A Quick Reminder about IA’s Role in Social Design

There’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about a collective Eureka moment where we’ve all come to realize that the Internet, the Web, and designing User Experiences for those platforms, is “really about People … not products and information.”

I think it’s great that more folks are coming to this realization.

But in the same breath, some of these folks will then say that Information Architecture is hopelessly out of touch with this reality … that IA is ‘dead’ or that there’s no such thing as an information architecture, since it’s all user-driven nowadays. I’m not going to point to specific instances, because I’m not posting this to start more flame wars … just to finally state something I wish I’d blogged over a year ago.

What these (I’m sure well-meaning) people don’t seem to grasp is that the IA community has been focused on social infrastructures for a very long time. Some of the most successful writing and design has come from members of this practitioner community — witness Epinions, Slideshare, and PublicSquare just to name a few platforms. Members of this community have published books and blogs at the forefront of social design thinking.

In fact, in the much-maligned “Manifesto” the IAI posted back in 2002, there was this language:

* One goal of information architecture is to shape information into an environment that allows users to create, manage and share its very substance in a framework that provides semantic relevance.
* Another goal of information architecture is to shape the environment to enable users to better communicate, collaborate and experience one another.
* The latter goal is more fundamental than the former: information exists only in communities of meaning. Without other people, information no longer has context, and no longer informs.

I’ll take the blame for some of the corny language in that document — but hey, it was a manifesto for crying out loud … a bit of purple prose is par for the course.

The point is, this has always been part of our community’s focus. If people don’t realize that, they’ve not been paying attention.

There. It feels good to get things off one’s chest, no? :-) Ok… carry on.

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  • http://www.elisabethhubert.com Lis

    Here here! People are where it always starts for an IA and they are always at the forefront of our thinking. Great post.