Information development refers to the practical application of best practices from across disciplines in the use of intelligence to create and deliver content that facilitates user success. It incorporates the most effective aspects of communication sub-fields and genres to create information that is easy to find, read, understand, use, and (in some cases) remember.
What does that actually mean in practice? It means being open to using humor, storytelling, and gorgeous design in technical communication. It means being open to using verified sources and robust statistics in marketing communication. It means using passive voice and active voice as needed for clarity, rather than because of arbitrary and rigid conventions based on tradition. And it means simultaneously creating content-development tools and systems that sustain organizations and keep them profitable.
There is a long tradition in both education and business of approaching communication through a narrow lens that perpetuates false and dichotomous thinking. A dichotomy is “a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different" (according to Oxford
In the modern world, communication through content is segregated into multiple specialized sub-fields, such as marketing, literature, technical communication, journalism, scientific communication, and more. This segregation is deeply rooted in both our educations systems and in the way businesses are organized and managed. From the earliest years of schooling, the skills and activities required to creating effective content content are divided into "art" and "reading and writing," which are are taught as completely separate activities, often in separate classrooms. Even within the so-called "language arts," communication is segregated into categories such as "informative" and "persuasive," and these are described as distinctly separate from one another. As students progress through the education system, such false dichotomies are perpetuated through programs that teach communication based on the false idea that specific conventions related to specific areas of study, subject matter, genres, and formats are the "correct" conventions.
There are many problems with the traditional approach. Fundamentally, it is completely disconnected from how humans engage with content and how we perceive and process information. There are many problems with the traditional approach. Fundamentally, it is completely disconnected from how humans engage with content and how we perceive and process information.
Anatomically, neurologically, and psychologically, all human beings, regardless of particular demographic profiles, perceive and process information in essentially the same way. This means that there are universal conventions that govern effective communication, regardless of genre, subject area, and format. The traditional, siloed approach leads to faulty assumptions, inefficient processes, unnecessary conflict, poor user experiences, and massive profit loss.
Information development is based on how human beings perceive, process, and respond to information. It's user-focused and integrates knowledge from fields as diverse as psychology, artificial intelligence, statistics, graphic design, writing, and more. It brings together conventions that are typically separated or ignored within specific fields. For example, it incorporates storytelling and instruction, statistics and visualization, and beautiful design with technical accuracy.
An Emerging Field
Wonderfully, delightfully, gratifyingly, there are new academic programs emerging around the world that are based on this integrated, interdisciplinary approach. These are often referred to as "iSchools" or "Information Schools." (To learn more about iSchools, you can visit ischools.org
An Information School (sometimes abbreviated I-school or iSchool) is a university-level institution committed to understanding the role of information in nature and human endeavors. Synonyms include "School of Information," "Department of Information Studies," or "Information Department."
My mission is to champion an integrated, interdisciplinary approach that helps both organizations and individuals create effective content that truly enables success – information that is informative, credible, persuasive, accurate, and delightful.