Another gem from my re-reading of Information Anxiety: "Information can only be organized by location, alphabet, time, category, or hierarchy." Wurman calls this the ‘LATCH’ principle, which is obviously an acronym.
Stop and think about this for a moment because it’s not at all obvious, and most of us would reflexively dispute this proposition. The ways of organizing information are finite. Here’s a further discussion by Wurman:
While information may be infinite, the ways of structuring it are not. And once you have a place in which the information can be plugged, it becomes that much more useful. Your choice will be determined by the story you want to tell. Each way will permit a different understanding of the information–within each are many variations. However, recognizing that the main choices are limited makes the process less intimidating.
After reading Wurman’s description of each method of organization (which I’m not going to do here) you see that he’s right. There are only so many ways of structuring data. And the arrangement of data is what transforms it from pure fact into ‘information.’ Because, as Wurman points out early on his book, only that which informs is information. Data can only inform us when it becomes structured, and –hard as this is to believe– it can only be structured in so many ways.
Five, to be exact.