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Pervasive Information Architecture: Designing Cross-Channel User Experiences

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I knew the Internet before it got famous. There were places but no paths, no maps, no search engines. Entry required a key in the form of an IP address and an incantation in the language of UNIX. It was a small world that felt big because it was so easy to get lost in the shadowy realm of texts and data, completely devoid of color. And yet, the Internet in the early 1990s was a friendly place because it was also made up of people who served as mentors and guides, helping one another find their way. This pioneering community of geeks and wizards, teachers and students, scientists and librarians was radically global and breathtaking in its diversity, and yet there was one thing we all held in common: a fervent belief that the Internet was about to change the world.

Now I’ve got that feeling once again. But this time there’s no single protocol or portal to point to as evidence of what’s to come. We’re creating multichannel, cross-platform, transmedia, physicodigital user experiences that tear down the walls between categories. We can call it ubiquitous computing, the Internet of Objects, Web Cubed, or the Intertwingularity. We can talk about smart things, sensor Webs, product-service systems, and collaborative consumption. But none of these labels begins to describe the extraordinary diversity of the ambient, pervasive, mobile, social, real-time mashups unfolding before our very eyes. No word or phrase can possibly bind together the 21st-century success stories of iTunes, Nike+, Netflix, Redbox, Zipcar, iRobot, Freecycle, and CouchSurfing with the emergent phenomena of augmented reality, urban informatics, and plants that tweet. But as we wander blindly in this landscape of vernacular chaos, one thing is clear: we need a new map.

This is a book on design.

This is also a book on information architecture, as we research and practice information architecture as a design proposition, but it’s not about Web sites. Or better, it’s not only about Web sites. The reason for this is because the way we interact with information is changing.

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