Tue 28 Mar
For folks still recovering in whole or part from the exhaustion of the 2006 South by Southwest Interactive Festival, just think about those fellow attendees who went on to this year’s Dorkstock — I mean, this year’s Information Architecture Summit, wrapping up right now in Vancouver. I kid, I kid. Because if you follow the blog-borne reports coming out of the conference, you’ll see some really interesting stuff going on: tagging, tagging and more tagging, as one attendee told me, and lots of fascinating discussions on the organization, management and manipulation of information. Plus some flat out, wild and crazy fun. Look out.
Seriously, I’ve been following the events through excellent summary posts from Luke Wroblewski, among other bloggers, and feeling like I’m getting way more reporting value from the generally more analytical mindsets of the information architecture audience than I saw come out of South by Southwest. A lot of this ad hoc reporting is so good it’s almost like I’m there, but I’m not. It all sounds geekily absorbing, and it makes me think that maybe next year I’ll go.
Then again, I got to wondering why the I.A. Summit and South by Southwest — which is the de facto summit for Web development in general — are separate events at all? There’s probably a tale to be told here about professional solidarity, camaraderie and/or jealousy that would explain why these two conferences, held just two weeks from apart this year, are unlikely to ever be consolidated into a single conference, but it would make a lot of sense.
Information architecture, for every way we’ve benefitted from its rise in the past decade, often seems to succumb to arcane tendencies — a sometimes impenetrable craft conversed among insiders in exclusionary language. I concede there’s a benefit to devoting an intensive series of days in a strange foreign country (okay, Canada) solely to discussion and idea exchange among members of this still young field. But I can’t help but think that the discipline as a whole would benefit more acutely — that we would all benefit more acutely — from a forum more inviting to all-comers.
Maybe not before this point in time, but certainly at this stage in the growth of online practice, we’re ready to have visual designers, programmers, marketers and business from all over the world mingling and butting heads together, in the same conference center. I’d be very happy to attend a conference that combines the eclecticism of South by Southwest — ideas and practice from all aspects of the online world, side by side — with the more focused track that we see on the slate at the I.A. summit. I know that I would benefit greatly from it, which is the origin of this mild rant, but I’d venture to say that a lot of information architects would benefit from it, as well. I’m pretty sure.