Pervasive information architecture for the sentient city

The city as an information architecture

The city of today is not only a thriving social and physical infrastructure, but a complex network of communicating pervasive information architectures which produce, process, exchange, use, and re-use information.

As more and more mobile devices and intelligent appliances are deployed, cities turn into places where “both the urban fabric as a whole, and discrete objects within it, have been endowed with the ability to gather, process, display, transmit, receive, store and take action on information” (Greenfield).¬†They are getting smart, they are becoming sentient, they interact.

Challenges for user experience

They also have a potential to confuse, frustrate, and provide inconsistent user experience to all of us as we try to make sense of things while using different combinations of websites, smartphones, real-time displays, street or shop signage, and good old paper-based materials to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Think of getting an appointment for some physicals at the local hospital and consider how many unrelated systems, interfaces, and environments you are bound to interact with before you know if you need to cut on those cupcakes.

Our talk will initially frame the discussion of how to design for distributed, city-wide services within the boundaries of pervasive information architectures in cross-channel user experiences, explaining

  • where the challenges for information architecture lay
  • what they are
  • how pervasive information architectures work in concrete
  • how we should design for them and why.

Benefits of a seamless cross-channel approach for user participation and consumption will be offered for discussion, as much as possible design pitfalls and shortcomings designers need to be aware of. We will introduce the concept of resilience, the capability of an information space to shape and adapt itself to the different range of users, needs, and seeking strategies, and explain how it can be employed to improve our architectures.

Examples and case studies

We will then offer insights of some case studies — included one on the design of a region-wide local transport system — where a pervasive, cross-channel approach was used to improve the final user experience. We are going to highlight the initial status quo and some of the project’s goals and motivations, such as the desire to reuse already available components, both internal and top-down (for example data on traffic) and external and bottom-up (such as georeferenced social networks). The idea is that users have not to be coaxed into yet another platform but rather helped make sense of existing ones as part of a single experience; and that the final outcome would be a sustainable, dynamic process which would impose low technological and financial barriers to its adoption, open to third-parties for further development.

Draft deliverables for the whole process and for one of the artifacts part of the final pervasive information architecture will be showed, explained and commented upon.

Further readings

The website of the EUROIA conference