[Thoughts and reflections on a IA post that has hung with me from my first wiki to now. Still here and still relevant. Still contains the poetry of Borges. Digg it. I mean Dig it!]
“an infinite series of times, a growing, dizzying web of divergent, convergent, and parallel times…all possibilities.”
IA Column – A Garden of Forking Paths
by Peter Morville
Peter Morville is president of Semantic Studios, co-founder of the IA Institute and a faculty member at the University of Michigan. His books include Information Architecture for the World Wide Web and Ambient Findability. He blogs at findability.org.
Personally, I draw insight and inspiration from the words of Jorge Luis Borges, a blind Argentine librarian, who in 1941 wrote an amazing story The garden of forking pathsabout a book and labyrinth containing…
webstream / mindmap / web2mind
In his book Models of My Life, Herbert Simon, the polymath pioneer of artificial intelligence and decision theory, saw himself as the denizen of a maze: I have encountered many branches in the maze of my life’s path, where I have followed now the left fork, now the right. The metaphor of the maze is irresistible to someone who has devoted his scientific career to understanding human choice.
This observation resonates with my own experience, though my maze is modeled in hypertext, an unpredictable string of nodes and links, connected only in my mind. After graduating from college with a degree in English literature, my subsequent unemployment afforded me the luxury to pursue interests in artificial intelligence, programming and the early computer bulletin boards of Compuserve and Prodigy, while actively searching for a future in career centers and public libraries. [for me it was early AOL]
info architecture / findability / flow / information anxiety
But eventually, I realized that to become a better information architect, I needed to venture beyond the box and follow the arrows. This realization translated into a boundary-spanning passion for findability that flies over the walls of engineering, marketing and design, and sails far beyond the safe harbor of the World Wide Web.
The term ambient findability describes a world in which we can find anyone or anything from anywhere and anytime. It’s not necessarily a goal, as this vision carries both promise and peril. And we’ll never reach the destination, since perfect findability is impossible. But we’re most assuredly headed in the right direction.
Familiar lines blur in this future nearly present. Data becomes metadata as Amazon’s Search Inside the Book turns page into index. The territory becomes the map as Google Earth makes our reality virtual. In Weinberger’s words: Everything grows miscellaneous. And people are transformed into ubiquitous findable objects (UFOs), along with pets, products, possessions and places.
These UFOs, which Bruce Sterling labels spimes, are objects precisely located in space and time. They ingest their own metadata. They accumulate histories. They network with peers. They are scary, infinitely complex and almost inconceivable. But they are coming.
These are painful analogies born in the journey from past to present. They fail to anticipate the future.