Part 1: After information architecture I began in Chapter 1 with a description of the ‘architectonic system’ as being akin to, but distinct from, the linguistic system. The architectonic system developed our capacity to categorize the world through the organization of social groups. These social patterns became the basis for the organization of abstract concepts and ideas. The idea of the architectonic system leads us to an understanding of information as arising from combinatorial patterns, where physical constraints, in terms of what can be next to what given a consistent 2D or 3D space, generate meaningful relationships between objects, concepts and categories. The challenge posed by computational representations of information is that the constraint on the placement of physical objects no longer applies to the organization of virtual objects. Despite this, computational information has been framed by spatial metaphors. I showed in Chapter 3 that there are, broadly, three types of information space that we encounter when interacting with computational information systems. I described these spaces as semantic space, visual space and interaction space. I also developed a theory of the ‘navigational schema’ to provide a context in which, I proposed, the architectonic system proliferates through the network topologies of systems such as the WWW. The tendency to frame our interactions with digital information systems through the metaphor of space has been characterized in previous chapters as a battle between the potential of computational systems and the human requirements in interacting with them. The earliest computational systems (in common with their descendents) worked by hiding semantic content as a mechanical process rather than as a static confi guration of relationships. This meant that a mechanical system needed to be activated before a meaningful relationship between information objects could be read. The encoding of meaning through mechanical processes results in the semantics of the system becoming hidden and only visible in the process of interaction and the revealing of combinatorial patterns. Imagine, for example, using the Lullian wheel, which was introduced in Chapter 2. The
machine, as I described it consisted of three concentric wheels with the letters A, B and C inscribed along their rims. To visualize all possible relationships between each of the letters would involve changing the state of the machine’s confi guration through many different turns. These relationships exist through the potential of the system but not persistently. The system can know what the interactor might not. This ‘knowing’ is not intelligence, however. There is no intention behind a system’s knowing, but rather a necessity for the interactor to enter into dialogue with the machine. This mechanical knowing might be described as a shift in agency from users to the system with which they are interacting.