Information Architect(ure)

Subject: Information Architect(ure)
From: "Steve Janoff (non-Celgene)" <sjanoff -at- celgene -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2012 18:56:49 -0700

This may be OT as it's navel watching but it does relate to our field.

This is an interesting video interview with Richard Saul Wurman about the origin of the word "Information Architect" (and "information architecture"):

In 1976 he was put in charge of the annual AIA (architects) conference held in Philadelphia, his city (during the Bicentennial). He titled the conference, "The Architecture of Information," and held it in various corporate boardrooms high atop tall buildings all over town. His intent was to use the whole city as a schoolhouse, as a way to help himself and others understand the city. In keeping with the conference title he called himself an "Information Architect."

The term Information Architect has gone in a vastly different direction since then, and now it's used to mean things that do not relate to its origin. I like the original use of the term, which he intended to be an extension of the earlier "Information Designer," which didn't have much cachet at the time.

But "Information Architect" as a role commands a lot of money, according to several recent salary surveys in our general field. (I think one was at WritersUA. Another might have been at STC. And there was also one out of the IA field itself.)

The best part is near the end when he talks about a change in modalities, using the invention of film as an example, and sort of dissing both the Kindle and the iPad for not yielding a change in modality, despite being very clever, and although they can point the way to a change. (His uncompleted thought was that while the early use of film was as a way to archive stage shows, it later evolved into a new modality, which became the modern movies and cinema storytelling of today -- whether it's summer blockbusters, or indies, or animated films, or art-house fare, or documentaries, or Sundance stuff, etc.)

He's looking at a new modality for viscerally understanding information.

Maybe the best moment in this video is when he talks about what he was trying to do with the 1976 conference: "So, I was trying to make the whole *city* a schoolhouse, during this conference, and I called the conference, 'The Architecture of Information.' That the architecture of our *world* [gesturing outward with his hands]... was information."

Fascinating stuff, and gives some insight into at least one corner of what we do.

So what's your take on the "architecture of information"? Not as it's conveyed in the modern use of the terms "information architecture" and "information architect," but as Wurman originally intended it, meaning, "That the architecture of our *world*... [is] information."


PS - Before posting this I searched the Techwhirl archives for "Wurman" and came across this comment in an e-mail back in June 1997: "I admit I have bought books from Amazon." :)

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