Last year around this time, I was ‘attending’ Interaction 2011 from afar, cosily in my loft. But when IxDA announced this year’s conference in Dublin, I jumped the chance. I’m glad I did – conferences like Interaction have deep community roots, and help interaction designers come together to reflect, energize, and chart history for the near future.
Here’s an article I wrote for a corporate blog, which didn’t get published but highlights my reflections from the conference…
Last week I joined about 750 attendees in Dublin, Ireland for IxDA’s Interaction 2012 conference on Interaction Design. While last year’s conference had (loosely) answered the question “what have we achieved and how do we move forward?”, this year’s IxD12 has progressed towards answering “the future of human experience and relationships through interaction”. The main themes that emerged throughout the event were the emotional/social aspects of digital experiences and breaking through UX cliches and norms. It was also the first “global” Interaction conference, based in a non-US venue, which thankfully made it easier on us London-based folks.
One of the major takeaways of the conference was about modernising our tools, methods and approaches to address the explosive growth around mobile, social computing, and affective interaction. Several keynotes and talks emphasized the use of innovative thinking (Luke Williams’ “Disrupt”), progressive methods (Abby Covert’s “IA Heuristics”), and expanding beyond conventional interfaces (Jonas Löwgren’s sketching keynote). This critical reflection of the practice was very well received by attendees, myself included.
Even classic UX hallmarks such as usability testing, goals, and tasks were brought into question. In his talk, “Users don’t have goals”, Andrew Hinton argues that we’ve become too procedural, and that there are better ways to design against for organic, fuzzy, human behaviours. The MAO model, presented by Sebastian Deterding, is one such method – proposed as an alternative to BJ Fogg’s “Persuasive Architecture”. Even usability expert Dana Chisnell argued that testing against tasks is ill-suited to research the increasingly ubiquitous social web. Despite the challenging nature of these talks, it didn’t feel superficial or impractical, and certainly left me inspired about the future of our practice.
The evening events, such as the opening & closing parties and the IxDA Awards (an Interaction first), were packed and fed the whiskey-induced celebrations well through the nights. One of them, The Great IxDA Debate hosted by SapientNitro, pitched three controversial IxD topics against panelists Dave Malouf, Pete Trainor, Abby Covert, Jeff Gothelf, Kieron Leppard, and Giles Colborne. With Dan WIllis (@uxcrank) moderating, the debate turned out to be one of the best IxD12 events.
It’s hard to shake off the community spirit at an Interaction conference, and it certainly delivered that in spades this year. Next year’s theme (again, an Interaction first) has been aptly named “Social Impact”, and will be held in Toronto, Canada. Closing keynote speaker, Dr. Genevieve Bell, summed it up best – we’re moving away from thinking solely about interactions and more towards relationships.
I tried to cover as many talks I could with my sketchnotes, but I’ll briefly sum up the event with the following “themes” I observed: