Summer brings two exciting opportunities for information architects to gather, share information and update personal knowledge. The annual IA Summit, set for May 4-8, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia, will feature outstanding keynote speakers, 19 workshops and three days of conference sessions. The June issue of the Bulletin will recap its highlights. The Euro IA Summit will run September 22-24 in Amsterdam. Its theme, Connected Things Among Us, stresses the pervasiveness and complexity of connections across devices, sensors and real world applications. ASIS&T special interest groups and Slack groups pick up the conversations and promote exploration and learning. The ongoing evolution of information architecture is evident through updated editions of fundamental publications, and IA professionals must strive to stay current with knowledge developments in the field.


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IA Column

Staying on Top of Your Skills

by Laura Creekmore

We’re coming up on my favorite season of the year: summer, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. More relevant for our purposes here, though, are several opportunities to celebrate information architecture and sharpen our skills over the next few months.

May begins the festivities with the annual IA Summit (http://www.iasummit.org/ ), this year held in Atlanta, Georgia, from May 4-8, 2016. The keynote speakers alone will be a great draw:

  • Cory Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger. He is the co-editor of Boing Boing, works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group.
  • Léonie Watson is an accessibility engineer with The Paciello Group (TPG), co-chair of the W3C Web Platform Working Group and member of the SVG and ARIA working groups.
  • Lisa Welchman, the author of Managing Chaos: Digital Governance by Design, has paved the way in the discipline of digital governance, helping organizations stabilize their complex, multi-stakeholder digital operations.
  • Jesse James Garrett is the co-founder and chief creative officer of Adaptive Path. He created the seminal “Elements of User Experience” model, developed the Visual Vocabulary and defined Ajax.

There are 19 half- and full-day workshops available before the Summit for you to dive in-depth on selected IA topics and then a jam-packed three-day conference schedule. It’s one of my favorite events every year – it’s welcoming to first-time attendees, and those of us who’ve been several times always walk away with a new perspective or polished skills.

In June, the special IA issue of this publication comes out, and I’m really excited about the authors and pieces we have on deck for you this year. Stay tuned for more there!

And then in the early fall, the Euro IA Summit (http://euroia.org ) is Sept. 22-24, 2016, in Amsterdam, with the theme of Connected Things Among Us. From the conference organizers:

Our work as information architects and UX designers is no longer confined to web pages or even the browser. We design and shape digital solutions for an ever more complex world full of connected things. And we rarely do this from scratch. The contexts are often so complex that we cannot define every detail and aspect of our solution.

         We are challenged to architect systems

  • Which are ecosystems of connected devices
  • Which provide cross-channel user experiences
  • Where humans can barely intervene in the cybernetic interplay of sensors, processors and actuators (e.g., in logistics)
  • Where algorithms do the job and humans are hired for sub-tasks (e.g., in financial or legal services)
  • Where businesses and networks drive their power from connectedness
  • For internet of things devices

What Role Do We Information Architects Play Within These Realms?

Whether we can participate in these events or not, we should take a few moments to think about how we can focus on our own professional development this year. Where do we get support? Where do we learn?

Even those of us who can’t travel easily can participate in online forums. Many Slack groups have developed in our industry in the past few years, and the ASIS&T special interest group for information architecture stays connected online as well (https://www.asist.org/groups/information-architecture-ia-virtual/ ). If you can’t make in-person events, consider whether you should start a meetup in your own city or connect with others online to learn and share.

As information architecture evolves as a discipline, we each have to find opportunities to learn and grow within our changing understanding. Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville and Jorge Arango, the authors of the seminal work of information architecture, Information Architecture for the Web and Beyond, published the 4th edition of this work last year – and as those of us who’ve been around long enough to have bought more than one edition know, ours is a discipline that’s called for a changing understanding and perspective over time.

Whether we attend a professional development conference, read or collaborate with others at work or online, we need make sure that our expertise continues to grow and change as our discipline does.

Laura Creekmore is the Bulletin’s associate editor for information architecture. She and her company, Creek Content, develop content strategy and information architecture for companies with complex communication needs. She can be reached at laura<at>creekcontent.com.