So it looks like I’m going to be keynoting the EuroIA conference in Amsterdam in September, and therefore (and not without some irony) re-engaging with the information architecture community I so vocally left behind in the fall of 2006.
Since I’m doing this literally the day after a talk at Picnic ’08, there had been some concern regarding overlap and/or overexposure on the part of the organizers. Which is not entirely unreasonable: while the audiences are separate and distinct, this is after all going to be the third time this year I will have spoken in that fairest of cities, and at some point it’s hard to argue that you’re offering people something truly worth their investment of time.
So I think it’s only fair of me to bring the IA’s some entirely new material – something that builds on the Everyware and The City Is Here work I’ve been doing for the last four years, that is also engineered from the ground up for that specific audience.
I thought I might start with a comment from last September’s LIFT event in Seoul that kind of caught me by surprise: Bruce’s characterization of the person orchestrating a fabject‘s transition into the actual as an “information architect.” I laughed at the time – I daresay that upward of 90% of the people who think of themselves as information architects have never heard the word “fabject” – but I’d also be willing to grant that those two words actually constitute an apposite term for the task and mindset any such endeavor would involve.
I was reminded of this again this morning, as I was sipping Kona and reading Archinect‘s wonderful roundup of “Design and the Elastic Mind” reviews, in which Fred Scharmen makes the astute and very timely observation that
to organize and present information on a sufficiently large and complex scale is to perform a task commensurate with the orchestration and coordination necessary to construct a built space.
And lo! he drops the unutterable words, arguing that they point at
…the existence of another, more all-encompassing way of working and making: a yet-un-named field that comprises the kind of systems-level thinking that architecture itself might be a subset of.
And I find myself kind of nodding my head, y’know? I’m in broad agreement with Fred that this is a very natural way to understand and communicate what’s bound up in this critical twenty-first century domain of practice, and everything involved in shepherding (spatial, experiential and social) artifacts between their virtual and actual manifestations.
The challenge, of course, is that this is information architecture as virtually none of the people practicing that endeavor today understand it.
Now the very last thing I want to do is reactivate any of the dull, passionate, and ultimately pointless nomenclatural debates that roiled IA circa 1999-2000. I do think it would be of interest, though, to present the idea to the people currently practicing something they think of as information architecture that a phase transition may be about to unfold across their field of practice, success in which will demand the exercise of skills and orientations that are currently external to their worldview. I dunno: what do you think?