Dan Zollman

Information architecture, design, and strategy

Information Architecture in the Anthropocene

I’m pleased to share that a paper I’ve written, “Information Architecture in the Anthropocene”, will be published in the forthcoming book, Advances in Information Architectureedited by Andrea Resmini, Sarah Rice, and Bern Irizarry (2021). This chapter builds on some of the work around systems and ethical design that I’ve posted here, my involvement in the Academics & Practitioners Roundtable, and many conversations with IA/UX colleagues and mentors—and it also achieves a long-standing goal of mine by taking a first step in applying Developmental Systems Theory as a lens for interpreting the social practice of design. I look forward to hearing your thoughts/responses/critiques and, hopefully, continuing a dialogue on this once it is published.

Here is a draft of the abstract for the chapter:

Today’s information architecture (IA) practitioners work in a morally and politically challenging climate where pervasive, systemic problems demand that we consider the consequences of our work for social justice and sustainability. Using “Information Architecture in the Anthropocene” as a framing device, and drawing from critical perspectives in design scholarship, this paper explores what these systemic problems mean for everyday information architecture practice, and it asks what methodological, theoretical, and paradigmatic qualities would enable information architecture to respond adequately to social and environmental challenges. Both design and information architecture practitioners are deeply involved in ongoing socio-political problems, which highlights the need for awareness of their limitations and their situatedness within the systems that are traditionally treated as objects for detached research and design. Reflexivity, informed by a systemic epistemology, is identified as a critical attribute for information architecture in the Anthropocene. Three proposals are offered as ways to achieve this: information architecture as a developmental process, information architecture as ethical practice, and information architecture as a network. These approaches apply processual and relational interpretations, along with biological theory, to the practice of information architecture, challenging our field to include ourselves in the systems we study and to rethink information architecture as a responsible practice.


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