IA Summit Goes Semantic

Rachel Lovinger   April 2, 2009
watzImage via Marius Watz

This was my first year attending the IA Summit. I’m not an Information Architect, so I had no idea what I would find there, or how much of it would be applicable to me. I went because I was participating in the pre-conference Content Strategy Consortium (agenda here), and I decided to stay for the entire conference because several of my coworkers were speaking and the program looked promising. (Note: I’ve tried, where possible, to link to the presentations online. Some of these talks may be a little hard to understand just from the slides, but at some point Boxes & Arrows will post podcasts of the audio.)

There were many talks on content-related issues. Andrew Hinton led a workshop and gave a talk about the importance of Context. Dan Brown, whose talks I missed because the schedule was too packed with amazing things, spoke about data driven sites in Modeling Concepts and Designing Rules. From the comments coming through on Twitter, I got the sense that a lot of Content Strategy type issues were addressed. Colleen Jones, one of my fellow consortiumists, gave a very practical and entertaining talk about Usable, Influential Content.

But the thing I was most excited about was the prevalence of talks about the Semantic Web and what it means for the future of IA. I’ve been trying to address this same issue in my own work for several years now, so I was looking forward to seeing what the IA community would bring to the discussion. Here’s a brief rundown of the talks I saw on this subject (with more detailed accounts of each talk over on my own blog, Meaningful Data):

· In A Fundamental Disruption, Peter Sweeney and Robert Barlow-Busch of Primal Fusion posed the question “How do IAs design for information that’s self-organizing?”

· Chiara Fox set out to introduce the audience to The Semantic Web: What IAs Need to Know About Web 3.0

· Richard Ziade and Tim Meaney, of arc90, focused on the data-sharing aspect of the Semantic Web in their talk, Discovering & Mining the Everyday

· In The Facets of Faceting, Kristoffer Dykon and Helle Hoem presented some case studies on taxonomy and ontology structures used for navigation

· Chris Thorne, of the BBC, focused on the architecture of URIs in his talk, Ubiquitous Information Architecture: Building for change and web 3.0

While I’m excited that the topic was so pervasive, I was a little disappointed that the level of discussion has not advanced very far beyond “What is the Semantic Web?” We’re talking about the questions that need to be asked, but not about realistic, practical answers. Hopefully, now that people are being exposed to these ideas at a rapid rate, it won’t be long before IAs and Content Strategists put their heads together and start coming up with some elegant approaches to designing semantic solutions that address user and business needs.

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