The Future[s] of IA

This session is from Peter Morville and Karl Fast.

Morville speaks up for defining the damn thing — says it’s central to information architecture.

The kinds of information architecture

  • Classic IA — The polar bear book.
  • Web strategy — Making web, mobile and social connect.
  • Cross-channel – Making physical and digital work together.
  • Intertwingularity — Ubiquitous, ambient findability.

All exist today but they are unevenly distributed.

Morville has been working with the Library of Congress for 3 years — improving their web presence. [Good!! Their sites are horrible!! Whew!] He has given them lots of wireframes and recommendations, but says the most important work he’s done is educating them on the need for IA.

Morville shares a great quote from Jorge Arango:

Where architects use forms and spaces to design environments for inhabitation, information architects use nodes and links to create environments for understanding.

Making the argument that everything is intertwingled –we don’t have the vocabulary to talk about how intertwined our information, products, experiences, spaces and knowledge are.

Who gets it? Who makes intertwingled experiences?

  • Apple
  • Nike–Making running social. Conspicuous consumption->conspicuous experience.
  • GlowCaps–Medicine bottles that remind you to take your meds.
  • Smart scales that can tweet our weight: Morville: “A good reminder that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Need to keep redefining what we do to stay flexible.

IAs need to go beyond wireframes — map the org chart, the systems, the workflow, the people and the process.

Going back to the first IA Summit, IA is about empathy for the user.

Karl Fast is up next.

Facebook is the largest photo repository in the whole world…and it isn’t their core mission. Talks about number of searches in Google, number of videos uploaded to YouTube. The numbers are too boggling for us to understand.

We are now in a place that we have always tried to achieve–ubiquitous access to information. Says it is a disservice to argue [like Nicholas Carr in The Shallows] that information overload is bad for us.

We don’t just have more information — we have more information, computation, devices and people.

How do we deal with all this information? Three ways:

  • Deliberate structure — the IA approach.
  • The Google approach — Computation.
  • Coordinated group action — the Wikipedia approach.

Three new ways:

  • Deep interaction — Not just touch. Why do we talk with our hands? Just like raising voice, pausing, it gives extra information. Why do we do it on the phone? Ah, it’s learned behavior. Why do people who are blind talk with their hands? Cognitive psych studies about this suggest that gesturing helps us think, and that not gesturing constrains our thinking.
    Embodied cognition tells us that thinking about our brain as the processor, the body as the output, and senses as input is a very limited view.
    Spectrum: One one end, mind and body are separate. Other side, mind and body are integrated with each other and the world around them — Fast says we’re far on the first side, and we need to shuffle over toward the integration side.
  • Coordination — or orchestration. Our lives are about coordination.
    PHINGS — Physical, Haptic, Interactive and information-rich, Networked and Next-Generation, Stuff on Surfaces
    We coordinate information, but people, things, etc.
  • Mess — Compares two images of Steve Jobs…one in spare environment that appeared in Time, an iconic image of “the genius at work.” The second, a photo of his home office, a complete disaster. Fast says mess is a fundamental part of how we work and learn. Why do we think order is better? Why is mess negative?

Fast: Information is cheap. Understanding is expensive.