September 9, 2003: IAs from SMEs
An interesting question came up during a conversation with nPower's Paul
Nattress at the post-seminar happy hour in London last week: will future
information architects start out as subject matter experts?
Seems like most of us come from a "industry neutral" background; perhaps
we've studied graphic design, like Paul, or library science, like me, or
technical communications or some other field that is focused on the creation
or communication of information, regardless of setting. We're interested in
the information itself; its origin and topic don't matter so much.
Conversely, I don't typically run into IAs who started out as, say,
materials scientists, mortgage brokers, or specialists in medieval British
But it's not hard to imagine someone starting out at a utility company,
maybe down the corridor from Paul, with a civil engineering background.
After a few years as a researcher, she becomes interested in how to better
organize the company's growing collection of technical reports. Soon she's
delving into search tools, metadata, task analyses, instead of writing
reports. She gets hired to do this kind of work at an energy publishing
company. A few years later, she's an information architect with an
insurance company. No more civil engineering; besides changing industries,
she's transmogrified from SME to IA.
Do subject specialists specialize precisely because they're not terribly
interested in any topic besides their own? Or is the scenario I described
above increasingly commonplace?
If SMEs are going to move into IA, perhaps their journey is bit longer than,
say, people with backgrounds in human factors or journalism. So I'll wager
that those entering IA five years from now might have significantly
different backgrounds than the newly-minted information architects of today.
It'll be interesting to see what impact that has on our field.
BLOUG PERMALINK & COMMENTS