Journal of Information Architecture

FALL 2011, VOL 3 ISS 2 — Systems

The System of Information Architecture

Editorial

Recently, while writing an article about being an information architect, I found myself reading the Wikipedia entry on “systems thinking” where I discovered John Gall and his 1975 book “General Systemantics” which I promptly borrowed from my public library (via inter-library loan). Since it’s impossible to sum up this witty, irreverent text about how systems work and why they fail, I’ll offer you this pericope instead.

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Lifeboat #5: Richard Saul Wurman

Nine in the evening. Sunday. Richard Saul has spent the weekend at home with the family on a small farm about twenty - five miles from Philadelphia. We are meeting at his apartment in town, where he generally spends the rest of the week alone. When he’s not off lecturing or conferring somewhere else in the world, a great deal of his work is done in and frequently for the city of Philadelphia. He works hard, long hours. He gets a lot done.

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A Brief History of Information Architecture

Information architecture is a professional practice and field of studies focused on solving the basic problems of accessing, and using, the vast amounts of information available today. You commonly hear of information architecture in connection with the design of web sites both large and small, and when wireframes, labels, and taxonomies are discussed. As it is today, it is mainly a production activity, a craft, and it relies on an inductive process and a set, or many sets, of guidelines, best practices, and personal and professional expertise. In other words, information architecture is arguably not a science but, very much like say industrial design, an applied art.

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Ethnotelling for User-generated Experiences

This paper focuses on storytelling as a research tool for the social sciences, especially for cultural anthropology. After a short review of the main methodological tools traditionally used in ethnography, with particular regard to observation and interview, we focus on collecting and crafting stories (ethnotelling) as suitable tools for conveying the relational nature of fieldwork. Drawing on the works of Orr, Chipchase, Marradi and Adwan/Bar-on, we show how stories — collected, mediated or made up — are valuable tools for representing experiences and identities.

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