Transforming our conversation of information architecture with structure

Nathaniel Davis
2013 Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology  
Nathaniel Davis is a theorist and a manager of information architecture for a Fortune 100 company based in the United States. In April 2010 he launched the DSIA Research Initiative and DSIA Portal of Information Architecture in an effort to begin defining and communicating a distinct discipline of information architecture that is centered around theory, research and practice. He can be reached at I nformation architecture has been characterized as both an art and a
more » ... cience. Because there's more evidence of the former than the latter, the academic and research community is justified in hesitating to give the practice of information architecture more attention. If you probe the history of information architecture for the web, its foundation appears to be rooted in library science. But you'll also find a pattern of borrowing methods and models from many other disciplines like architecture and urban planning, linguistics and ethnography, cognition and psychology, to name a few. This history leads many to wonder if the practice of information architecture is anything other than an art of induction for solving problems of architecture and design for the web. Haverty [1] and Dillon and Turnbull [2] were early proponents of this idea. In particular, Haverty observes how the field's lack of internal theory requires practitioners to create by way of constructive induction. She summarizes constructive induction as "...a process for generating a design solution using two intertwined searches. The first search involves identifying the most adequate representational framework for the problem; the second search involves locating the best design solution within the framework and translating it to the problem at hand." For instance, in the absence of an internal IA theory, information architecture practitioners often refer to the study of wayfinding as a compatible representational framework for physical places. By equating digital information environments to spatial constructs, practitioners often translate solutions from the practice of wayfinding to improve how users navigate complex websites. EDITOR'S SUMMARY Since the origin of the concept, information architecture has been viewed as an art and a science, rooted in library science but borrowing from multiple disciplines. Though there are recognized elements, some say it lacks a foundation of consistent internal theory. The central concept of information architecture is structure. Though invisible and often taken for granted, effective structure is the quality that makes websites functional. It rests on navigation, information organization and information relationships and can extend to user experience and spatial representation. Information architecture reflects elements from a number of disciplines but, by aggregating them, is greater than the parts. Advancing information architecture from art to science depends on shared strategies and solutions for website structure. KEYWORDS information architecture information science analytic models web sites user experience
doi:10.1002/bult.2013.1720390510 fatcat:mi5tuksr3bcrnkyexapy4vefqu