Why did you get into Information Architecture?
I didn’t get a choice. I was born into IA. My first words were taxonomy and wireframe. My first pet was a polar bear. Okay, I’m joking, but as you’ve probably guessed, my dad is Peter Morville.
What you may not know is that I’ve spent most of my life avoiding information architecture. During my childhood, IA was that annoying, ever-present dinner topic that prevented me from talking about volleyball, friends, and the fun things in life. As a teenager, I refused to be interested in anything my dad did for work. I was the daughter who wanted to do anything but follow in her father’s footsteps. I needed to find my own path, so I went away to college to study computer science.
But that wasn’t the right fit, so when I stumbled upon an undergraduate major at the University of Maryland iSchool that integrated technology and design, I was thrilled. I called my dad to tell him about this new field I’d discovered. He said “Claire, that’s great, but you do realize this is that stuff you’ve ignored all your life? This is what I do.”
I was crushed. But, as much as I wanted to resist, I knew it was the right path. I love organizing, structuring, planning, and designing. So that’s how I became a reluctant IA.
How did you become a co-chair of the IA cConference?
In 2019, I volunteered with the DCUX Conference, where I met Vanessa Foss. We discussed low student engagement in professional conferences such as IAC, and I suggested she create the new position of student co-chair. I argued student engagement won’t happen without student leadership. One thing led to another, and here I am.
What do you do as a co-chair?
I’m grateful for my fellow co-chairs (Grace Lau, Teresa Nguyen, Cassini Nazir) because together with Kunverj and our amazing volunteers, we are responsible for planning and delivering the conference. It’s a huge amount of work.
One task that’s fun is choosing keynote speakers. I’m proud to have identified and invited Rebekah Bruesehoff to be our opening keynote. At first glance, she has little to do with IA. But, when you consider the consequences of classification, who is better to speak to its dangers than a transgender youth activist who’s also a Marvel superhero?
What’s been your funniest moment in IA, so far?
The co-chairs and curation team were reviewing workshops for the event, and the word “ontology” appeared several times. Everyone but me seemed to know what it meant, so I swallowed my pride and asked. Instead of an explanation, I was met with blank stares. After an eternity, someone said “I know what it means, but I can’t explain it.”
All of a sudden, everyone grabbed their “polar bear books.” They didn’t even have to leave their chairs. They all had it on the desk next to them. I couldn’t decide if I should laugh or cry. Sometimes it seems impossible to escape my dad even after moving hundreds of miles away to college. Of course, the moment became even funnier when we found the polar bear book doesn’t even define “ontology.”
What’s next for you?
Upon graduation in May, I hope to start my career at the intersection of user experience and crisis management. I’m currently working at the Crisis Technologies Innovation Lab at Indiana University where I have become aware of all sorts of opportunities to apply UX methods to improve disaster planning and emergency management. I may be a reluctant IA, but when it comes to using IA to help people survive and thrive, I’m all in.