The Information Architecture of Addiction
This research project explores the use of Information Architecture (IA) in Design Thinking for the purposes of ideating solutions to wicked problems. A constructivist account of IA is advanced in this study offering new perspectives, distinct to those offered by the mainstream IA employed in digital design, heralding from Library and Information Science. This reframing of IA creates a new space to explore what value may be found lying dormant in the relationship between IA and DT, and Design in general. The Research Through Design (RTD) methodology serves to support the constructive nature of this inquiry. In RTD, the researcher operates both in the role of designer and researcher, executing and critically reflecting upon a design project. For this study, a design project was conducted to address the complex social problem of addiction as it manifests in Johannesburg, South Africa. A new form of IA, Conceptual IA (CIA), is notionally developed to observe and discuss IA when enacted in Ideation following the DT process-method. The findings and conclusions offered emerge from qualitative analysis of observations and reflection upon the design project’s enactment. Within its scope, the study reveals that IA, as reframed, can be understood as operating tacitly within design (and the world) as that which contains and transmits socio-ontological meaning, decoded, recoded and encoded in design. Explicit use of IA methods, tools and techniques greatly enhanced synthetic cognition across the whole of the DT process-method enacted. Furthermore, CIA conducted in Ideation provided the concept for a social systems solution central to a strategy design which synthetically resolved the challenges presented by the wicked problem of addiction. IA and design developed to realise the concept, as blueprints, describe how use of the system in the world triggers a transformation and transcendence of this concept: in use, the IA of the concept being embedded within the structural form of the designed object, comes to be a new socio-ontological phenomena. In this way, a (speculative) theoretical account is given for how an instrumental / ontological mediation of social reality may occur, at scale, by IA employed in Design.
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This paper reflects upon new possibilities for strategy design. Information architecture (IA) is reconsidered as a tool for meaning-making with relevant links to discursive design methods. Together, these design forms provide an extension of synthetic reach into complexity and synthetic integrity to addressing deep socio-cultural change. A review of a design project conducted to address the challenges of addiction forms the basis of the discussion. Ontological complexity is revealed to be a defining feature of the problem of addiction and is considered in reference to the recent emphasis in design into considering human experiences. IA and discursive design are then discussed in reference to design artefacts created in ideating a strategy design solution. The paper concludes by offering an outline of a method and model for consideration as a pre-pattern derived from said project. Whether towards transformation or the sustainability of social ontologies, the solutions presented stand to assist design in theoretical, educational and practical terms.