Ethics &
Information Architecture

6th Academics and Practitioners Roundtable
At the 2018 Information Architecture Summit, Chicago, Illinois, USA
March 21 – Presentations and Discussion
March 22 – Make-a-thon

Summary of the 2018 IA Roundtable on Ethics and Information Architecture.

Roundtable Theme

Information architecture is not neutral. By organizing information for discovery and use, we not only make information accessible but also provide the lens through which people will experience it. Designing information architectures involves making and imposing value choices, which positions the work and study of information architecture in the realm of ethics.

The information architecture community has considered ethics at the micro level, for instance by finding ways to do good in specific interactions. But to what extent have we thought about ethics in the context of our overall profession? When we design IAs do we, as practitioners, surrender our moral authority to someone else? Or do we follow a code?

Summary Presentation

RounDtable Coverage

Carol Smith's IA Summit 2018 Highlights has a section "Ethics Roundtable (Pre-Conference)".

James Mulholland's Reflections on the last Information Architecture Summit has a section "4) Grappling with ethics, influence, responsibility in a complex ecology of information".



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

Keith Instone

Bernadette Irizarry
Velvet Hammer Design

Andrea Resmini
Jönköping University

Stacy Surla
MetaMetrics Inc.

Roundtable summary

Inspire new ideas, discussion and lively debate around Ethics and IA.

  • Lightning Talks
  • Scenarios
  • Make-a-Thon
  • Mentor Review
  • Poster Night

What we did: Day 1

Lightning Talks

Ontological and Epistemological Notion of Being

Ontological and Epistemological Notion of Being

Arturo Perez
Western history’s notions of Being from an ontological and epistemological standpoint, as it pertains to information architecture.

Wicked Ethics in Design

Jason Hobbes
This paper offers suggestions for design curriculum to assist design students to understand and navigate ethical complexity.

Towards a Feminist IA

Stacy Surla
Examples of feminism and IA can help people see connections, and extrapolate to other questions of ethics.

Personal Ethics and Ethical Codes

Kat King
Research shows that several imperfect, but diverse, heuristics can lead to better design solutions than one well thought out one.

Boundaries and Relationships in IA Practice

Dan Zollman
More than being ethical professionals, we information architects have a role to play in the evolution of ethical business models and in society.

Everything that Rises must Converge

Jeff Pass

Complexity is a prerequisite for evolution. Forcing evolution or progress too quickly can result in problems. Avoid strict adherence to proven methodologies.

Your Ableism is Showing

Anne Gibson
To practice ethical information architecture, you have to design for the users you have, and the users you have are disabled.
VIEW SLIDES from a similar talk at the IA Summit

IA’s Moral Imperative: Protecting Difference

Dan Klyn
All models are wrong. All maps are traps.


Everyone was split into teams and given a number of scenarios. Teams were tasked with applying ethical principles and rewriting or finishing the scenario to tell a story about IA and Ethics.

At the end of the exercise, each team had a visualized story of an ethical situation important to information architecture, which highlighted a principle or key insight. Each team gave a 10 minute presentation sharing their story and their proposed ideas/solutions.

what we did: day 2


We challenged ourselves to create digital or physical artifacts showcasing Ethics and Information Architecture discussed during Day 1.

The conference has a "Poster Night" allowing attendees to see work that has been accomplished by many practitioners. Roundtable participants from both Day 1 and Day 2 got to show off what they made... scenarios, a game, a rubric and a presentation. Fun was had by all.

What we did: Day 3