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The Architecture of Information: Architecture, Interaction Design and the Patterning of Digital Information
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Dr Martyn Dade-Robertson
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Historically, from the development of Memory Palaces to the modern museum and library, buildings have acted as classification devices by inexorably associating the arrangement of ideas with the organisation of physical objects. However, this tradition of knowledge made manifest through the articulation of architectural space, has been challenged by the development of digital technology which, it was hoped, could free information from the ‘ballast of materiality’ [Benedikt 1991: 4]. The development of systems such as hypertexts has allowed for the ‘separation of data information and form’ [Novak 1991: 226] by allowing for the possibility of multidimensional associations between virtual information objects. More recently, the complexity of large databases and the vastness of the World Wide Web have led to the emergence of agent based systems which automatically structure information which can subsequently be retrieved using search and query. Despite its potential to break the mould, however, digital information has been characterised by its reliance on metaphors from a pre-digital era. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the prevalence of architectural ideas which have pervaded discussions of digital information, from the urbanisation of cyberspace in science fiction, through to the adoption of spatial visualisations in the design of graphical user interfaces and the emergence of the profession of Information Architecture. Are these metaphors, for digital information, the equivalent of the car’s ‘horseless carriage phase’ or are they a pointer to a more fundamental relationship between human beings and their representations of information?
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