Live at Interaction’10: day 2

Interaction Conference

Founded in 2008, the Interaction Design Association Conference brings together practitioners interested in all things around interaction design. Interaction 12 took place in Dublin, Ireland on 1–4 2012. Interactions 13 is set to take place in February 2013 in Toronto.

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After a night of some great parties, and even better conversation, the second day of Interaction 10 began with a preview of the new website redesign. The team doing the redesign covered all the great new features that are coming, and went into detail on how local groups will be able to leverage the new site for their own networks and events. The excitement from yesterday was easily carried over, and people were pumped to see what the presenters had in store for us today.

Opening keynote: Ezio Manzini – Design for social innovation and sustainability

Ezio Manzini

Today’s opening keynote, given by Ezio Manzini, built on a lot of the topics covered in yesterday’s opening keynote. The topic revolved again around the subject of sustainable design, and its role in society. Ezio started off with the message that interaction designers are some of the best people to talk to regarding this as we are young both as a profession and as designers.

Over the course of the presentation, he touched on the various signals signifying the rise of a new economy. The economy of the future isn’t some utopian idea, but rather something that exists today within the framework of the old economy. The focus of the new economy will no longer be around particular products, but rather services and interactions. And most of these interactions will be totally new to us. The signals that are directing us towards this world changing economy were summed up using real world examples that are happening right now:

  • Individuals and communities are inventing new ways of living. The emphasis of this point surrounded the agriculture industry and the way economics of farming are changing. People are starting to get their produce more from farm shares and farmer markets rather than big produce stores. This act of getting back to the providers of nutritional substance allows people to become more connected with the people that provide these services, but also to their local communities.
  • Digital platforms are becoming catalyzers of social change. Being better connected with those around you creating an aggregation of the social action. Based on shared values and beliefs, they are able to act on these things both within their local communities and on a larger scale.
  • A new scenario is emerging. Though we may not know what a sustainable society looks like, we at least have an idea. This idea is rooted in the simple concepts of Small, Local, Open, and Connected. These concepts can be mashed up in a variety of ways to think of new ways to accomplish old tasks, and allows us to create a better framework for this new economy that is being created.

In order to ensure that the new economy works in the long run, the services and interactive products produced to fuel the economy need to satisfy people’s needs and enhance their capabilities. These new services and products also need to have a goal of enabling systems (similar to the message of engagement from yesterday’s keynote). This enabling platform needs to be accessible for normal people, effective, and most importantly create a sense of trust. In the end, there is the potential for great beauty in this enabling platform.

Shelly Evenson – Service As Design

The topic of service design has come up several times already at the conference, both in the back channels and in other presentations. Shelly’s talk was interesting as it provided a great visualization of what true Service Design is, backed up by some the work her past students have done. One of the first great points she makes is about the overall context of objects today. It used it be, 15 years ago, that to order a special pair of shoes you would have to do it via a stores product catalog. Once ordered, those shoes could take up to six weeks to arrive. Today, however, it can take a mere 24 hours from when the order was placed to when the shoes arrive at you door step. Because of this increase in turn around, peoples expectations are higher today. They are looking for more faster, and it can lead to the inability to cope very quickly with all the information we are bombarded with.

This setting of the context leads directly into why service design is so important. Service Design facilitates a multifaceted and co-produced experience, with many touch points and variety of dependencies. These touch-points included People, Product, Place, Process, and Performance, and when they all come together you have something you can call a Service. People interact with each of these touch points, and it’s the path that they take which in the end fosters some kind of experience.

Today, we are seeing more and more of a mash up of social and service. People are able to tweet about a particular service, which opens them up to being directly contacted by someone representing the company behind the service. When performing Service Design in the modern, connected, world, you are creating affordances in which for people to engage in the overall conversation. The themes that make up these affordances are People, Time, Place, Usability, Visualization, and finding and organizing. The resources we design to invoke experiences must respect these affordances, and capitalize on them in new and exciting ways.

Timo Arnall – Designing for the Web in the World

Timos itterative model

Timo is a designer leading and collaborating on international projects and research on mobile technology and media out of Oslo, Norway. Timo, being a very skilled photographer and film maker, gave a very visually pleasing presentation with lots of moving video and beautiful layered graphics. In his talk, he showed us the results and findings from his work where he and his team has explored what we do with the internet “beyond the glowing screen of computers” . He also gave us a set of basic findings in his research that can be used as a tool for successfully design these kind of products.

The talk covered a mix of examples from other already existing products and examples of projects where his team had experimented with how Near Field Communication (NFC) devices such as RFID (40 billion around the globe) can be integrated in to products. He also touched briefly on the ethical issues around the use of NFC. Some of these examples of the existing were mobile tracking applications like Nokia Sports tracker and Nike Plus. The projects made by Timo and his team are great examples of how they have experimented with NFC to create new interactions and very pleasantly looking objects with a digital interface in them. Again also beautiful examples of video and product production and several of the projects he showed you can see for yourself at Timo’s Vimeo Channel.

To finish off, Timo listed three central aspects to both evaluate how successful existing NFC objects are, and as a basis for criteria when designing new objects that can also be used as an iterative cycle.

  1. Immediate tangible experience – Don’t wait with giving feedback
  2. Short term connecting and sharing – Satisfaction through sharing/comparing of results
  3. Long term service, data & visualization – Well working online services to mediate social space

Read more of Timo’s research at and

Ben Fullerton – Designing for Solitude

Not only was this session standing room only, but people took up seats on the floor wherever they could. Ben delivered one of the most interesting talks of the day, dealing not with any particular practice or process but rather a state of mind. He starts off by stating that we all have the assumption that being connected is a good thing, but that there is an alternative state that also needs attention: solitude.

In order to show the importance of solitude from a historical point of view, he discussed how Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad all take their own solitary journey in order to reach a certain level of spirituality. Another example was an author who spent 10 years holed up in a library, completely alone, in order to write his masterpiece: it turns out that many of the great creatives all used some form of isolation in order to do some of their best work.

There’s too much stuff. We live in a stuff-a-lanche – Charlie Broker

In the past, the devices we used in our everyday life only had a single mode to them. Products of the present are becoming more and more multi modal, providing more unique types of interaction all at the same time. To combat this certain products are going back to this single mode of interaction, including a music/phone device he helped design. Rather than allow for you to access either function at the same time, there was a define toggle that turned one aspect of the device off in order to perform the other. You could either listen to music, or you could send and receive phone calls, but never at the same time. This idea can also be found in the “Quiet Cars” found on Amtrak trains. If you decide to sit in this area of the train, you are not allowed to disturb the others around you: no loud music, no friendly banter, not even excessive coughing or sneezing is allowed. All of this is in place to ensure that passengers have a place in which they can get away from everything. Allowing yourself to get away from everything, or disconnect, is Ben’s big call to action. There is nothing wrong with BEING connected, just allow yourself the freedom to disconnect too.

Kevin Cheng – Augmented reality: Is it real? Should we care?

Google search statistics for Augmented Reality

Kevin, entertaining as always, gave us a very thorough rundown on the current market of existing augmented reality applications out there. He even managed to have a live demo of a couple of them for iPhone. It was a mix of both entertaining variants and more or less useful ones.

AR is a term to describe the real-time merging of various technologies with the real world to create a mixed, augmented reality. Going on at looking at the history of augmented reality we have seen examples of this from the world of movies for over 20 years but it is not until with the computing power of mobile phones that we start to see a boom in the development of these types of applications.

Even so there is still a slight lack in accuracy with the current technology like GPS and electronic compasses so we will have to wait a bit longer before we see some more advanced applications. This might also be there reason why there are currently no established standards to how to design for AR.

By researching Google, Kevin could show a distinct increase in the search patterns for AR during the last two years. Notable was that the top five countries on the list were Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a clear indication that this is a region of the world to keep your eyes on in regards to AR.

Steve Baty – Lunch Discussion, UX Book Club

UX Book Club founder (as well as IXDA VP and fellow Johnny) Steve Baty organized an opportunity at lunchtime to discuss books by two of the speakers at the conference, Thoughts on Interaction by Jon Kolko and Designing for Interaction by Dan Saffer. Both authors also took the opportunity to join in in the discussions and a short Q&A after the discussions. It was a very light hearted event where Steve introduced the audience of around 150 people to the concept of  UX book club and urged us to all do the same in our home area. Anahi Bagu and Will Evans gave us a short introduction to each of the books and then we dived in to lively discussions for about 20 minutes on both the books and adjacent subjects. Finally the two authors stepped up for a short Q&A whilst the audience was chanting “Two men enter. One man leaves!”

Two men enter. One man leaves!

This is an extremely simple but yet rewarding experience that you easily can set up where you live or even at your work place. Having the authors on the spot was an added luxury but not necessary for a successful UX book club.

Chris Fahey – The Human Interface

Things to try from Chris Fahey's talk

Things to try from Chris Fahey's talk

We are cyborgs. This is the statement Chris uses to kick off his session into why human like interfaces are important and what are the danger zones that should be avoided with regards to allowing technology replace humans. For many years it has been a fear that one day technology will some how replace humans. According to Chris, the best way to alleviate this fear is to not let technology replace us, but rather having human behavior become reflected in the technology that we use.

As designers we need to capitalize on the fact the people already give objects a bit of humanity by anthropomorphism. Since this is one of our standard behaviors, it isn’t much a leap to use that knowledge in the overall design of what we create. The way to do this is by concentrating on Strong Centers, Positive and Negative Space, Roughness, and Echoes. The world of game design has been hitting these areas recently and it has been a huge success for them.
Chris’s session was wrapped up by going over the three qualia of the human interface:

  • Sentience - The ability to see or feel subjectively. This is best described by the advancement of voice or facial recognition over the years.
  • Intimacy – This can be facilitated with or through machines. Devices are able to better detect our presence and collect personal information about us in the background.
  • Personality – We want to see the things we use have a personality. We want to see ‘faces’ in the stuff we interact with.

The final message of “If we don’t humanize our products, our products will mechanize us”  is one that we can all use posted up on our walls, or cubes, in order to remind us of the human aspects of our designs.

If we don’t humanize our products, our products will mechanize us – Chris Fahey

Closing Keynote: Paola Antonelli – Talk to Me

Tonight’s closing presentation was given by Paola Antonelle, of the Museum of Modern Arts in New York City.

Paola Antonelli. Image by Monica Ferro

Paola Antonelli. Image by Monica Ferro

She started off by explaining how objects have always spoken to her, sometimes in the most peculiar ways. Walking down the street, stop lights, TV’s, or bus signs all speak to her in a very cartoonish manner. But by having this conversation with everyday objects, she is constantly finding new things to add to her next exhibits. In truth, we all have conversations with technology, thanks to the interfaces that helps to put a face to these objects. It allows us to communicate and interact at a very personal level, both positive and negative ways. It’s important that this face is able to not only communicate, but also be functional, provide instruction, and allows us to access relevant information.

Paola then ran through an amazing range of relevant and beautiful design projects including Crossroads, Significant Objects, We Feel Fine and Josh On.
In closing, she gave us some insight on her struggle to get the ‘@’ symbol not only included in some of her exhibits, but also making it a permanent fixture of the museum. This symbol which so many of us use everyday has been around for centuries, even going so far as span languages. At some point, accountants started to use it to refer to something, such as four bags of flours @ $50.00 a bag. Why she feels that is has a place in the museum is that fact that when the email was invented, the reason the “@” was chosen was thanks to its traditional usage. The only thing that changed was its context of use.
Paola suggests that the ‘@’ sign should be treated as a design artefact because of its history and how well it translated into our technological world, therefore highlighting the role it has played over the years.

Objects have always spoken to us – Paola Antonelli

Brad Nunnally

Brad Nunnally is a User Experience Design Consultant at Perficient based in St. Louis, MO. Aside from writing, plotting UX world domination, and tweeting a whole bunch , he fills his time playing with his son and dog.

Niklas Wolkert

Niklas Wolkert is an interaction designer from UID working at Ergonomidesign designing user experiences for small screen mobile devices, embedded systems, web sites to large scale multi-touch systems.

14 comments on this article

  1. Soo on

    Awesome posts. Thanks for sharing the conference with us!

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  4. Lennart Andersson on

    Great stuff!

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  6. Awesome articles! Thanks Niklas and Brad for sharing this with us! (am missing Mike Kruzeniski’s talk…was it there somewhere?)

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