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No Static: IA for Dynamic Information Environments

About the Talk

March 24, 2018 12:00 PM

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

"Information architecture is evolving as our information/technology landscape evolves from the more deliberate perspective of “organization” that focuses on creating stable, carefully crafted structures. IA fosters understanding and meaning, which is highly contextual and personal. IA also embraces rich language and model structures, driven by the increasing availability of taxonomies and data that is represented within ontologies. IA is increasingly pervasive, providing frameworks for interactions in place as well as physical/digital blended spaces. And IA responds to the move toward a more data-driven web, where institutions collaborate and share information in dynamic ways, and we see signs of convergence across our information models, our platforms/devices, and our shared environments.

Even simple websites and applications have to take into account integrations with other systems, information and data sources, and users. Modern information architectures are not static. What does it mean to “architect” a dynamic connected ecosystem?

  • They are driven by adaptive user behaviors and experiences.
  • They are driven by learning engines that identify and model behaviors, and evolve the experience in response.
  • They are driven by taxonomies (codification of language), ontologies (codification of structures of meaning in a context), models (frameworks that allow technology and information to respond to users and context), and technologies (including delivery technology as well as machine learning and metadata-driven tools that can be highly adaptive.
  • They are founded on organizational collaborations, where information is managed by different groups of people with different cultures and work practices, and yet is used in integrated ways.
  • They are contextualized and impacted by numerous other devices and parameters in the surrounding environment.

It is not just the information, integrated from multiple sources, that creates dynamic conditions in our architectures. Another way we are seeing the emergence of dynamic spaces is in the idea of portable personal profiles: Attributes for interests and preferences that can be carried with a user and applied to different sites. These exist today (although they may not be thought of in this way), through mobile preference settings, cloud-based accounts for services and applications, Facebook/Twitter/Google logins on 3rd party sites, and ad services that capture web browsing patterns and apply similar interest-based ads across multiple sites. When you design an information resource that responds to these profiles, there are potentially variables that affect your information architecture that are outside of your control.

All the elements above are the building materials used in the practice of information architecture to create dynamic spaces that engage users and evolve over time.

This all sounds very complex. And yet, to evolve our practice and understanding of IA, we need to begin to make it practical. We need to understand the capabilities and limitations of our digital building materials.

This talk focuses on understanding what factors increase the dynamic natures of the architectures we must create. It looks at attributes of users, context, structured data, and the interplay of different sources of information. We will discuss how IAs can identify “volatility” (features most likely to be affected by dynamics) that need special attention in design. We will explore ways of increasing transparency, helping users understand the status of information and providing ways for them to control the nature of their interaction. We will prioritize areas of flexibility in our spaces, allowing stakeholders and the information itself to shape their form. And we will briefly outline the kinds of technical capabilities that are helping to foster this ability to be dynamic, including AI as well as a host of device and interaction modes, to understand how they behave and have “agency” within the ecosystems we create in the future (and, in some cases, the present)."

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