As humans, we are good at engaging different kinds of designs with different kinds of actions. Flexibility is in our nature. Yet, there’s something fundamental about us that makes our experience with a design feel natural, or…distinctly off. This talk draws on ecological psychology to see that natural human behavior is about two things: using information for selecting action, and relying on information for controlling action unfolding over time. Information architecture historically supported selecting, creating an actor-as-conductor of information dynamic. But, IA is increasingly relied on to help control the way action unfolds over time, an actor-as-sculptor of information dynamic. We’ll follow the thread of meaning for both to uncover factors leading to natural vs. unnatural behavior, and what we can do about it. Design examples will come from information environments that vary in how information manifests (from holograms and simulations in mixed reality to smart materials), how the actor engages it (gesture, voice, touch, among other methods), how much agency the system brings (autonomy, to machine learning and shades of intelligence), and how the system manifests to actors (text and visualization).
The information environments we are creating now may be new, but they can still feel natural, provided designers and IAs remember something: at core, we humans are tribal hunter-gatherer poets, and we want to act like it.
As an experience architect at Autodesk, Marsha Haverty focuses on the implications of the rapid evolution of 3D design and engineering practices on how Autodesk products and services are packaged and accessed. She also leads IA modernization efforts at an individual product level. Marsha attended the first IA Summits, and contributed to the 2002 JASIST special topic issue on information architecture.