Chapter 15. Information as Architecture

Every exit is an entry somewhere.

TOM STOPPARD

Contemplating “Cyberspace”

INFORMATION HAS BEEN THOUGHT OF AS ARCHITECTURAL IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER FOR A LONG TIME. But, the extreme scale and complexity of it that we now face is a fairly modern preoccupation. Mechanized production certainly enabled a massive rise in information material, but it was digital technology that truly allowed information to come untethered from the surfaces of the world and replicate with seemingly no limits. Information architecture is in many ways a response to this digital unmooring and subsequent explosion, and it started even before the Web.

Ideas and efforts have been around for many years that treat computer-based information environments in physical, spatial ways, even though they haven’t necessarily used a combination of the words “information” and “architecture” to describe them.

For quite a while, a popular term of art was cyberspace. Back in the early 1990s, Bruce Sterling explained how cyberspace isn’t really some futuristic virtual-reality dimension; rather, it is something more mundane and already here:

Cyberspace is the “place” where a telephone conversation appears to occur. Not inside your actual phone, the plastic device on your desk. Not inside the other person’s phone, in some other city. The place between the phones. The indefinite place out there, where the two of you, two human beings, actually meet and communicate. Although it is not exactly “real,” ...

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