Monday, March 28, 2005

The iPod Therapist

"Music therapy is the systematic use of music, within a developing relationship between patient and therapist to restore, maintain, and improve physical, emotional, psychosocial and neurologic function."
Institute for Music and Neurologic Function

I'm finding an interesting effect of iPoding. Much like smells, I'm finding that songs are triggering certain memories.

"We Are Each Other" from the Beautiful South's 0898 or, really, anything from the Housemartin's The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death conjure up images of my Junior year of college, looking over the campus from the 13th floor of Tower 2. Good times.

Or, Poe's "Angry Johnny" or "Trigger Happy Jack (Drive by a Go-Go)" putting me in my awesome apartment in the Central West End right after college.

One must also be careful about what ends up in your iPod "session." OMD was cool for a suburban St. Louis high school stud like me, but after Tesla Girls comes on, say, the third time, you're begrudging iTunes for finding it in the "archives" folder. Or, send you running to take out the Propellerhead's "History Repeating." (The shuffle function's shortcomings are well-documented, but come on!)

God forbid that heavy rotation ruins the soothing nature of Bill Wither's Use Me Up or the emotional impact of Jeff Buckley's Morning Theft.

Still, with the effects of these rememberances, I'm starting to wonder if these constant, system-driven reminders of times past will start to connect us to thoughts, ideas, or moments long (or lately) forgotten - allowing us to spend a tiny bit of extra time adding to our language studies, or finding that one additional piece of information that proves your hypothesis.

Will the iPod help us continue to slowly expand our capacity for knowledge, reducing slightly how much time we're caught up in "managing" our current library?

Maybe, instead, we'll just get to sleep before midnight for once.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Moment of Inspiration

(Or Connecting to the Web Way Out)

During Brett's presentation Why Amazon Is Not Enough from the IA Summit, I made a connection between a fantasy of mine* and what the web can do.

Long have I harbored a pet peeve with our education here in the US. In my experience and hearing other people talk about it, our system is geared towards certain types of learning methods (mostly memorization). Generally, certain people do very well in these environments; I certainly did. However, over time, I am understanding that I don't really learn that way; I just adapted to the system.

Hearing the discussions on NPR about No Child Left Behind and the new SATs, I find more about different ways that people learn and that education in our country (at least) has not yet widely embraced these alternative methods. You do see more magnet and alternative schools, but they are certainly not the norm.

With this in mind, Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age hit me like a brick when I read it a few years back. The premise of the story is that a young girl is given a book that "binds" to her and teaches her "everything" based exactly on her personal mindset and intellectual ability. As you can imagine, that resonated with me.

Now, back to the IA Summit. Brett was talknig about how the web can be more than recommendations, extrapolating to consumers controlling their information (CMI). Then it hit me: when you look for recommendations, you're trying to learn something. As you build your knowledge on the subject, it would be good to have a "learning guide" that you've built yourself out of various sources and media.

Well, what about a way that your Personal IA (see Thomas Vander Wal's Personal Info Cloud) were to help you:
  • build the guides - directing you to sources that you have returned to repeatedly for other reasons
  • remind you of things you've learned before that relate to this
  • suggest people you already know that may know more about this
  • point you to people/groups to whom you aren't yet connected
  • sent out inquiries on the web (anonymously?) and aggregated the responses (Google Answers? Ask Jeeves?)
  • present this body in a way that you, particularly, can understand
Not much farther on from this would be the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer from Diamond Age. That's the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night. I love my job.

*not that kind.

Monday, March 14, 2005


Livia wants some hypotheses on IA as change management.

Here's one:

Most organizations vacillate between two extremes. Either they institute too much structure and control with bureaucracy (see the Rational Unified Process) and inflexibility, or they allow too little control or structure (take your pick - or WebVan, anyone? Suggestions welcome).

Information Architecture can create a "loose" structure(s) that:
  • Frames the problems, opportunities, and constraints
  • Allow for varied perspectives (of both project stakeholders and the end-users)
  • Removes much of the politics from the decisions made in the project
  • Maximizes the benefit for everyone
Thus, IA can allow change to happen without strangling creativity or allowing too much flexibility.

Come on, let's prove that one!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Emergence of the IA Furies

So, Jesse, issued a clarion call this week at the IA Summit. Beware those the incur the wrath! To dispell my own displeasure at the wanton waste of hard work and contribute to society (finally), I start... now.