UX, CommunicationPaul McAleer

What to do with The IA Institute?

UX, CommunicationPaul McAleer

So. Here we are. The IA Institute, the only notable professional organization devoted to information architecture, is on the brink of collapse due to a lawsuit. Recently, members were asked if the whole thing should die or what.

I definitely go back and forth on this, but as of this morning I’m more like: let the IAI as it stands, die.

Make something new. (Also not easy.)

If I were in charge – and I am not, please don’t @ me – I would say that any new org has to acknowledge the reality of IA in 2019. Let’s drop the whole “saving the world” act and stop whining about how “UX won”. And, acknowledge that IA remains critically vital to the work of many people – but also acknowledge that as an independent discipline, it’s trending down.

How would an organization, if there were one, pull together those two disparate attitudes? That the work we do is super important but is critically undervalued? Without falling into a malaise of navel gazing?

How can IA be made relatable to the person just starting their career “making screens”? What about the database admin who’s quietly been doing similar work forever? Or the person who does SEO audits for a living? Maybe the problem is that efforts to make IA relatable aren’t working at scale, and ideally there would be an organization pushing that forward.

The new IAI leadership could absolutely take this on. I’m unsure if the current structure truly allows it. (I really don’t know.)

And what if the people doing vital IA work today aren’t IAs, by trade? I would almost wager that’s the case. And they’re out there, thinking that stuff is part and parcel with some other job they do. That’s great. That means, in a small way, IA has “won”.

Critically and finally: are the people who are leading impromptu discussions on Twitter the people who should be leading this charge? Are they the traditional gatekeepers? Are they really people who would be members of an IA organization? Are they the right “users” to design against? And if the answer is no, as my hunch says it is, who are the right users, and why are they not centered in these discussions?