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The poetics of information architecture

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Closing plenary at ASIS&T EuroIA 2013. Full notes included. Follow-up article in the making (as of Oct 2013)

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The poetics of information architecture

  2. 2. INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE ANDREA @RESMINI CLOSING PLENARY, EUROIA 2013 EDINBURGH THE POETICS OF (*) I'm aware that closing plenaries are usually used for bringing all of the loose threads together. Recapping what a conference was about. It may disappoint you, but I will not do that. The conference has been full of love, passion and IA as it's always been. 9 years. You all will bring your own individual best moments back home, the excitement, the unexpected eye-opener, the funny one-liner, the snarky comment, the new way of thinking or approaching an issue or an opportunity. They will stay with you. I simply will not try to pretend that I can be brief and to the point. I'm usually all over the place. But that is, at least for once, fine, because I strongly believe that what we need now, as a community of research, education and practice, is to get into a lower gear, a slower pace. And reflect. It also seems to me that there can be no place more fitting than EuroIA to bring to tentative closure a conversation that was first publicly laid on the table 4 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee. EuroIA has always made cross-cultural pollination one of its best assets, and it seems just right that the sound of those trumpets is answered by the toll of a thousand different bells. Plus, cross-cultural puts me at advantage when it comes to language. As someone who can't clearly speak the Queen's English, has an immigrant grasp of his adopted Swedish, and can't even speak his mother tongue properly anymore, I'm a perfect European.
  3. 3. WHAT IS POETICS? (*) So, what exactly is poetics? More importantly, what is poetics to be within the scope of our field and profession? There is a linguistic connection with our craft there that we are mostly unaware of: the word “poetry” comes from the Greek “poiesis”, which means “making”. And information architecture is about the act of making: architectures, structures, and meaning. So poetics should be interesting to us.
  4. 4. POETICS IS MAKING HERMENEUTICS IS INTERPRETATION (*) Poetics does not concern itself with the meaning of a text, with interpretation, as that's a job for its cryptically-named sibling hermeneutics.
  5. 5. HUGO WEAVING, THE LORD OF THE RINGS (*) (I feel I need to apologize for saying “hermeneutics” when I'm just at the 3rd slide of a closing plenary. Now I know how the hobbits felt when they kept saying “Mordor” in Rivendell and the elves where swooning all over the place like ballerinas in the final act of a bad ballet. And Elrond had this mad angry look on his face.)
  6. 6. ERIC REISS, THE LORD OF THE RINGS (*) BTW, just like Eric's right now.
  7. 7. POETICS IS CONCERNED WITH UNDERSTANDING HOW THE DIFFERENT ELEMENTS OF A TEXT COME TOGETHER AND PRODUCE THEIR EFFECTS (*) Poetics I was saying, is rather concerned with understanding how the different elements of a text come together and produce effects on the reader. It is about the act of making. What do I do in order to achieve a certain objective, produce a certain effect. Once I have a clearer understanding of the mechanism, once I'm aware of the rules, I can bend them to form and communicate my own personal vision.
  8. 8. WHAT IS TEXT IN INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE? (*) This of course brings in another problem I'm sure is not escaping you all, with the possible exception of the guy who's snoring loudly in the third row (hello sir, please do not let me disturb you): what is a text, in information architecture terms. Where do poetics come in? Does such a thing as an information architecture artifact even exist? To answer this question, I need to take you on a brief journey. But before we venture down this road we need to let go of idea that I'm addressing people and job roles or titles. Information architects, user experience designers, interaction designers, service designers, content strategists. That's absolutely uninteresting. I honestly do not care about labels. When I say information architecture, I mean the field: education, research and practice. If I'm allowed to steal a good line from Jason Hobbs, if somebody asks you “what is that you do”, lie. Tell them you run a drug cartel. It's easier and less complicated.
  9. 9. GEORGIA TECH (*) If we go back to the late 1990s, when what I call classical information architecture was going mainstream, computing was a very different beast from what it is today.
  10. 10. COMPUTING WAS A SPECIFIC ACTIVITY STILL CONFINED TO CLEARLY IDENTIFIED BOUNDED AREAS IN SPACE AND TIME (*) Rosenfeld & Morville Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, the Polar Bear book, comes out in 1998 after having been in the making for a couple of years.
  11. 11. THE WEB IS THE UNIFYING FACTOR FOR MANY DIFFERENT COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES AND WILDLY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONTENT Lou Rosenfeld& Peter Morville, 1998 (*) Rosenfeld and Morville saw the Web as a universal aggregator. Still, computing was a specific activity confined to clearly identified, bounded areas in space and time. The office, the home, the living room. Once you were done, you walked away. Computing did not follow. If your computer was off, email wasn't delivered. Simple as that.
  12. 12. COMPUTER ROOM, SANTA BARBARA (*) Now fast forward 15 years. It's today. Screens have gotten thinner, but that's not the only change.
  14. 14. http://www.flickr.com/photos/frogfoto/ RICHARD STERN (*) We are constantly connected through personal, often mobile devices. Computing has become embedded in the fabric of reality. Information is produced, consumed and remediated through phones.
  15. 15. (*) Tablets.
  16. 16. (*) Rabbits, as improbable as it sounds.
  17. 17. AHX-FL1CKR, CC2.0 BYhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/ahxcjb/3552828240/ (*) When it's not us, it's real-time, ambient displays or touchpoints, service avatars.
  18. 18. ARAM BARTHOLL, DEAD DROPS (*) Information has bled out of computers and into physical space. Sometimes literally. Aram Bartholl is a German artist who created the Dead Drops anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network. USB sticks protrude from walls in public space. You can upload or download at will: anyone can access a Dead Drop and everyone may install a Dead Drop in their neighborhood. The only rules are that a Dead Drop must be public accessible and mounted read / write without any custom software. Each Dead Drop is a singular, individual item. It is a powerful artistic statement about the pervasiveness of computing and its new interest in place, location, and context.
  19. 19. (*) So welcome to cyberspace. I want you to stop one second here. The point is not just that we are jacked in into cyberspace all of the time, without the fun of zero-gravity kung fu: there is a subtler but much more momentous change happening here. Our perception of digital and physical is changing because of this. Our perception of the boundaries between the two is shifting. Our perception of the very existence of a boundary is getting blurrier by the minute. Computers, places, and people are on the same side of the mirror. We tumbled all the way down the rabbit hole, and it's still turtle after turtle here, and they are all connected.
  20. 20. WIKIPEDIA (*) Show this to your average teenager, you will get blank stares. Not surprising, right? You should see my daughter rolling her eyes when I gesture to her “call me” and I do this (turns an imaginary rotary dial).
  21. 21. (*) Easy laugh, right? Old man coming in. But show them this and you will get blank stares too. Boring. Old. Music is immaterial, comes in links, pokes, shares. It's in Spotify, Pandora, a friend's playlist on Youtube. It's a service you access from a mountain top and not certainly something you buy on a thin plastic wafer.
  22. 22. (*) When people said “architecture”, many thought bricks and walls.
  23. 23. (*) But it wasn't. It never really was. Architecture is intent and meaning. Flows and connections. The pulse and image of a city. Its character. Its sense of place. This is what we bring to information space: record stores might be out, but music is still in. This is what information architecture is about: making sense of complex information-based ecosystems, making architectures of information that stand regardless of the support they use. It has been websites, sure, at least for the practice and for a little while.
  24. 24. (*) Same way photography has long been about film, right? As much as photography is about the act of taking pictures and not film itself, as your camera phones clearly illustrate, information architecture is about the act of creating meaning and understanding: not a website, not a mobile app, not a signage system, but all of them together, unpredictably connected, remediated, reconfigurable in multiple architectures of meaning, because such is the nature of our experience in 2013: we constantly move across channels, producing ripples on the map as we go.
  25. 25. (*) The primary artifact of information architecture, unlike those of other fields of design, is abstract: it is “sense-making” – the arrangement and organization of information structures that exist primarily as the conceptual model of an information-based ecosystem. Elements such as navigation, or search, are like signs in a way-finding system: their value relies in their being meaningful parts of this emergent whole. Even when fully collected, they still fall short of “being” the whole.
  26. 26. 江南風格 (???) (*) You can collect all of the letters or pictograms used in a specific language, but you will not be blessed with enlightenment until you grok the system itself and its rules.
  27. 27. 江南風格 (Gangnam style) (*) (Enlightenment, remember)
  28. 28. http://www.flickr.com/photos/16801915@N06/5982168522/ READING TOM - SUN STUDIO, MEMPHIS (*) In 2009, the IA Summit went to Memphis. Jesse James Garrett was the closing plenary speaker. Mr Garrett delivered an amazing, extremely controversial talk with no slides, pacing down the room and addressing attendees directly, reading notes from his mobile phone.
  29. 29. JESSE JAMES GARRETT, ADAPTIVE PATH (*) Mr Garret's Memphis Plenary had a central question at its core: why are we still fighting yesterday's wars? Why are we not pressing on? What we have done so far is only a part of what information architecture is. We talk about taxonomies, thesaurus, controlled vocabulary, metadata, faceted classification, navigation, content management, tagging. These are tools, methods, our hammers and nails.
  30. 30. JESSE JAMES GARRETT, MEMPHIS PLENARY We agree that some IA is better than no IA But is there such a thing as “bad IA”? (*) And while we discuss hammers, we are not aware the world has moved on. We are not addressing the proverbial elephant in the room. Those methods, they helped us prove that yes, IA is real and valuable. We agree IA is real. It is good. Sure we want IA, and some IA is better than no IA, as your iPhones can testify (as in: they need more). But is there such a thing as "bad IA"? If you do what Mr Garrett called a “thorough, responsible job, following all the agreed-upon best practices”, can you still come up with a very bad solution? Mr Garrett thought nobody could provide an answer to that question. I think he was right.
  31. 31. DO WE NEED POETICS? (*) It's 2013. Suppose Mr Garrett is still right (as I said, I agree) and we cannot critique information architecture. That means, we cannot say if any given information architecture we see is either good or bad, and to what degree. Do we need a poetic of information architecture then? Is it going to make any difference?
  32. 32. LOU ROSENFELD, ROSENFELD MEDIA (*) Well, if I cannot say what is good or bad, then why should I pay big money to Lou Rosenfeld and have him rehaul my company's digital presence when his work is indistinguishable from what my 13-year-old daughter can concoct on Weebly over a weekend?
  33. 33. Responsive omni-channel design All inclusive Can’t beat our hourly fees Call +46 95 146349 for a quote WE DELIVER! USE CODE: GANGNAMSTYLE (*) (BTW, she's very good at layouts and child labor is not a problem at our house. Give us a call and use the code you see on the screen for a discount or just talk to me after the plenary).
  34. 34. (*) I think we all agree we certainly have a naïve appreciation of what is good and what is bad. But what we ordinarily do, which is wing it mostly on the basis of some inclinations that we would have troubles substantiating into anything more than personal opinions, is not really something we should be proud of as researchers, educators, practitioners. One day, Facebook is the mother of all evils: it cropped my picture wrong and ate my witty reply to some friend's lolcat. Then, when Facebook hires me to redo their messaging system, I suddenly see the light. Facebook is the Garden of Eden, and the rest of the world a bunch of elitists. 1.15 billion people are using Facebook, right? I'm afraid this is not really a satisfactory answer. Too many dimensions are lost here. Good or bad, our judgment stays skin-deep. We need to go deeper. This is even more important if you consider that the overwhelming majority of artifacts we have around us are not the product of “design”, or genius design, but rather of tradition, craft or industrial processes.
  35. 35. PHILIPPE STARCK, JUICY SALIF (*) For any Juicy Salif citrus presser Philippe Starck can come up with while sketching squids on a napkin, you have a thousand
  36. 36. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stazee/6955099577/ STAZI KOLOSOVA, KITCHENWARE - CC BY 2.0 (*) run-of-the-mill kitchen tools that are simply meant to work for a given amount of time.
  37. 37. (*) For any Thonet chair, the simple elegance of a few pieces of wood steamed and bent into obedience, you have a million traditional chairs with no genius pedigree whatsoever. For any of us who has a sparkle, there's a million groping more or less blindly in the darkness, doing the best we can, following in the footsteps of the common language of the trade. We might have no greatness in us: that's fine, we can live with that. That's why establishing a need for an explicit approach to poetics, a common understanding of what poetics is and what it means for information architecture is absolutely necessary.
  38. 38. GASTON BACHELARD (*) I need to get a book into this conversation. Gaston Bachelard wrote “The Poetics of Space” in 1964. It was a radical reframing of how human space was to be interpreted. It is an important book for what it says, and for it significance: poetics of space? How is that possible? How can we read space?
  39. 39. A HOUSE THAT HAS BEEN EXPERIENCED IS NOT AN INERT BOX INHABITED SPACE TRANSCENDS GEOMETRICAL SPACE (*) Bachelard brings in interior narrative as a fundamental element of understanding space, and he starts from the house, the closet, as perfect micro-representations of our personal universes. In those same years, Otto Bollnow was writing Of Man and Space, working on an idea of anthropological space, that is, a human space of relationships, which made place the center of conversations. Both books basically tell us that there's much to space and place than geometry.
  41. 41. SETTING IS THE ARCHITECTURE AROUND WHICH A STORY REVOLVES (*) Setting (Andrew Hinton would probably call it context and I tend to give it the connotation of place), says Bachelard, is much more than background scenery. It is the architecture around which a story revolves. Plot and character are certainly important, but setting is up there with them. This is why so many stories we might have heard a million times still resonate with us.
  42. 42. PLACE IS THE ARCHITECTURE AROUND WHICH A STORY REVOLVES (*) Place is the architecture around which our narratives and our sense-making revolve. It is the locus where the prose of information architecture resides. Place is not bound by geometries, websites, mobile apps, or bits: neither is information architecture.
  43. 43. J. R. R. TOLKIEN, THE HALL OF BAG END (*) Place is where we pause and dwell. The nest from where our stories begin. Even imaginary stories. Even stories that happen in information space. Or that cross borders constantly.
  44. 44. (*) Bachelard is examining architecture. The house is also a powerful archetype. Is such a structured poetic to be found also in utilitarian buildings? In services? In the day-to-day work of us who are not the Gehrys, the Moores, or the Nolans of our generation? The answer is positive. Yes, only even more visible, naive, unfiltered, unaware. Unsophisticated. Waving in the wind, running behind fads. We can see this clearly in the media. How the good or bad vibrations of any period are best represented and made explicit, mostly inadvertently, in its B-movies and its pulp fiction. Or in the craft of those who play, at different levels of skills, with the structure of things to produce new meanings.
  45. 45. STEPHEN KING, IT (*) I must confess at this point that I love Stephen King. I'm a big fan. Even when not at his best, the man is a skilled artisan. You probably have at least heard of this novel, written in 1985: if nothing else, you have seen the TV miniseries, whose only merit is probably that of confirming clowns are scary as hell ...
  46. 46. TIM CURRY, IT (*) … and they are even scarier if you might happen to picture them in stilettos and a guepiere because you were around in the 1970s and 1980s. Anyway, the story is a quintessential postmodern tale that recaps 60 years of American monster stories. King plays roughly and elegantly with all stereotypes, giving us a melancholic elegy that is primarily about childhood and its magic, its monsters, and how growing up is forgetting, losing the shine. Nothing of this transpires in the miniseries, btw. This is all about setting, about creating new meanings from restructuring consolidated patterns, which is like saying understanding the poetics of the horror story, prying them open, and exposing the machinery. King is a master crafter when it comes to this sort of literary game, which is why I love all of his writing even when it's clear he's not really making an effort.
  47. 47. (*) Such as in this case, for example.
  48. 48. GEORGE LUCAS, STARWARS (*) When Star Wars came out in 1977, what is now Episode IV – A New Hope if you pay any attention to George Lucas at all (and I think we all love George Lucas the way we love the deranged uncle who comes to visit in his underpants, that is, with a certain amount of suffering), I was one of the kids who sat in a cinema and sucked that movie in. I loved it. It took ewoks and a storyline that was crazier than the stories you hear at an Italian family reunion to sober me up. I didn't want to be witness to Darth Vader charging in his underpants (and I'm sure you appreciate the irony), and I'm glad I got to avoid those Jar Jar Binkses everyone talks about.
  49. 49. AKIRA KUROSAWA, THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (*) One of the things I didn't know at the time was that Mr Lucas, geeky as hell and fresh out of cinema school, had basically constructed what is arguably his masterpiece refitting Kurosawa's “Hidden Fortress” in space. Now, I leave that for you to ponder (KUROSAWA! IN SPACE!) whenever you feel the urge to watch anything with General Grievous or young emo Darth Vader in it. In his underpants. What is interesting to us, is that this is again a remix that is based on understanding the poetics of a specific language. In this case, that of cinema. The point being that, as much as in the best of King's work, most of what is valuable here comes from having some poetics we can rely on in the first place. Breaking new grounds through a thorough comprehension of the topoi a well-known grammar gives us.
  50. 50. GUILLERMO DEL TORO, PACIFIC RIM (*) For those of you who are still a few years away from your hearing aids and might have issues relating to the original Star Wars, there's a very recent example which I believe played too well with the mechanics of poetics within a specific subgenre: mechas and monsters. I mean, this should be better than bacon, right?
  51. 51. GUILLERMO DEL TORO, PACIFIC RIM (*) Unfortunately, Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim stays so within the boundaries of the genre that our reactions are either unfiltered awe, as we are 11 again, or total disconnection. I loved the movie, but I understand that for many cliches are not appreciated as the postmodern game they are supposed to be, irony and pastiche, but as literal declarations, and they hence fall short of delivering any “new” experience.
  52. 52. HIDEAKI ANNO, NEON GENESIS EVANGELION (*) So, regardless of Mr Del Toro himself producing long lists of the anime and live action shows that he intended to homage and bring to life again, most of the cognoscenti have been hand picking references as betrayals, with a special attention to how supposedly Pacific Rim is a “rip off” of the cult Japanese anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. A concept, that of rip off, that we could frame as one of the basic element of the poetics of postmodernism.
  53. 53. WE HAVE TO BE CONSCIOUS OF THE STRINGS AND PULLEYS ANDREW HINTON, LINKOSOPHY (*) Where does this take us? Well, there’s machinery working. Being naïve could only take us so far. While the viewers might be blissfully unaware of the ugly mess that produces meaning for them, the director, the actors, the screenwriters have to be conscious of how the machinery works. Are we? To what extent? Do we know all the tricks of the strings and pulleys that move stage props behind the scenes? I'm afraid not. Even if we do, we are doing a Del Toro here.
  54. 54. (*) Do we need a poetic of information architecture? Not necessarily, I would say, if all we long for is 5pm and Fridays. If all we aspire to is Weebly or something equivalent. If we don't fear a Pacific Rim meltdown (and I'm not speaking in terms of financial success, but in terms of cultural acceptance and relevance).
  55. 55. WE NEED POETICS (*) But if we are shooting higher, if we want to describe something in terms of good and bad, if we want to have a language of critique, we need poetics. If we want to get away from having opinions about people and hold positions about artifacts, we need poetics. So many conversations we have are never about the artifact itself. They are conversations about someone's public persona and as such, at least to me, as interesting as knowing Miss Universe's one-sentence solution for world peace. Conversations about conversations. Poetics are a way to structure a language of critique so that we can justify a specific reification of someone's beliefs, and discuss that. Right now, we are only presumptuously using artifacts to ignite a dialog about the ideas we might have in our head, with the Weeblies of the world in the background.
  56. 56. YOU ARE THE ARCHITECTS YOU ARE ARCHITECTING THIS PROCESS Lisa Welchman, “You are the Architects” (*) In the end, if we want to mature this field and really become the architects Lisa was talking about, we need poetics.
  57. 57. WHAT POETICS (*) Poetics is not fads and fashion. After some 20 years, we can recognize fads when they come along. Most of these are skin-level, and do not really produce significant changes to the information architecture. I personally have no problems with fads, but I have a problem when we confuse layers, the finger and the moon, as we might be missing something.
  58. 58. (*) A couple of weeks ago this blog post was all over the Internets. “Cards are the future of the Web”. And the post is cute. Only, it is horribly superficial. I'm pretty sure cards are the way to go. I'm not the only one to think it is so either.
  59. 59. JOI ITO, http://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/6148366348/, CCBY 2.0 DAVID WEINBERGER (*) David Weinberger wrote “Small Pieces Loosely Joined” in 2002. It's a lucid description of the changes brought along by the Internet.
  60. 60. THE WEB HAS BLOWN DOCUMENTS APART (*) And it definitely addresses the problem of “cards”. It only gets it right. “The Web has blown documents apart”.
  61. 61. THE STRUCTURE OF DOCUMENTS HAS CHANGED, NOT JUST THE WAY THEY ARE CONNECTED TO ONE ANOTHER (*) “The structure of documents has changed, not just the way they are connected to one another”.
  62. 62. BOUNDED VOLUMES BECOME COLLECTIONS THAT THE READER CAN CONSULT IN THE ORDER SHE WANTS D. Weinberger,2002.Small Pieces Loosely Joined (*) “Bounded volumes become collections that the reader can consult in the order she wants”.
  63. 63. (*) So, apart from being somewhat 11 years late to the game, why does that blog post miss its mark? Because it conflates a structural change, an information architecture change, the real change we should be working on and certainly not a change that happened three weeks ago, with a change in visual styling. Cards are not important because Google loves them, they use overly thin fonts, a flat look and lots of white.
  64. 64. (*) Cards are important because that is what we do and we have been doing ever since the idea of Web 2.0 came around.
  65. 65. (*) My Facebook page is cards. And this is a profound shift from what we had in the late 90s. Only, it does not stop there and it's not about cards. It is about understanding the deeper level at which systems that span many different channels, places and devices work. It is about understanding the underlying poetics. Facebook is about remediation, user participation, correlation, linking, connecting, showing off, turning yourself into a museum of you, a calculated mixture of the rough and raw and the constructed. It is about post-production filtering and the linearity of Western time (Would a Balinese FB work the same way, with the same timeline? I seriously doubt it). How do we move in to appreciate the way all the different elements come together to produce effects, and what effects, on the actors within a system without being mindless fashionistas?
  66. 66. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (*) A foundational question is whether we can reuse or adapt elements of critique from other languages. My answer to this is yes, we can and we should. Making sense of experiences is what narrative and place-making have always been doing. We can read a book and be elsewhere, as much as we do when we follow Luke away from Tatooine. This is like saying new media and architecture can certainly provide key elements to what is really “one” of the possible poetics of IA. Others might consider different aspects, or have a different reading of people, artifacts, and events. In time, this will develop in schools of thought, and in different languages of critique, including most probably a Reissian critique of IA that will involve a lot of snarky tweets and quite a few canard a l'orange.
  67. 67. INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE IS THE APPLICATION OF ARCHITECTURAL PRINCIPLES TO THE DOMAIN OF INFORMATION Lucas,Ballay &McManus, Trillions (*) But my take is that information architecture is application of architectural principles, where architecture here as a capital A, to the domain of information in both physical and digital space. Since Memphis, a few people have been contributing to a conversation that has moved IA behind those war stories shared between veterans Mr Garrett was talking about. In no particular order and with no pretense for this to be exhaustive (this is my poetics, this is my list):
  68. 68. JORGE ARANGO (*) Jorge Arango, fellow architect, past president of the Information Architecture Institute, a love of Disney and Alexander. Read his article Architectures at the Journal of IA.
  69. 69. DAN KLYN, THE UNDERSTANDING GROUP (*) Dan Klyn, of TUG. Also teaching information architecture at the University of Michigan, not a simple heirloom to manage.
  70. 70. (*) Dan has been investigating the relationship between architecture and design, and is single-handedly responsible for bringing Richard Saul Wurman back into our conversations.
  71. 71. JASON HOBBS, NOMENSA (*) Jason Hobbs, a partner in crime.
  72. 72. JOHANNESBURG ART GALLERY (*) His investigations to bring information architecture in as a way to solve wicked problems in cross-channel ecosystems, such as his work at the Joburg Art Gallery, and his research and teaching with Terence Fenn at the University of Johannesburg run through any conversations you have been having at this conference.
  73. 73. ANDREW HINTON, THE UNDERSTANDING GROUP (*) Andrew Hinton, of TUG. Andrew has been around forever. He's currently writing a book on context, and be sure you read it when it comes out.
  74. 74. (*) In 2008, Andrew delivered the closing plenary at the IA Summit with his talk on Linkosophy. This is a fascinating talk on the disruptive power of hyperlinking, and an early take on information architecture as architecture.
  75. 75. SHAPING CONTEXT AND CONNECTIONS IS AN ACT OF ARCHITECTURE A NEW FORM OF SPACE REQUIRES A NEW FORM OF ARCHITECTURE SPACE MADE OF INFORMATION REQUIRES INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE ANDREW HINTON, LINKOSOPHY (*) I'm with Andrew here, but saying that I believe that information architecture is mostly about architecting information, and not informing architectures (or whatever), does not make thing immediately simpler. Quite the contrary. We don't get ready made poetics we can use as-is, as sometimes it seems we are keen on doing. This is a different thing. When we apply directly, we are still committing sins of shallowness. For example, something I hear a lot is that we should strive for simplicity. Simplicity is highly valued in architecture, right? Seems like a good foundation for a poetics of information architecture, wouldn't you say so?
  76. 76. http://www.flickr.com/photos/frogfoto/ RICHARD STERN (*) Me, I'm not sure. This is a postdigital world, where physical and digital are constantly remixed in unpredictable ways, and not the world of the 1930s.
  77. 77. LUDWIG MIES VAN DERROHE (*) Because if we say simplicity, that's what we are thinking of: the 1920s and 1930s, and this is the man: Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. German-American architect, last director of the Bauhaus in Berlin, then in Chicago.
  78. 78. LESS IS MORE Ludwig Mies VanDer Rohe He of “Less is more” and one of the giants of Modernism. Died in 1969 so he sure carries no responsibility for the icons you have in your phone now. Just so you know.
  79. 79. MIES VAN DER ROHE, BARCELONA PAVILLION (*) The Barcelona Pavillion, which is really the German pavilion at the Barcelona Exposition in 1929, is one of Mies' most famous and exemplary works. Straight lines, free plan, primary surfaces and volumes. An apotheosis of Modern architecture, of simplicity if you will, of the right true way to do things. It also hides an extreme attention to detail.
  80. 80. GOD IS IN THE DETAILS Ludwig Mies VanDer Rohe (*) Maybe you don't know this, but Mies used to say also that “God is in the details”. But I agree, “Less is more” is definitely more catchy in more secular times.
  82. 82. (*) Anyway, I'm pretty sure most of you are thinking of the Google homepage. Less is definitely more here, as opposed to the original ordered clutter of Yahoo! Google was replacing. So, this is the way to go right? Simplicity. Take away as much as you can, what remains is what is necessary, Watson.
  83. 83. ROCOCOPALACE, LATE BAROQUE (*) Right. But unfortunately, that means we could probably not only ditch most of the heritage of Rococo, late Baroque, and some hundred years of architecture, but also that papers such as ...
  84. 84. (*) … Aftonbladet, founded 1830, on the Internet since 1994 and one of the top five visited sites in Sweden, are wrong. Go tell them that. Don't forget: less is more is a Modernist take. We can't pick and choose (this is what postmodernism does). If we go modern, we go modern all the way.
  85. 85. SHIGERU BAN (*) Simplicity is also where architecture is not going today. And the reason is simple: we cannot intepret today's postdigital world through a simplified, trivialized version of Modernism or Postmodernism. Today's poetics follow other paths. Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect who works mostly with paper and recycled cardboard and on architectures of emergency, post-natural disasters. One of his most famous works, is the
  86. 86. SHIGERU BAN, CENTRE POMPIDOU METZ (*) Centre Pompidou in Metz. The central spire reaches 77 m in height, alluding to the 1977 opening date of the original centre in Paris. It is a splendid work, with a complex roof inspired by a traditional chinese hat.
  87. 87. SHIGERU BAN, CENTRE POMPIDOU METZ (*) It really shines inside. This is a detail of the ceiling. Complexity is key here.
  88. 88. ARTISTS DO NOT CREATE TO EXPRESS SOMETHING THEY ALREADY FEEL THEY ARE ON A JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY (*) Form follows function, less is more, simple, responsive, baroque flourishes. I do not think that any poetics of information architecture can be easily described through any such simple formalism. They do not go deep enough. Could you appreciate the architectures of information of today through a website only? No. Could you do that through a mobile app? No. You only appreciate the IA through exposure to the complex cross-channel nature of the service. As much as architecture or city planning, we confront systems. And we do that in pseudo-modernist settings. This is not a postmodern world of authorial citations anymore. This is Blair Witch time, not John Carpenter's Halloween.
  89. 89. ANIMALCOPS:HOUSTON (*) In today's post Postmodern settings, that is, pseudo-modern, the radical change is the absence of authors. Think Facebook, the billion individual voices becoming Facebook. Texts are not merely observed. Texts do not last as-is very long either: they are located within the space of participation and continuously reinvented. Cinema, television, novels, videogames, the Web, they all converge and merge into the multiplicity of many complex, individually-determined ecosystems. Think reality tv, with their fictional depictions of the raw and uncut. There, and in the Facebook and Twitters of the world, we are flexing our muscles trying to test out the statements we will have to turn into a fully formed idea of poetics that works across multiple channels. Through linearity, multiplicity, enclosure, openness, separation, vicinity, correlation, consistency, place-making: this is what we do information architecture with. These are the elements from which we can build a postdigital, pseudo-modern poetics of information architecture. I think I can make you see this better with an example.
  90. 90. JAKE BARTON, THE MUSEUM OF YOU - TEDhttp://www.ted.com/talks/jake_barton_the_museum_of_you.html (*) Let me take you back 12 years, to 9/11.
  91. 91. JAKE BARTON, THE MUSEUM OF YOU - TEDhttp://www.ted.com/talks/jake_barton_the_museum_of_you.html (*)
  92. 92. DAVE Z, 9/11 MEMORIAL - CC BY 2.0http://www.flickr.com/photos/zawrotny/8306069668/ (*) The 9/11 Memorial in New York occupies the location where the World Trade Center towers stood and is part of a larger installation that comprises also the 9/11 museum.
  93. 93. SHANNON, 9/11 MEMORIAL - CC 2.0 BYhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/shan213/6497379005/ (*) The memorial is first and foremost a tribute to the people who lost their lives in the tragic events of that day: on the planes, in the towers, among the first responders, the police and the firefighters. Many of them.
  94. 94. JAKE BARTON, THE MUSEUM OF YOU - TEDhttp://www.ted.com/talks/jake_barton_the_museum_of_you.html (*) The architect of the memorial, Michael Arad, had this image in mind of a long procession of names, all undifferentiated, sort of random. You understand this is a difficult proposition for survivors, relatives of victims, the foundation curating the memorial, for everyone. Negotiations took a long time. A solution was eventually found, and a decision was made not to adopt a specific order, either chronological or alphabetical, but to weave a sense of place and meaning into the memorial spaces through careful use of semantics, linking, and positioning. Place-making.
  95. 95. JAKE BARTON, THE MUSEUM OF YOU - TEDhttp://www.ted.com/talks/jake_barton_the_museum_of_you.html (*)
  96. 96. JAKE BARTON, THE MUSEUM OF YOU - TEDhttp://www.ted.com/talks/jake_barton_the_museum_of_you.html (*) An algorithm was devised and implemented to manage the massive amount of data and connect all of these names wherever it made sense. When families were requesting that friends or relatives had to be connected somehow, for example.
  97. 97. INSAPPHOWETRUST, FLIGHT 175 SECTION - CC BY 2.0http://www.flickr.com/photos/skinnylawyer/6445784715/ (*)
  98. 98. JAKE BARTON, THE MUSEUM OF YOU - TEDhttp://www.ted.com/talks/jake_barton_the_museum_of_you.html (*) Here you can see, in different colors, the software showing the four flights, the towers, the individual floors inside the towers, the first responders. The reddish lines are some of the connections between individuals that were requested by the families. Friends, relatives, perfect strangers that tried to help each other.
  99. 99. YOU CAN SEE THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE EVENT REFLECTED INSIDE THE MEMORIAL Jake Barton,The Museum of You (*) Your visit to the memorial after you leave the museum is informed and enriched by these multiple orders. It is an underlying organization that shapes and structures your interactions. As Dan Klyn would say, somebody asked “What” should we do before getting to “How” we are going to do it. That What is a powerful act of information architecture, and it is an invitation to discover our own personal path through the labyrinth of names and stories. It is a declaration of poetics, of equality, complexity, and meaning, and it informs this place. You can find an amazing video on TED that illustrates the project, The Museum of You. Most of the images you have seen come from there.
  100. 100. INSAPPHOWETRUST, FLIGHT 11 SECTION - CC BY 2.0http://www.flickr.com/photos/skinnylawyer/6451065227/ (*) American Airlines Flight 11, heading from Boston to Los Angeles, has a special place in the history of 9/11. Flight attendant Betty Ong was the person who got the world to know what was happening. As soon as the plane was hijacked, she managed to call an American Airlines reservation center. Ong (and her colleague Sweeney) continued to report until Flight 11 finally and tragically crashed into the North Tower. Ong's name is now part of the memorial. We can weave her story into our own different, individual trajectories through the tragedy that was 9/11, connect her to people who were in the tower, or that were killed while trying their best to save other lives. The poetics of information architecture that the 9/11 memorial brings to life reflect the spirit of a different order, bringing not unity but multiplicity and complexity, and speaking through many different voices to our many selves dispersed across the multiple media and channels through which their stories can reach us. Poetics built on the strong, solid prose of information architecture.
  101. 101. THANK YOU (*) Thank you.