Last week, I got a delightful remembrance of the difference between information and information architecture. Maya design cleverly says that information is the message and has no form, meaning information has to reside in a form. This form can be a diagram, raw text as in a book or letter, in visual signs, sound, or brain tissue. Wikipedia, in a more technical way, explains that information is that which informs. Maybe we can talk about information being knowledge? What about data? Information being that of which informs, data is the raw bits and pieces of this information, it is unstructured and might not make any sense at first sight. Another difference is that information in the form of knowledge requires a cognitive observer, whereas data exist beyond the event horizon - it exists everywhere, always. 

We are form-givers to information
— Maya Design

As information has no form, we humans, as organisms capable of processing the information input, are so called form-makers of information. We have the ability to solidify information into something that our peers can understand. There is a vital problem with the solidification of information - human nature and ecology. We speak hundreds of different languages, live in cultures so widely different that even though we talked the same language, there would be a big chance of not understanding each other. Also, we also have a huge societal gap between the rich and the poor of the world. The problem is called communication. All humans are form-makers, we communicate information through oral and written messages, but some are also what I'd call professional form-makers, actually making a living off their form-making and communication skills. Web designers, calligraphers, typesetter, journalists, podcasters and editors. In a job like this, it is their responsibility to solidify and give form to information. Not only should these professionals give it form, but do so in a way that communicates with what is often a carefully selected target audience or demographic.

What makes this communication possible is the science of information architecture. IA, as Wikipedia puts it, is the art and science of organising and labelling information to support usability and findability. It means we can describe characteristics of good websites, construct an architectural understanding around this subject, and yet have endless combinations and varieties present. It's not to say it's easy because it's not. As any successful outcome of science*, it is something that is rooted in solid knowledge about the science itself and understanding of the problem domain at hand. 

* There are exceptions, of course. Penicillin, for example, was discovered by "pure luck" 

 

Sources

Maya design on information
Retrieved 25/27/17 https://vimeo.com/3248432

Maya design on information architecture
Retrieved 25/27/17 https://vimeo.com/3248803

Posted
AuthorMartin
CategoriesWEB601