. It is conversational.
  • Tendency to think of communities of practice as silos. In user experience design there are no silos. User Experience has multiple facets and they are integrated.
  • We experience semantic context & connection as space. Information represented as bits not atoms. Shaping context & connection is an act of architecture.
  • Information architects shape structures of context & connection for info spaces.
  • How to make sense of the mess of content online so people can get to conversations they need? Library Science was a great place to start making sense of this challenge.
  • First order is physical, second order is metadata (signifiers of physical thing), third order (non-centralized, messy order of how individuals organize all their stuff)
  • Some people think the third order of organization will consume first & second. But just because people can move things around does that negate the need for architecture.
  • Just because inventory can be arranged by users does not mean there is no architecture going on. Only focusing on inventory is a red herring.
  • Have to know the kind of conversation you are designing for. Do you need structure or order –if so how much?
  • Possibility spaces – create frameworks in which people create meaning. We are there to create structure within which people can create their own meaning. Links, Categories, and Rules.
  • Rules: access permissions, algorithmic context/architectures
  • IA is not only about getting people to a piece of information
  • Information is a conduit for context and connection. It’s about useful context & connections in a new kind of space.
  • Each of us tends to identify with a practice – we want to be part of a group: homes for identities.
  • Thing: the designed stuff. Activity: the act of working on the thing (hands on action) Role: the “hat” for the person working on this activity. Practice: shared history of learning among people who affiliate strongly with a role
  • Title: a label one is called does not influence what practice you are a member of.