In a 1970 announcement, the president of Xerox (a company which was at the avant-garde of computer systems and whose innovations allowed to produce the first successful personal computers) Charles Peter McColough speaks of the inhabitability of information environments1:
The basic purpose of Xerox Corporation is to find the best means to bring greater order and discipline to information. Thus our fundamental thrust, our common denominator, has evolved toward establishing leadership in what we call the architecture of information.What we seek is to think of information itself as a natural and undeveloped environment which can be enclosed and made more habitable for the people who live and work within it.
To quote a question from Molly Wright Steenson:
What does it mean for information to be inhabitable? This is an explicitly architectural problem.
We live in the clouds and graphical interfaces (although some people still spend their days in dark-screen terminals) where we are more than ever exposed to “friendly”, fallacious metaphors; notifications extract our attention; we use digital tools to think, work and communicate (which in return are also working on our thoughts, according to Kittler).
The architecture of information environments was not born yesterday, and yet we seem to be completely helpless in front of it.
- What is our relationship toward “smart” objects?
- Why do we accept certain technologies in our lives with voluntary and passive enslavement?
- Can we understand this “new” architecture that formats our everyday framework?
- Who are the architects and what hides in their programmes?
To understand what it means to “inhabit” information, we need a language: the language of information architecture.
Xerox: Searching for an Architecture of Information, an address by Charles Peter McColough, President, Xerox Corporation, before the New York Society of Security Analysts, March 3, 1970, via Louis Murray Weitzman, The Architecture of Information, 1995. ↩︎