Values in Information Architecture

8th Academics and Practitioners Roundtable
At the 2020 Information Architecture Conference
May 13 – Roundtable
May 14 – Make-a-thon

our response to covid-19

The Roundtable is still on, with revised dates and a virtual format to accommodate a global pandemic.  Read below for details.


Previous IA Roundtable discussions on Ethics (2018) and Diversity and Inclusion (2019) highlighted the need for practitioners to examine and communicate the values that inform day-to-day practice and professional life. The 2020 roundtable will explore the idea of values in information architecture (IA): Do certain values guide the practice of information architecture? What does it mean to state one’s values as an IA practitioner? How might we identify those values?

As a discipline, IA has borrowed its theories and practices from many other fields—and values, too, have been inherited from each tradition. A vastly incomplete list might include user-centeredness from design; access and preservation from library science; beauty and sustainability from architecture; cultural diversity from anthropology; and far more. Furthermore, IA practitioners have espoused particular values for IA, such as clarity, truth, and accountability.

But in practice, identifying the values at work is not straightforward: For example, in the 2018 Roundtable investigation of values and principles for ethics in information architecture, participants concluded that they could not prescribe specific values or values sets for IA practitioners due to the context-sensitivity of design problems. They developed several tools and resources for information professionals, including an Ethics Game, an Ethics Heuristic, and an Ethics Canvas, each of which asks the practitioner to select the values that apply in a given practical scenario.

Values also create tension. Practitioners must do “good” IA while demonstrating the economic value of IA for their organizations. They may work across multiple cultural contexts, come from diverse backgrounds, and design for stakeholders with diverse values, needs, and worldviews. In the 2019 IA Roundtable on Diversity and Inclusion, participants examined the sociopolitical implications of diversity in information architecture, noting that diversity itself must be a core value in order for practices to become more inclusive. This idea extends to IA scholarship, and as a primarily North America-based project, we note that this includes the IA Roundtable itself.

If values so deeply shape IA practice and its consequences, then our ability to identify, understand, and communicate these values are critical to developing IA as a discipline. The 2020 IA Roundtable seeks to develop a critical discussion about values in IA that both academics and practitioners can use to scaffold these conversations with their colleagues and communities of learning, teaching and practice.

Photo courtesy of ND Strupler


Dan Zollman
Massachusetts Digital Service

Andrea Resmini
Jönköping University

Sarah A Rice
Consultant and Adjunct Faculty, California College of the Arts

Stacy Surla
MetaMetrics Inc.

Keith Instone


Planning for the 2020 IA Roundtable

Agenda and suggested reading

Make-a-thon and how to participate



Start time: 7am PDT, 10am EDT, 3pm BST, 11pm JST

1:00 Introductions and setting the stage
0:10 Break
1:50 Lightening talks

1:00 Break
1:20 Summarize & discuss
2:40 Scenarios in small groups
0:30 Summarize the day


An overview of Shalom Schwartz’s theory of basic values and 10 universal human values

A Professional Values Statement & Maturity Model for IA/UX
Jacqui will be speaking about this proposed values statement in her lightning talk.

Fielding Cage, “The Toughest Triage: When medical resources are limited, who should get care first?”A case study on ethical decision making based on values.

Montreal Declaration for a responsible development of artificial intelligence

M3 Model handout

Day 2: Make-a-thon


Objective: Synthesize our discussion from the Roundtable and share what we learned by creating artifacts to be made available online.

Start time: 8am PDT, 11am EDT, 4pm BST, 12 midnightJST

Summarize key ideas from day 1
Generate ideas and form groups
Work in groups



Contribute to the conversation on values in information architecture. We are interested in hearing from all points of view, including both academic and practitioner. Please submit an abstract outlining your views and submit it for consideration. We encourage people in varying disciplines to apply, including philosophy, design, library science, architecture,  anthropology, rhetoric, digital humanities, psychology, liberal arts, etc.

If accepted, you will be asked to attend the day-long roundtable and give a 5 minute lightning talk summarizing your views concerning values in IA. This format allows us to discuss a topic more deeply as a group and exchange multiple ideas in a collaborative environment.

We will also be publishing a book with selected submissions from various IA Roundtables. Should your paper be selected for the 2020 Roundtable, it will also be considered for publication in the upcoming book.

Here are a few thought starters for talks:

  1. What kinds of values affect the practice of information architecture (IA)?
    How do professional values intersect with personal, social, political, institutional, and other kinds of values?
    When, in IA practice, might these conflict?
    What techniques can help us elicit the values that (already) inform our work?
  2. What values in particular, if any, characterize IA as a discipline?
    Why do practitioners feel that “good” IA is important?
    How do these values differ across industries, cultures, or geographies?
    What values might be missing?
  3. How might the values of IA as a discipline differ from the values espoused by a community of practice or a professional association?
    When is it useful to have a shared statement of values?
    What are the consequences and limitations of such a statement?
    On what basis might we choose what values to espouse individually or as a community of practice?

Any time: Register for roundtable
March 1: Submit an abstract for your 5-minute lightning talk
March 27: Final acceptance decided and communicated
April 7:     Provide draft of 5-minute talk to organizers
April 14:   Attend Day 1 — Roundtable
April 15:   Attend Day 2 — Make-a-thon (Optional)

Submission Guidelines and Participation Details
Prepare an anonymized submission and send by email to Author names should be listed in the body of the mail, but not in the abstract document.

The fine print:
All submissions go through a two-stage process of an initial blind peer-review and a second collective review to ensure a balanced program.
Precedence in this second stage will be given to ensuring the Roundtable represents a variety of perspectives, theoretical viewpoints, disciplines, and practices. Organizers may also invite some experts to submit an abstract to address specific topics.

Everyone attending the roundtable will be asked to pay a nominal fee to cover basic costs such as room rent and food.



The Academics and Practitioners Roundtable promotes ongoing conversation on the theory and practice of Information Architecture, sets new directions for research, and addresses critical challenges in the professional practice of organizing complex information spaces. The Roundtable is inclusive and open to all who want to attend.

Financial support through sponsorship allows the Roundtable to continue and grow. It also brings students to the roundtable who otherwise could not afford to attend. Without your support, that would not be possible. Your contribution will get you recognition at the most prestigious gathering for information architecture, provide input on important topics and possibly sponsor a student!

Choose which sponsorship level works for you:

Platinum ($1,000)
Our platinum sponsor will receive:

Gold ($600)
Gold sponsors will receive:

Silver ($300)
Silver sponsors will receive:

* Sponsors may choose to donate their seat(s) to a student.