Monday, January 22, 2007

IA Summit panel: The place of IA in design processes

Update (Feb 4, 2007): the session now has its own page, so I updated the URL.

My proposal for a panel at the IA Summit was accepted: I will moderate a panel on design processes! The official title is "Where does IA fit in the design process?" and you can find its description on the IA Summit website.

It always feels weird to I submit a proposal to a conference that I'm organizing. It happened again when I entered my panel proposal to the submission system for the IA Summit. Still, this year's review process assured that my proposal was judged by independent reviewers.

And the reviewers liked what I'd done. I got high scores on the selection of panelists (9.3 on a scale of 1-10 on "Expertise of the moderator and panelists") and I am indeed proud to have "the girls-whose-name-start-with-an-L" on-board: Larisa Warnke, Livia Labate and Leisa Reichelt, as well as Peter Merholz and Josh Seiden. One reviewer said it like this: "I think the real value of this panel is in that you have chosen a bunch of senior folks who have a real strategy and practice development insight."

As I wrote in the description of the panel, I plan on asking them these questions:
  • When should IAs be part of a design team?
  • How do IAs work together with other design team members?
  • How do you communicate your design process to clients?
  • How do you measure improvements in your design process?
(and, if time permits, others, like the ones I also tried to ask at the EURO IA panel on the same topic: who is responsible for the process? what does your process look like? when do you decide to change the process? where does your process end? how did you learn about processes? why would a project not follow the process?)

Your input
What questions do you have about design processes and the place IA activities have in them? Ask them in the comments, and I'll see what I can do!

P.S.: If you like this topic and you plan on coming to the Summit, please consider adding this panel to your list of can't-miss sessions on the vote form.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ethics: New guidelines for scientists on communicating with the media

As I've mentioned before in my review of the 2005 IA Summit where Andrew Dillon spoke about the subject, I feel that researchers and practitioners in our field should adhere to some set of ethical guidelines to prevent abuse or misappropriation of our work as much as possible. I just found out about a new set of guidelines for scientists on communicating with the media that could be interesting.

In the review I mentioned the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct aimed at computing professionals. More recently I have found the set of guidelines for ubiquitous computing in Adam Greenfield's book Everyware (if you want just the guidelines, read Adam's article All watched over by machines of loving grace: Some ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous-computing settings as published in Boxes and Arrows).
So far, I didn't know of any other guidelines.

The new set announced today is the result of a European Commission program on "media, science & society - engagement & governance in Europe" (in short: MESSENGER) and the guidelines are called Guidelines for scientists on communicating with the media (PDF, 520KB). (please note that these are the new guidelines. The link to them can be found at the bottom of the Messenger materials page; the first link on that page, "Guidelines on Science and Health Communication", refers to an old set from 2001 that doesn't mention ethics once.)

So, what are the guidelines like? Well, the good news is, first of all, that for results of a no-doubt bureaucratic European Union program, they are very easy to read. There is a one-page checklist and all of the guidelines together are a mere 9 pages long. And, coming back to my search for ethical guidelines, ethics is mentioned three times!
The bad news is however that it seems that the writers of the guidelines seem to put the onus on the media when it comes to ethical issues. See for example this fragment from the guidelines:
"We have noted earlier that broad scientific areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, nuclear energy, etc. are also ‘framed’ in references to environmental, ethical or commercial issues. Journalists will often include the views of other actors and stakeholders, from representatives of consumers’ associations and single interest groups to politicians, priests and moral philosophers, as well as scientists conducting research in a particular field. This is a healthy process and illustrates, if such illustration is necessary, the extent to which science is embedded in society, rather than standing apart from it. It means, however, that when scientists are interviewed by journalists or broadcasters they are often invited to comment on these broader issues as well as on the specific scientific content of their research."
To me this sounds like researchers and practitioners only have to think about ethical issues after they have completed their research or professional work, when journalists show up to ask nasty questions. I'd much rather see researchers include ethical considerations in their research programs in advance. There is no mention of such an idea in these guidelines (which may not be a problem in itself, as these guidelines deal with communication with the media, but as I said before: I don't know of other guidelines.)

As Andrew Dillon mentioned in his column in ASIS&T Bulletin in March 2002: "in a world where culture, politics and commerce impact the information spaces we inhabit as designers and users, it seems to me that the role of ethics in IA is one we overlook at our peril". He also writes: "while many fields had bodies of knowledge and specific methods, a truly distinctive aspect of a profession was its formal recognition of a code of ethics for its members."

Where is the IA Code of Ethics?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

RISEN: New book on Libraries and the Web

Sometimes I claim to be an Information Architect and since information architecture is supposed to have its roots in library science, a book that aims "[to] promote the library as the epicenter and sole institution qualified to provide and safeguard our knowledge" deserves my attention.

Two employees (the CEO and Marketing & Communication Manager) of Medialab Solutions, best known for their online search tool AquaBrowser, have written a book about how Web technologies allow libraries to keep their place in society. The book is called "RISEN, why libraries are here to stay".

Of course the idea that Web technologies help librarians do their job better isn't new. And stating that "the web identity and accessibility are the key elements of success for libraries with a public function" isn't particularly innovative thinking either. And I bet that one of the goals of the book will be to get librarians interested in Web technology, in particular the solutions that Medialab offers.

But I am curious what exactly they have to say and how timely it is. Will the book mention Web2.0 aspects like user-generated content, perpetual beta, and mashups? How do they treat Wikipedia? Do they encourage user-centered design approaches for web technology solutions for libraries? Does the index feature the term user experience?

The book will be launched at a librarians event, in this case the ALA Mid-Winter Conference in Seattle where 1000(!) free copies will be handed out. I won't be there but I will see if I get get my hands on a copy at the next Amsterdam IA Cocktail Hour, where members of the Aquabrowser crew have shown their faces before.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

First videos from EURO IA available

EURO IA logoThanks to my friend Reinoud Bosman (I had to tag Flickr pictures with his name but feel free to Google him) we now have access to edited video recordings of some of the presentations from the EURO IA conference in Berlin, last October.

The following presentations are now online:
  • Almar van der Krogt, with his presentation "Virreal Architecture",
  • Steven PembertonSteven Pemberton, with his closing keynote "Form, Content, Essence. Designing Markup for Information Representation".
Thank you Reinoud for recording and mixing the picture with the slides!
Soon, I hope to be able to report that more presentations are available, probably linked from the EURO IA website.