by Joe Lachoff
Friday. Day 3.
Richard Buchanan started our day with a keynote framed as counterpoint to Bill Verplank's opening keynote from the day before, summarizing in later remarks that, "It's impossible for human beings to experience systems." Touché!
Carin Rogoff blogged about Richard's talk in more detail here. She mentions that Richard didn't have any slides, which is true- but I happened to be sitting behind Bill Verplank during this presentation and noticed that he was carefully diagramming everything Richard said. It would have been fun to see that projected on the overhead.
Steven Johnson shared a couple of metaphors that resonated with me: First, that content is structured on the web more like a rhizome than like a tree. A tree has a rigid, strictly hierarchical structure, while a rhizome is more like an interconnected set of shallow structures - more opportunistic; more adaptable. Sadly, with a name like rhizome we're probably doomed to a future of brittle, rigid hierarchy.
Second, he used the classic parable of the blind men and the elephant - where the blind men represent the various roles in the software development process, and the elephant is the final product - to emphasize that interaction designers need to step back and see the whole elephant. I would add that we do it to see the people riding on top of the elephant, but it takes deliberate effort and empathy for our colleagues to study the elephant and really see it entirely. This is one reason I like the title "product designer" - as in, the designer who aspires to consider the whole product.
Day 4. Saturday was the last day of the conference.
I attended the sessions in the main venue:
Charles Hannon made a plug for patterns and mental models in his talk entitled "the neuroscience of usability". This was refreshing given the applause when it was suggested, in a previous day's session, that patterns were overused like clip art. In contrast, his research shows that it really stresses us out when we confront unfamiliar controls in familiar contexts. Rewind/un-applause. Let's use patterns appropriately people. In fairness to Tim Wood, I think he was really just urging us not to miss an opportunity to be mindful, innovative, and creative, really.
Josh Clark's presentation encouraged complexity, explaining that complexity can live in harmony with simplicity. He drew a distinction between complex and complicated interactions: Complex interactions create opportunities for the user to slow down via conversation. Josh is the author of the book, Tapworthy, Designing Great iPhone Apps.
Film maker-turned-interaction designer Adam Connor introduced his concept for annotating each element in a standard task flow artifact with two pieces of new information derived from a film making tool, the beat sheet: The emotional state of the user, and the emotional goals of the system. Adam's point is that it helps sharpen the design to consider and document what state the user is expected to be in emotionally when they approach an interface, and how the interaction will affect that state. Emotional test cases!
Brenda Laurel gave the afternoon keynote. Wow. What? It will save the planet, it will be fractal, and we can help her build it. I think her presentation had encoded within it some kind of thought virus. I can't tell you the substance of what she said, but since her talk I can't seem to stop dreaming of electric sheep. I'll leave it to the more astute listeners to summarize her talk. I took a note to check out this book on her recommendation.
Paris Buttfield-Addison of Secret Lab and Stephen Anderson made two very different presentations, but my take away from both was the same: Don't just bolt game mechanics onto your product. Superficial gamification is for losers.
The closing keynote was a vitriolic rant by Bruce Sterling. It was great! He complained at us to be less lame. He told us not to be punks and abandon CHI while laying claim to the work of our predecessors under a new flag. He told us we were the smartest, but not so smart as we'd like to think we are.
All of the keynotes I saw at Interaction 11 included gentle reminders from some of the most experienced thinkers in our field not to ignore the work of the innovators who came before us. I'm inspired to revisit design history and expand my knowledge.
Here's a view of Boulder recommended by one of the locals. Stare at the photo for long enough and you'll be magically transported to a location just outside of a restaurant in downtown Boulder. I can't see it.
That's it for my notes on the Interaction 11 conference in Boulder. I'd just like to thank Autodesk once again for sending me to the conference.