ASIS&T IA Summit 2003 "Making Connections"  
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Hypertext Gardens, Architecture, and IA
Sunday, 11:00 - 11:45
Session Three


Mark Bernstein
Hypertext Gardens, Architecture, and IA

Though information "architecture" is an appealing image, the literature of the profession has been reluctant to engage architectural theory very deeply. Often, IA has chosen to engage concerns of clarity, consistency, and usability; these are fine things indeed, but they are not the architectural virtues of commodity, firmness, and delight.

The early rhetoric of information architecture has been predominantly the language of engineering: hierarchical decomposition, systematic nomenclature, and precise measurement are its constant themes. The contemporary role of the architect, in contrast, emerged from a reaction "against" engineering: the Bauhaus Manifesto proclaims Das Endziel aller bildnerischen Tätigkeit ist der Bau!

The ultimate aim of all creative activity is a building, and its insistence on the primacy of craftsmanship is far closer to the Arts and Crafts movement than to, say, Usability Engineering. Nor does architectural guidance -- even inspiration -- assure utility; I've lived in buildings by Sullivan, Gropius, and Sert, and each had its own discomforts and disamenities. Naive mapping of architectural ideas into IA space is bound to fail.

Architecture is about three-space, IA is about linkspace, and the geometrical properties of these spaces are very different indeed. Still, the theoretical literature of architecture provides many informative starting points. For example, I address the early notion of the picturesque in landscape design and its relevance for link architectures in _Hypertext Gardens_http://www.eastgate.com/garden/ see also http://www.eastgate.com/patterns/.

Louis Sullivan's concern with genre and the communication of function by visual cues is, perhaps, a more contemporary and accessible jumping-off point. Of particular interest in the continuing tension between graphic design and information architecture, moreover, are Sullivan's ideas about decoration, surface, and volume. Charles Jencks' critique of fascist architecture might be turned, to interesting effect, to explore the impact of mass, hierarchy, and polish in site design. The form of Alexander's pattern language has been widely emulated, but its functional intent -- especially in support of radical end-user modification of the edifice -- has not.

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