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.