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The future of IA and the ‘Information of Everything’

By Jess Lewes

Director of Projects


The theme of World IA Day 2017 was ‘Information Strategy and Structure’, and this theme certainly gave the day a different feel to past years and previous conferences. People for Research attended the Bristol event at St. George’s and, once again, we made the most of the day and listened carefully to the information architecture (IA) experts.

The future of IA

Paul Wilson, Gordon Plant, and Angel Brown all spoke about the role Information Architects can play in shaping our futures in an increasingly integrated world.

Living in Bristol, I found Paul’s talk enlightening. Paul is Managing Director of Bristol is Open, an organisation developing an open programmable city that is exploring how cities are changing. Paul said that the 21st century is the century of the city; with city populations growing exponentially, we are faced with challenges like overcrowding and an aging population. Paul showed some examples of how IA, data and technology are trying to solve some of these challenges.

Gordon Plant showed some of the flaws in Linguistic User Interfaces (LUI) such as that of the Amazon Echo, and what information architects and designers have to do to. These are big challenges. Currently, LUIs struggle to understand context; they aren’t designed to differentiate between different users just based on the sound of the voice alone and users need to consider syntax of language when instructing the devices to perform an action.

Gordon drew some excellent comparisons regarding human behaviour: talking to machines is kind of like trying to talk to animals. You can’t expect them to understand how we compose sentences, even if they understand certain words. And there is still a strange taboo – after all, who feels comfortable speaking to machines, such as Siri in an iPhone, in public? However, most people wouldn’t think twice about speaking on the phone when there is a human on the other end.

Angel Brown was the final speaker of the day and, although she wasn’t the keynote, her confident delivery and the amount of information she rattled through in just 30 minutes was a very motivating end to the day, leaving a lot to think about. The final message from Angel was “This is our challenge”.

artificial intelligence information architecture IALooking to the future, she pointed out that in a data driven world, information architects are seeing greater opportunities open up, and advancements such as AI-CD – the world’s first AI creative director hired by advertising agency McCann Japan – are not a threat to jobs, but instead an opportunity to explore how artificial intelligence can further support our work.

Click the image to watch the full video.

The ‘Information of Everything’

Angel Brown works for W20, who market themselves as a company “making clients relevant in a distracted world”. Angel described them as a data science organisation and discussed “social listening” among other things. So much data is generated every day by social media, forums and connected devices that it requires the skill of information architects to know what we could do with this data. Angel gave examples, including seeing how opinion is formed through tracking influencers.

Peter Kay, social guru at Nomensa, also showed the volume of data being generated by social noise with a case study from a client. He posed an ethical question, asking whether searching a person’s device (e.g. an Amazon Echo) that is “always listening” is on a par with searching their house as part of a criminal investigation.

So, what does this mean from a recruitment point of view? The user experience (and related research) is in constant flux, as we increasingly work with interdisciplinary teams with more sophisticated user or participant recruitment requirements. For information architects working to understand syntax in human communication in different languages, or data scientists trying to understand the role that influencers play in healthcare forums, qualitative user experience research and usability testing are powerful tools. As ever, participant recruitment can only enhance this work.

The changing landscape of IA

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If you are organizing a conference or event and would like to find out more about how People for Research can help, please get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or

Jess signature picAbout the author: Jess Lewes is the Director of Projects at People for Research, and is passionate about supporting the UX and market research community with high quality recruitment. She is also a source of knowledge for best practice in participant recruitment.

About People for Research: We recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.

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