“Architecting, designing, and managing information is becoming more and more strategic”

5 Questions for Andrea Resmini

With the countdown to the 2016 IA Summit on, we reached out to our community leaders to see what they’ve been up to and what the IA Summit and information architecture means to them.

Today we feature Andrea Resmini, an assistant professor at Jönköping International Business School, in Jönköping, Sweden. Architect, information architect, compulsive reader, pensive writer, videogamer, piano player, Andrea is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Information Architecture, and the author of Pervasive Information Architecture and Reframing Information Architecture.

Which was the first IA Summit you attended? What was that experience like? How have you seen it change since then?

2007 in Las Vegas was my first year as a speaker, 2008 in Miami as an attendee actually enjoying the conference. It was HOT, as in melting-plastic-hot. And it was a great experience. My Summit highlights include Andrew Hinton’s “Linkosophy” keynote, the slam team going pirate, and an evening conversation in a bar somewhere in Miami Beach with Misty Weaver, Noreen Whysel, and Jesse James Garrett discussing what would become in a year’s time the Journal of Information Architecture. Jess McMullin, whom I met at a previous Italian IA Summit, chaperoned me around and introduced me to everyone, making sure I had all of the right conversations and an inordinate amount of fun. The Summit has always been an incredibly friendly, amazingly open environment. If anything, through the years, the Summit has institutionalized this welcoming side and made it an official part of its charm. No way you can attend and feel you’re being left out, be it the conversations, the networking, or the social sides (including our own awesome jam night).

What keeps you coming back to the IA Summit each year?

For me it’s the ongoing conversation on the discipline. As someone who’s been a practitioner and is now teaching and researching information architecture, the Summit is a necessary and much awaited yearly verification point. What’s happening, what’s new, what’s not, what’s debatable, what’s exciting. If you want to get the pulse of what is going on at the crossroads of information architecture and user experience, the Summit is where you should be. You might not always like where this conversation is going, but that is precisely what a thriving community is supposed to look like. Establishing a field or a discipline is not like laying down a two-lane road from here to there, but rather like figuring out where the river delta becomes the sea, where your boat is, and where you should be going. That’s why being part of the conversation is important.

And of course I go back for jam night, did I mention that? (What? Yes, karaoke and game night, that too.)

2016 is the fourth year you’re hosting the Reframing IA Academics and Practitioners Roundtable. What was the impetus for starting that? What kinds of things come out of the session?

The roundtable has two very specific goals: one is to get academia and the practice to talk to each other; the other is to discuss what information architecture is about today. Its origins go back to Keith Instone and me hosting a flex track session at the 2010 Summit centered around how the two camps could work together to move the conversation further. At the time Keith had already been doing a lot of work with research/practice interaction, and I was starting to realize that a dialog was necessary to consolidate the field and our body of knowledge, the Journal being a piece of that strategy. We hosted other sessions together, wrote write-ups and a couple of articles, and I ran one more workshop in 2012 trying to capture more of the problem space. The result was a full-day workshop at the 2013 Summit in Baltimore. The chairs, especially Kevin Hoffman, and ASIS&T were incredibly supportive, and agreed to turn it into a community event and to price it at a fee just covering expenses. Since then we’ve been on a roll, with an increasing number of people being involved in the organization of the Roundtable itself and a rather largish crowd of both old and new faces participating and contributing to its success each year.

In terms of results, while I personally consider raising awareness about the changing role and nature of IA a major achievement, in these three years we’ve been collecting an incredible wealth of contributions, ideas, cases, and more than a few folders chock-full of deliverables. We have disseminated these in talks, articles, and a book which was published by Springer in 2014, but this has just been scratching the surface. I expect more and better things to surface in the coming years in other articles, books and, if we ever get a chance to have a couple hours off, on the reframe-ia.org website.

What role do you see for those of us managing and organizing information in the next 5 years?

I think architecting, designing, and managing information is becoming more and more strategic as we increasingly digitize society, take the red pill, and get rid of the illusory separation between physical and digital. We’re finally understanding what Negroponte was trying to say in 1998: That at a certain point digital would become trivial just like air and water and that would be the moment it would start to produce new and wondrous things. This is that moment. We connected people, locations, objects, and services into cross-channel experiences, and the territory IA and UX practice covered 15 years ago has expanded manifold. This is a major change, and one that requires us to step up our game. Great power, great responsibilities, right? Even if we are in charge of a tiny fraction of a mobile app we now know it will play a role in a much larger, much more complex, and emergent environment. As much as architects and city planners, we are starting to be invested with social, ethical, and political concerns we were not used to. We consume, produce, educate ourselves, socialize, vote, fight in blended spaces whose raw material is information. As Peter Morville says, there’s never been a better time for being an information architect.

What are the top 3 reasons someone in the information management or UX field should attend the IA Summit?

There’s no progression in any of these fields without the practice being involved. And while of course we have plenty of UX conferences around the world, the Summit is unique in terms of its history and continuity through the change it expresses. This is one of the few places where old conversations have turned into new conversations seamlessly, where there’s a history of debates, dissent, agreement, and community building that spans two decades and all of the history of what we can consider UX.

So, come because you can meet and discuss with those who were there when the field itself was not, stay because you can see and hear what those who are here today have to show and tell, and come back because we all need your voice to be heard as well.

A big thanks to Andrea for sharing his thoughts with us ahead of his roundtable and talk in May! If you are inspired to join us in Atlanta, don’t delay. Get on over to the IA Summit website and register now!

The 2016 IA Summit will be held at the Omni Atlanta CNN Center from May 4–8. Full-day and half-day hands-on workshops are held Wednesday, May 4, and Thursday, May 5, followed by the main conference Friday, May 6–Sunday, May 8.

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.