Typically, IAs have concerned themselves with the design of web sites. The metaphor most suited and used for the web so far has been space. Even the term ‘information architecture’ points to this. Nowadays, besides having to tackle the social dimension (as per the previous trend mentioned) IAs are forced to rethink the spatial metaphor in favour of a new one: the web as platform. This means designing for a web of data, where sites become data sources and tools to view and manipulate that data. This is a far cry from the old hierarchical model. Like design for social software, IAs are still exploring this new territory.
There was an excellent panel on this subject (notes and audio at The Chicken Test), with amongst others Tom Coates and Matt Biddulph (both previously employed by the BBC). Coates’ presentations (Native to a Web of Data and Greater than the sum of its parts) are essential resources. He gave a super short overview of what designing for the web of data is all about. Matt went beyond screen based media into the realm of physical computing (see the first trend) showing some cool examples of Arduino prototypes feeding into Second Life.
Jared Spool talked about the usability challenges of web 2.0 and focussed on (among many things) the shortcomings of RSS and the dangers of mash-ups. RSS as a technology is pretty cool, but no normal user intuitively understands its application. This is a technology still looking for a killer app. Mash-ups are typically made by enthusiastic amateurs looking to combine available data sources or interfaces. This means we’ll see a wave of sites with serious usability issues. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing per se, but still something to look out for.