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iPhone as information architecture

Apple's new iPhone looks incredible—as in, people's lives will be changed, new social and cultural practices will arise, and new kinds of relationships between people and physical spaces will be seen.

I am excited too, because the iPhone is information architecture. It's likely to be the first mass-culture information phone—an interface through which phone calls are unbound from the physics of phone wires, and freed into the plastic possibilities of digital information.

In the old POTS, switch-based phone system, a phone call between two people used a different kind of circuit than a multi-party (conference) call used. Voice mail used yet another kind of circuit. These were literally hard-wired classes of calls.

But, the iPhone transforms these hard-wired classes into structures of information that can be re-organized in multiple ways, putting the needs of people ahead of needs of the phone system. This conversion of the phone to information architecture remakes the phone in terms of at least three very rich information facets: people, connections (or interactions between people) and time.

The people facet encompasses at least name, company, phone, email, street address and IM data. Potentially any information interface that uses this data could become part of using a phone.

The connection facet encompasses at least single- / multi- party calls, email, map / directions, and chat information. And, the time facet allows all time-based phone events, like call times, to be organized by date and time.

With the iPhone's support for maps, and adding in existing wifi or cellular-based location tracking, or imagining a future GPS feature, location information may become another important facet of the iPhone information architecture.

So, the next time you plan to talk with another person or company via phone or another electronic medium, picture what you are about to do as a shape of information with these four facets: people, connection, time and location. Who are the people? What is the mode of connection? What are the times and time-zones involved? What are the locations involved?

The iPhone is an information architecture that can change the whole concept of the telephone.

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