Professional Association of IAs: Good Idea?

Ultimately I don't see a professional association as a good goal, at least not for the next few years; here are my reasons:

  • competition for membership dues with existing associations
  • not enough revenue to make it worth the hassle
  • complex legal issues regarding operating in many states and countries
  • most professional associations aren't perceived as especially efficient or forward-looking; shouldn't we take this opportunity to try something different (i.e., what I'm calling a "community infrastructure")?
As it may make more sense to partner with existing associations, why antagonize them by competing for memberships?

Speaking of which, what about ASIS&T? In a nutshell, ASIS&T is most definitely "good people," but remains a volunteer organization that is focused on serving the needs of a different audience (information scientists) with only some overlap with information architects. Additionally, ASIS&T is good at providing "traditional" professional association services (e.g., group rates on life insurance); however, it has less ability to take advantage of today's technologies (for example, the SIGIA-L archive has not been running properly for several months).

More importantly, information architects should question the approach of allying with any established association (and, indeed, any established field). Close alliance with information science may alienate those who come from other backgrounds, such as the STC crowd (technical communication), CHI (human factors), AIGA (visual design), and so on.

This is a huge risk, and probably not worthwhile.
 
Perhaps a better approach would be to pioneer a complementary relationship with ASIS&T that could be duplicated with other organizations. This might include mutual discounting of memberships, sharing mailing lists, and so on. (Any other ideas?)

Posted by Louis Rosenfeld at November 08, 2001 07:09 PM
Comments

I'm someone who had at least one conversation at the 2000 IA Summit in Boston that went something like "So, what do you belong to? It seems like you need to belong to at least four different organizations to get at everything that's going on." And in fact, when asked "what should I join?" at the Nielsen/Norman event last month, my suggestion was to join the association most closely in line with your core skillset, and then take advantage of the public resources made available by the others.

Fortunately, there have been a good group of folks, like Lou, who are really intereted in cross-collaboration. And since there are so many resources don't require membership in multiple organizations to take advantage of them, the biggest challenge is finding the time...time to subscribe to four or more lists, time to read a dozen or more blogs, time to check out what's going on at IAwiki.

So...in lieu of a formal bureaucratic "professional" organization, maybe this IA community can be a place where this cross-collaboration is more formalized...and that others can benefit from the folks who are passionate about this exchange of info. For example, INTECOM provides this function (of sorts) for 15 different technical communication organizations.

Or perhaps something along the lines of the webgrrls phenomenon, where a community has been built following the model of low (or no) dues, strong local chapters, and lots of networking. Like them, IAs are perhaps well-positioned to take advantage of their ability to really utilize Internet tools (web, email, chat, etc) to create this community without a huge overhead.

I suspect the real issue is not whether there's a possibility of complementary relationships with these etablished organizations. Many folks will retain their affiliation with a professional association for the trappings that this brings. I think the real task is to tap into all these folks who are feeling like this isn't enough...that they are a "fringe" member in their professional association. They can belong there, but perhaps be involved in this community of others like them. You can do a lot with sweat equity :).

Posted by Beth Mazur at November 11, 2001 9:23 PM

I've said it on my site, and I'll say it here.

I think "information architecture", as a discipline, belongs with ASIS&T, at least for the time being. They've expressed an interest in the group, folks like Andy Dillon are being given ever-greater prominence, and there is overlap in what they're traditionally interested in, and where information architecture is heading.

For those who want to cast their nets wider, I suggest the AIGA's Experience Design community. They've made remarkable inroads for being an umbrella organization, having invited folks from a wide variety of backgrounds to inform their mission. Yes, it's the AIGA, which, yes, makes me oogy, but, well, there are smart people doing good intelligent work toward what has been discussed on this site and elsewhere.

Posted by peterme at November 17, 2001 1:35 AM

I see Lou's effort to bring us together under one umbrella as a 'glimmer of hope' towards what I feel is a need to develop a trade guild of sorts.Community, yes. Knowledge sharing, yes. Establish publish, and publicize best practices and methodology of User Experience Design, yes,yes,yes!!! But we're more than that, or at least; I think we must be. We don't need bogus certifications (IA, ID, UE Certification)!, but I think we really do need an IA oriented group that can 'graduate' out from under the wing of library science and ASIS and move on to do bigger and better things. And I think that these "Big Things" will, by definition, happen at an
accelerated pace -IF we take up the challenge, and go on our group vision quest for the real "whatever it is" [User Experience Design, Interaction Design,Information Architecture, whatever!]

There is a lot potential power in a unified front of IA's who will work together to define best practices of software navigation and presentation for the Users of the world wide web. My hope is to see this community realize that potential and elevate the User experience to a higher level [while reducing User frustration at the ever increasing information overload that we all face everyday].

Posted by Robert Dornbush at December 19, 2001 11:33 PM

I'd like to see Boxes and Arrows turn into more than just a publication. Because it was really the first non-sponsored vehicle that sought and used thoughts from leaders across boundaries, and because they've done such a great job of visual design, I'd just as soon be a practitioner aligned to them as a 'collective'.

Let me buy space on the site to host my own 'thoughts'. Provide 'incorporation' services so I can bill to major corporations without having to incorporate myself. Just generally be a 'holding company' / branding device for all of us in the 'whatever we are' space.

Posted by Paula Thornton at May 17, 2002 11:20 PM

The 2002 Annual ASIS&T conference was a let down for IA's and anyone hoping to hear something valuable about IA. Unfortunately, I don't think ASIS&T is dedicating enough to the field for the group to be considered worth the membership dues. They offer nothing more than acknowledgement.

I agree with Paula about boxesandarrows.com. I find this resource to be a great asset to the growing community of IA and Usability professionals.

Posted by Kyle Pero at December 4, 2002 9:08 PM


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