Discipline and Resolution
Speaking of resolutions, Katriina Byström and the editorial board of the Journal of Information Architecture allowed me to fulfill one of my important life commitments when they invited me to join the publication as a peer reviewer back in 2009. It is my conviction that information architecture belongs both in the academy and in the world of practice. Information architecture is a philosophy - a way of understanding certain parts of our world (De Hubert-Miller 2006). It is also a craft - a way practitioners can make parts of the world better, and create personal value for other people (Bowles 2011). But an active dialogue between these two dimensions of information architecture has been strangely difficult to achieve.
Thank goodness for the vision and hard work of those who brought the Journal of Information Architecture into being four years ago, and who continue to foster it. Thank goodness for the academicians and practitioners who carry out information architecture research and step up to the challenge of writing scholarly articles that speak to both worlds. And thank goodness for the role of peer reviewer, which gives people like me a structured, manageable way to participate in this important work, even with a consuming work schedule and rich family life.
My involvement with exploring information architecture’s hybrid of study and practice began when I attended a panel at the 2006 ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit called “Setting the Agenda for IA Research”. There Don Turnbull, Peter Morville, Jamie Bluestein, and Keith Instone commenced the attempt to draw practitioners into a discussion of what an academic dimension to information architecture would be. In 2009, Peter Morville once again brought the question to the Summit in a session called “IA Practice and Research”.
In the same year, the Research and Education Group in Information Architecture (REG-iA) group was formed, which led to the creation of the Journal of Information Architecture and the launching of its first issue. Continuing to bring the question to the world of practice, Keith Instone and Andrea Resmini discussed “Bridging IA Research and Practice” at the 2010 Summit, and later on turned that conversation into an article for the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (Instone & Resmini 2010). Among the conclusions from that session was that fixing the fracture between academic and applied information architecture requires building long-term relationships between researchers and practitioners. This journal is a robust way this is being done.
I am certain the budding relationship between research and practice is a healthy and necessary one. The need goes beyond the desirable tangibles we are already seeing, such as improved curricula, increased salaries, and growing demand for information architects in both teaching and applied roles. This relationship must happen; it is right that it happen. There must be a keel of critical thought to bind the integrity of information architecture as a discipline.
This field was born of open dialogue amongst people doing information architecture without having a name for it yet (Surla 2006). To enable the field to come into its own as a discipline, we must foster an ongoing challenging, critical, and creative conversation. This conversation must involve all the principals, including the practitioners, the academics, and the representatives of the many fields related to information architecture.
The Journal of Information Architecture provides us with a framework for this endeavor. Painstakingly, it is building up the theoretical foundations of information architecture as a discipline through both peer-approved papers and the practitioner-driven conversations these ignite. It is also giving us a way to discover the lines of inquiry that are being pursued in academia and in the field, while uncovering new lines that could fruitfully be opened up (Madsen 2009).
It has taken a great deal of heavy lifting to bring this leviathan up to the surface.
As I recognize this, I’m brought back to my appreciation for the very existence of the Journal. I’m thankful for the opportunity to help further information architecture as a discipline, in a defined and practical way. When I review for the journal, I find an abundance of papers that sparkle with innovation, creativity, thoughtful riddles and thought-provoking answers. My resolution to continue in this role is the easiest one of all.
Stacy Merrill Surla
- Bowles, C. (2011) The fall and rise of user experience. 12th ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit. http://www.cennydd.co.uk/2011/fall-and-rise-of-ux.
- De Hubert-Miller, B. A. (2006) The Information Architecture of potentiality: Toward a grounded theory of information architecture philosophy, theory and research. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Volume 32. Issue 6. Pp. 10-12.
- Instone, K. and Resmini, A. (2010) Research and Practice in IA. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Volume 36. Issue 6. Pp. 1-24.
- Madsen, D. (2009) Shall We Dance? Journal of Information Architecture. Vol. 1. Iss. 1.
- Morville, P. (2009) IA Practice and Research. Unpublished paper. 10th ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit. Memphis.
- Surla, S. M. (2006) Information architecture: Inquiry and application. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Volume 32. Issue 6. Pp. 5-6.
- Turnbull, D., Morville, P., Bluestein, J., and Instone, K. (2006) Setting the Agenda for IA Research. 7th ASIS&T Information Architecture Summit. http://www.powershow.com/view1/16fb6b-NDA4O/Setting_the_Agenda_for_IA_Research_powerpoint_ppt_presentation.