The IA meme

NY Times article [free registration required] on Norbert Wiener (“The Inventor of Cybernetics”):

To be a truly famous scientist, you need to have a hit single. Einstein had E = mc2. Newton had the apple and gravity… But there’s another kind of scientist who never breaks through, usually because while his discovery is revolutionary it’s also maddeningly hard to summarize in a simple sentence or two.

There was a discussion last week on the IxD mailing list on what it would take to make our professions (IxD, IA, etc.) better known to the general public. When designing memes, simple, easy-to-relate-to ideas are usually the most effective. The article on Wiener starts off making the same point, one that I struggle with as I try to explain what I do to prospects, customers, and folks in general: can IA be boiled down to a single (one-sentence) idea that most people can relate to? What is it, and how can it be crafted so that it doesn’t short-change the field?

The recent success of the “folksonomy” and “Ajax” memes shows how rapidly ideas can spread when carried by simple, accesible stories. In the case of folksonomies, the story usually starts like this: “Do you know how you can tag pictures in Flickr?” In the case of Ajax, it’s: “Have you used gmail?”

What simple story we can tie IA to? What is our “hit single”?