Knowledge and Information Architecture

Knowledge and information architecture (KIA) is a blend of ideas, approaches tools and techniques derived from information management, knowledge management and information architecture. In this respect, KIA draws on a vast literature from these various sub-disciplines – first from information management, then knowledge management and then from information architecture. This literature ranges from the 1980s and 1990s through to the present day with different subjects coming in and out of fashion but all contributing to the contemporary perspective embodied in the knowledge and information architecture approach. This provides a robust underpinning for understanding technological developments in how we treat information in our society - and how we engage tactically with information and knowledge in organisations.

  • Knowledge management is concerned with making explicit the tacit or implicit knowledge of organizations (Dalkir, 2011) its origins can be traced back to the end of the 1990s.
  • Information Architecture has been defined as: an emerging discipline and community of practice focusing on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape (Morville and Rosenfield, 2006, p. 4) and emerges in the early years of the 2000s.
  • Information and knowledge architecture combines the discipline of information architecture with the power of knowledge management to drive organizational change (Evernden and Evernden  2003).

The link between knowledge management and information architecture is made particularly clear in a dissertation by Taljaard (2007):

‘Knowledge management is defined in terms of the ability of organizations to manage knowledge as a strategic resource in order to gain an advantage from it. In the knowledge management framework, knowledge is presented as a continuum consisting of tacit, implicit and explicit knowledge. Tacit and implicit knowledge is managed through the acknowledgement of the social nature of knowledge. One method to achieve this is communities of practice. On the other end of the spectrum explicit knowledge is very close in nature and character to information. Due to the expansion of available information resources the design and structure of information (explicit) knowledge for effective retrieval has become very important. Information architecture is a field that specialises in the design and structure of information for effective retrieval. Traditional information architecture tools such as metadata and subject classification address some of the issues but experience difficulties in heterogeneous environments such as the internet...The conclusion of this dissertation is the representation of a conceptual model [showing] the clear and direct link between knowledge management and information architecture.’

 (Taliaard, 2007, Abstract)

From this perspective it is possible to fully exploit the opportunities for handling knowledge and information as organizational and social assets. The starting point is usually to explore the relationship between data information and knowledge and from this the concept of information as a resource. From this the techniques of information and communication audits essential for understanding the information use of the individual and the organisation can be deployed in the management of information as a resource. Plus, concepts from knowledge management used to explore knowledge transformation, diffusion and absorption in organizations, and the role that Communities of Practice play in organizational learning. Approaches to sorting and organizing information, can be deployed in the development of networks and hierarchies, classifications and taxonomies, including folksonomies and the use of social media. Finally, knowledge and information architecture provides techniques for designing for change  and evolution in approaches to open data and sharing of information can to be explored and evaluated – including the use of XML and RDF.

Information and knowledge architecture then is a blended subject and as with any blend there is a mixture of balance and taste and differences of approach. However, the sources are clear:

  • information management
  • knowledge management
  • information architecture

From the first comes the notion of information as a resource and approaches to valuing and managing information, including techniques such as information auditing, information mapping, and communication auditing. From the second, the distinction between tacit, implicit and explicit knowledge, and the role of Communities of Practice in knowledge transformation. And, from the third, approaches to organizing explicit information through subject classification, taxonomies and ontologies. The precise mix depends on the individual or on the individual needs of the organization. The mixture of ideas, tools and techniques may be unique but the sources are generic and well documented.

Because the sources of knowledge and information architecture are different and diffuse - defining the essence of knowledge and information architecture as a subject, is not really possible. The different sources share some common interests, but are manifestly different in approach and emphasis. The focus differs according to the individual viewpoint. Perhaps this is to be expected in an information landscape that has been transformed and re-transformed over the years making the contemporary information environment almost unrecognisable from what it was a few decades ago, and, in many respects, only relatively recently. So knowledge and information architecture, as a subject or discipline attempts to address contemporary issues against the background of established knowledge and practices and the consequent re-definition of the role of the information profession in the changing information environment. Its applications could include, although not be restricted to, information governance, and handling knowledge and information as organizational and societal assets, through to the use of mobile apps, social media, open data, knowledge sharing, mashups, augmented reality and big data.


Dalkir, K. (2011) Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice, 2nd edn., London, MIT Press.

Evernden, E. (2003) Information First: Integrating Knowledge and       Information Architecture for Business Advantage, London, Routledge.

Morville, P., and Rosenfeld, L. (2006) Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, 3rd edn.,Sebasopol, CA. O'Reilly Media Inc.

Taljaard, L. (2007) Mapping the relationship between knowledge management and information architecture. MPhil Dissertation, University of Cape Town, South Africa.


Prof. David Ellis BA MA PhD MCLIP - Professor and Research Coordinator Department of Information Studies

David joined Aberystwyth as Professor of Information Studies in 2000, after several years as External Examiner for Aberystwyth – when he was Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Studies in Sheffield (from 1984 to 2000). David’s research interests include: information and knowledge management; information needs; user studies; information retrieval; academic communication; communication in organizations; social aspects of information systems; information policy and strategy; information and communication audits.

Some of David’s publications include:

  • Clique and elite: inter-organizational knowledge sharing across five star hotels in the Saudi Arabian religious tourism and hospitality industry Idrees, I. A., Vasconcelos, A. C. & Ellis, D., 2018, In: Journal of Knowledge Management.22, 6, p. 1358-1378.
  • Changing styles of informal academic communication in the age of the Web: orthodox, moderate and heterodox responses Ellis, D., Foster, A. & Shehata, A. M. K., 2017, In: Journal of Documentation.73, 5, p. 825-842.
  • Developing a model for investigating academic libraries as learning organisations Limwichitr, S., Broady-Preston, J. & Ellis, D., 2016, IDIMC 2016 Exploring our digital shadow: from data to intelligence: Conference Proceedings Loughborough University, 12&13 January 2016. Jackson, T. & Coombs, C. (eds.). Loughborough: Loughborough University, p. 54-65.
  • Scholarly communication trends in the digital age: Informal scholarly publishing and dissemination, a grounded theory approach Shehata, A. M. K., Ellis, D. & Foster, A., 2015, In: Electronic Library.33, 6,
  • An investigation into the impact of information behaviour on information failure: The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power disaster Thatcher, A., Vasconcelos, A. C. & Ellis, D., 2015, In: International Journal of Information Management.35, 1, p. 57-637 p.
  • More publications on the Research Portal


A keen interest and/or working in knowledge and information governance.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this short course you should be able to:

  • explain and provide critical comment on the context and definitions, background and evolution of the principles of Knowledge and Information Architecture
  • critically analyse the relationship between frameworks and theories for information architecture and the study of users and organisations
  • relate a critical analysis of the available and developing technologies for information management and information architecture to current practice and existing developments
  • demonstrate a critical knowledge of information and knowledge structures and organisation.
  • apply a critical analysis of theory and technology to the application of design and strategy principles to the development of policy, procedures and design for IA
  • visually represent information and knowledge structures
  • apply techniques for identifying trends and opportunities along with elements of uncertainty, risk and change


To apply please complete the Short Course Application Form. Return it - with your reference - to Aberystwyth Postgraduate Admissions Office on, before the application deadline date.

For further information, please contact the please contact Information Studies tel: (+/0)1970 622188; e-mail: