Episode 47 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with Peter Morville. Peter is a pioneer in the discipline of information architecture. Among many other distinctions, he co-authored with Lou Rosenfeld Information Architecture for the World-Wide Web, the classic O’Reilly “polar bear” book on the subject.
This is Peter’s second appearance on the show. (He was also my guest on episode 10.) I asked him back because I wanted to learn more about his recent blog post calling for practitioners to emancipate information architecture.
“Emancipate” is a strong term, and I wanted to know what Peter meant by it. He called out the fact that for much of its early history, IA has been mostly in service of business. But the discipline’s remit can be broader:
It’s not that information architecture isn’t doing good in the business world and can’t do more good. So, it’s not an abandonment of business at all. But I think that there’s so much potential for the ways that we think, the ways that we practice information architecture, particularly In the areas of language and classification — how we use language, how we define or design labels, how we structure and organize conceptual spaces — those skills are so useful beyond business, whether we talk about social or political or environmental areas, I think that part of what is holding us back as people are archaic words and structures: language and classification systems that we have inherited from the past that we’re having a hard time getting beyond.
Through our work, information architects formalize language and distinctions that change how people understand themselves, each other, and their relationship to the world. Peter is calling on us to adopt a more mindful approach to distinction-making. It’s a powerful and timely message, and one we got to discuss on the show. I hope you find value in our conversation.