in Information Architecture

Notes from the 2013 IA Summit, Baltimore, MD


Some of the major concepts that kept cropping up for me: #

  • Information Ecosystems
  • Information Ecologies
  • We need better tools
  • The new spirit of IA is, as Christian Crumlish put it: Third Wave IA – or Resmini-Hinton-Arango IA – the high level stuff; what is this, what does it do, what is going on in the user’s brain?


  • “We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” – Marshall McLuhan
  • Do what you do best, and link to the rest. -Jeff Jarvis
  • “Man is a being in search of meaning” -Plato
  • “Language is infrastructure” – Andrew Hinton
  • “Un esprit nouveau souffle aujourd’hui” (There is a new spirit today) -Le Courbusier
  • “Cyberspace is not a place you go to but rather a layer tightly integrated into the world around us.” – Andrea Resmini
  • “IA is focused on the structural integrity of meaning” – Jorge Arango
  • “Once there was a time and place for everything: today, things are increasingly smeared across multiple sites and moments in complex and often indeterminate ways.” W. J. Mitchell
  • “Christina Wodtke makes me brave. She says ‘Here, put this in your mouth.'” -Abbe Covert
  • “The difference between our websites and a ginormous fungus is the the fungus has maintained it’s integrity.” -Lisa Welchman
  • “We live in Einsteinian physics, where things are both a particle and a wave.” -Lisa Welchman
  • “There are usually political barriers to solving information problems on sites. They’re not IA problems.” – Lisa Welchman
  • “I’m doing more IA and UX now as a product manager than I ever did when I was a UX designer” – Donna Lichaw
  • “We may be confused, but we have a community of confusion” – Bryce Glass
  • “Mathematicians have a saying: Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by fighting back.” -Karl Fast
  • “Discovery is not a phase, It is an ongoing activity” -Kerry-Anne Gilowey

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Academics and Practitioners Round Table: Reframing Information Architecture

Creating a timeline of IA “Un esprit nouveau souffle aujourd’hui” (A new spirit breathes [lives] today) #

Talks for Part 1

David Fiorito: The Cultural Dimensions Of Information Architecture. #

Recap and discussion from Part 1

Was Le Corbusier an IA? He was part of our history, one of the people whose shoulders we stand on, but his work must be understood in the context of his time. Calling him an IA wouldn’t be fair. #

Talks for Part 2

(Note: I missed a speaker here, but I think it was Duane Degler) #

Recap and discussion from Part 2

What’s missing around IA in the academic community? #

Activity: create a timeline of IA

Our Timeline of IA as a Discipline #

Talks for Part 3

Dan Klyn: Dutch Uncles, Ducks, And Decorated Sheds #

Recap and discussion from Part 3

IA is about solving a problem. #

Activity – List The Schools Of IA Thought

Reframe IA discussion #

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Workshop – Modeling Structured Content

Mike Atherton #

From background presentation for the workshop:

Don’t reinvent, link! #

  • Define the boundaries of your domain
  • Where objects touch existing models, use them instead of replicating them
  • If canonical content pages already exist on your website for domain objects, link to them
  • Don’t have more than one page covering the same topic
Shared model + shared language + shared understanding = consistent user experience #

From the workshop:

Structured content refers to information or content that has been broken down and classified using metadata. #

  • broken down into discrete concepts
  • classified as real world things and relationships
  • metadata: a structure readable by robots and people
Knowledge rejects rigid structure. #

  • Never duplicate coverage within your own content (one page per thing)
  • Do what you do best and link to the rest
  • Create chunks based on the granularity of the model
  • Be realistic about which parts of the model you can expose

Wrap Up

  • Structured content breaks subjects into things and relationships
  • It begins by talking to experts and users to understand their world
  • The mental model becomes a content model for your whole team
  • Your content needs to be atomized to align to the model
  • Supporting content may be hiding in your business silos
  • “One page per thing” makes content easier to manage and link to
  • Make the best content available for your subject
  • Focus each page around a single topic
  • Structure your content with metadata
  • Link as much as you possibly can

Friday, April 5, 2013

Baltimore Light House #

Keynote: Beyond Mobile, Beyond Web: The Internet of Things Needs Our Help

Scott Jenson #

  • Old model was buy, install, reuse (software)
  • New model is discover, use, forget (experience)
We need a Google for your room. A personal search service for the things that are important to you. #

The World is the Screen: Elements of Information Environments (slides)

Andrew Hinton #

  • Information technology
  • Info organization and design
  • Written / graphical language
  • Spoken language
  • Perception / cognition
Information in three modes #

  • Ecological – how animals perceive/relate to environment
  • Semantic – people communicating with people
  • Digital – digital systems transmitting to and receiving from other digital systems
Traditional cognitive theory assumes the brain is like a computer
Embodied cognition says that the brain uses the body and the environment to understand #

  • we perceive elements in the environments as invariant (persistent) or variant (in flux)
  • we perceive the environment in human-scale terms, not scientific abstractions
  • we perceive the environment as “nested”, not in logical hierarchy
  • Affordance: “the perceived functional properties of objects, places, and events in relation to an individual perceiver.”
Semantic information changes how we experience environment #

The 7th Occasional IA Slam

A design presentation for the American Society for Immortalization Science and Technology #

Poster Sessions & Reception

Poster Night at IA Summit 2013 #

Saturday, April 6, 2013

View of the National Aquarium, Baltimore Inner Harbor #

Links, Nodes, and Order: a unified theory of information architecture (slides)

Jorge Arango #

  • The built world
  • Compounds
  • Buildings
  • Bounding forms
  • Construction materials
Similarly, there is a Node/Link Hierarchy (most complex at the top:) #

  • The noosphere
  • Information ecosystem
  • Product / system
  • Node clusters
  • Individual nodes
We need to apply different approaches to different levels of the node/link hierarchy #

Taxonomy for App Makers (slides)

Andy Fitzgerald #

  • a crossroads of intent and embodiment
  • a foundation for cross channel place-making
  • a tool for building immersive, purpose-driven organization systems based on embodied experience

Ghost in the Shell: Information Architecture in the Age of Post Digital (slides (from a previous version of this talk))

Andrea Resmini #

  • Complexity
  • Multiplicity
  • Postdigital
  • Architecture
There is a new spirit. It’s not towards order but towards disorder and multiplicity
A spirit of context, place and meaning
A spirit of sense-making, … and creating new places for humans to work and play #

Web Governance: Where Strategy Meets Structure (slides)

Peter Morville and Lisa Welchman #

Using Abstraction to Increase Clarity (slides)

Kaarin Hoff #

Metadata in the cross-channel ecosystem: consistency, context, interoperability

Adam Ungstad #

Ontology is things and their relationships. When you have a concept of the space and you express it in a way that can be interchanged, you have an ontology. #

Building the World’s Visual Language

Scott Thomas #

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Inner Harbor from Federal Hill #

Product Is the New Big IA

Christian Crumlish, Bryce Glass, Donna Lichaw #

The Big Challenges of Small Data

Karl Fast #

  • Eyes not size – it’s about the amount of stuff that has passed by my eyes
  • Emotional – Has psychic weight, psychological debt
  • Complex problem
  • Messy
… And yet we focus on the app, not the coordination of the data #

Schrödinger’s IA: Learning To Love Ambiguity

Kerry-Anne Gilowy #

  • We look for answers before we understand the questions.
  • We make decisions too early
  • We ignore things we can’t make fit
  • We keep going through the motions
  • We end up solving the wrong problem
We need ambiguity tolerance #

  1. Be honest
  2. Be confident (we need to solve the right problem)
  3. Communicate early and often
  4. Stay calm. It’s contagious
  5. Have a healthy fear of commitment
  6. Collaborate (with your client)
  7. Commit to the work, not the deliverables

Designing For Failure: How Negative Personas And Failed User Journeys Make A Better Website (slides)

Annie Drynan #

  • We reduce the chance of complaints
  • We make social media a positive force
You can’t control who comes to the site, so you have to try just to not annoy them. #


Books, Articles, and Movies

Blog Posts and Artifacts


    • Thanks, Mike. You’re right: that was the book I was looking for. I’ve updated the list above.

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