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Personal Ontology Maps; A Way to Get to Good

A talk by Kat King at IA Summit 2018

About the Talk

March 23, 2018 2:15 PM

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

"our community's iconic leaders for us to do work that is good for humanity, that is ethical, and that is True. This talk responds directly to the calls of past IAS Keynotes, and to the ongoing attempts to ""reframe IA"" by not by calling for a general code of ethics, but by explaining how our personal ontologies are related to our work, proposing a framework for how we might think about Truth and Goodness, and then providing a model for each of us to articulate our personal frameworks.

This talk will sit at the convergence of Information Architecture, Philosophy, and Ethics. The work we do as information architects involves translating the abstract rules of meaning of and being into the concrete structures of websites, enterprise systems, and organizational strategies, and that can't help but be informed by our personal views of how the universe works, and how to be good. I'll talk at each stage about how what I am saying applies to our daily work, and our development as a profession. The talk will roughly follow the outline below:

Truth is irreducible The models we make, and ways we have for framing the world are inherently incomplete, and that's ok. The best models are not those that have the highest fidelity, but those that are clear and useful; wireframes, personas, and ethical frameworks need to say something clear, even if they lack detail. . The purpose of models do is make our assumptions explicit to enable a conversation and consensus about what is best to do, based on resources and desired future states. They serve as tent stakes in the shifting sands of what is, allowing us the stability we need to create.

Diversity of Heuristics Work by scholars in complex systems and economics shows that groups that use diverse heuristics are better at solving problems. I'll explain how diverse ways of thinking and heuristics for measuring success lead to better solutions. I'll talk about what this means for our daily work making models, and for our field as a whole.

Good is a Process I'll argue that we can't measure goodness as a 'yes/no' because goodness is not a destination, it is a process. Products and projects that are good when they are first created can become bad when placed in new contexts (classic example: dynamite) and it's impossible for us to predict all possible uses. Because of this, we need a process which encourages us to test our ideas with diverse sets of values, and models for thinking about the future.

Personal Ontologies/Ethical codes The second half of the talk will argue that that each of us needs to be able to articulate our personal ontology and ethical code, for the same reasons we need to use models of user ontologies and needs in our work to make effective solutions. I'll briefly present my personal ontology map and my Ethical statement, and the explain how to make your own even if you've never given it much thought. An ontology map concisely captures your personal view of what matters and an ethical statement provides you with an easy heuristic for measuring things against your own values. I'll show the audience how to gather the criteria that matter to them, and then create these tools for their own use.

Then I'll use examples of real projects to show how these articulated ontologies/values could make our conversations about what we ought to do as members of a team, as Information Architects, or even as citizens more useful by helping us have the difficult discussions to proactively prevent bad designs"

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