IA convergence and emergence


Andrew Hinton (Inkblurt) –

Ok a bizarre word to start off with. That grabbed the attention and yes, the talk covered links. But it was more about an explanation of IA, and as Hinton stated, ‘moving the conversation about it forward’.

From the start Hinton mentions emergent theory and I think that’s a very good place to start. If you look at the practice of Information Architecture it is very much in an emergence. It is only as old as web design itself.

He reminds us of where we have come from. With references and examples from the old way (Encyclopedia Britannica) to the new (Wikipedia). The closed expensive accurate way, to the open, inexpensive and ‘close enough’ way.

We experience spatial and semantic information. Links, categories and rules give us the context and the connection to these ‘possibility spaces’. The link between these spaces defined as findability. However, Hinton states:

Findability is only useful in service of context and connection

He states the practice is a shared history of learning, and a community of practice. We are an emergent group. There are many new factors emerging within the context of the discipline which is still defining what it is.



Slide showing convergence of the elements of IA


Hinton explains that IA is just a part of user experience, alongside interaction design and usability. Peter Boersmo covers this in more detail here when talking about deep IA – though it is I feel different to Mathew Milan’s idea of what deep IA is. Of the ‘sister’ disciplines, Hinton states that;

IA defines the relationships and connections between contexts. IXD is the interactive function within a given context. This overlap is seen in navigation…

I feel interaction design should move even closer to align with IA, they are inter-dependant. Perhaps we should be a part of the same discipline and converge.

Hinton looks again at the Web 2.0 darlings, Flickr, Wikipedia, Facebook and states that IA is occurring here in a big way. Its a type of architecture that is different to the top-down classifications of the past. However it is concrete and vitally important to the site success.

Hinton explains that IA can be a thing, an activity, a role, a practice and a title. No wonder people are confused when they hear what IA is, and perhaps we are becoming more confused as practitioners. Hinton reminds us it depends on the cultural context of where we operate in.




A key takeaway for me is a realisation that IA is not going to die, it will not go away. We will always need to know where we are going, we need to help people classify, sort, signpost illustrate the paths that they wish to take and can not find.

Perhaps we are information guides as much as digital architects, building online spaces. It is a desire to help sort chaos, to define some level of order to enable humans to collaborate and interact within communities for their benefit.




Hinton ended this excellent talk to a great conference with a quote from the author William Gibson. We will no longer distinguish between the digital and the real world as the population of digital natives become ever greater. He remarks that one day our grandchildren will look back on us as quaint – the way in which we defined real spaces from digital ones.

I have a strong feeling he will be proved right. I have no doubt we need to embrace this philosophy, forget about barriers and think about the different ways of organising and presenting information.

As Sir Tim Berners Lee stated recently,

The future is always in the past and for the web particularly. In a hundred years, 15 years will seem to be just the infancy of the web, when the semantic web wasn’t even completely deployed.

Lets look forward to greater collaboration and a convergence of the physical with the digital. The need for the continuing expansion of the IA to incorporate all the different elements of UX is critical to the success of our work, and our discipline.

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