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September 9, 2003: IAs from SMEs

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  • Louis Rosenfeld
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 9, 2003
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      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
      history.

      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.


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