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Jun 25, 2004: Too Soon to be Disappointed?

Last spring I was hunting for information on designing information architectures for global organizations. How would such issues as internationalization and localization impact (and be impacted by) information architecture design? How should information architects address the needs of audiences who speak many languages, live in many countries, and come from different cultures?

I posted two Bloug entries on this topic (here and here), and got fabulous responses, for which I'm grateful. Most of the responses were ideas, suggestions, and experiences; there were few references to books, articles, or other "formal" kinds of content.

Over two months have gone by, and though I've got a little more experience with IA and globalization, it's not enough. So I Googled "'information architecture' globalization OR globalisation". What were the first two results? Ugh. My own two blog entries. That's not new information.

I tried some variant searches. "'information architecture' localization OR localisation OR l10n"? Same result. "'information architecture' internationalization OR internationalisation OR i18n"? Ditto.

This is really depressing. IA for global organizations is, IMHO, one of the two biggest challenges information architects face (along with designing architectures for enterprise environments). And yet the amount of relevant information out there falls somewhere between diddly and squat. How could this possibly be?

Granted, I didn't search for non-English content. Granted, IA is a relatively new field which hasn't had the time to develop a robust literature. But I know first-hand many English-speaking information architects that are grappling with this issue. Are they really not capturing their experiences in written form?

And I've heard complaints from plenty of non-English-speaking information architects that the field is too US-centric. OK folks, where are your ideas and guidance that will help us information architects who are US/English-biased to learn to globalize our work?

All I can do is hope that Livia Labate and Peter van Dijck hurry up and write their book on designing globalized information architectures. Or someone else. Heck, I'd be glad to help. The more books the better; we really need more practical information on this topic. While we're at it, how about dedicating an issue of Boxes and Arrows to it, and a track at the next IA Summit? Which, by the way, will take place next March in--hallelujah--a non-US location: Montreal!!

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Comment: Peter (Jun 25, 2004)

Since I quit my job next Friday, who knows what might happen :)

Comment: peterme (Jul 4, 2004)

In the work I've done addressing the issue of global information architecture, I've realized that the topic is so big and messy that, short of really long essays and books, you can't do it justice. I think that's what's accounting for the paucity of material -- unlike other IA issues, where you can typically bite off a manageable chunk, global IA can't be reduced to an easily manageable size.

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