February of this year saw the IxDA’s fourth Interaction conference, held in Boulder, Colorado. And a couple of months back, the IxDA published the recordings from the conference, including all seven keynote presentations.
If you couldn’t make it to the conference itself, these videos give a great flavor of the event. They give us a chance to take a step back from the day-to-day reality of what it is that we do, and to immerse ourselves in some different big-picture perspectives. They provide plenty of food for thought, and not a little inspiration. So for your enjoyment, here they are.
Bill Verplank—Opening Keynote
Bill Verplank is one of the fathers of interaction design. He worked at Xerox PARC on the first desktop interfaces and went on to do interaction design at IDEO, and at Interval Research, he worked on haptics and innovative design methods. More recently he has been lecturing in human factors, UI design, and new music controllers.
In this talk (the entire duration of which he sketches what he is talking about), Bill covers a lot of ground, and gives us several ways of looking at and thinking about things. For example:
- Asking “How do you…?” questions (do, feel, know)
- Should a control be a button or a handle?
- Should an interface be more like a path or more like a map?
- Different types of thinking: enactive (doing), iconic (seeing), and symbolic (knowing)
- Is software a tool, a medium, or a vehicle?
- Machines as part of evolution
In the West, there is a general perception of Africa as a basket-case continent—poor, corrupt, backward, and perhaps doomed to remain so. Erik Hersman paints a very different picture. His is a new Africa, an Africa of entrepreneurship- and technology-fuelled hope and optimism.
He talks about some of the innovative projects that he is involved in, including Ushahidi, an open-source web application created to map the reported incidents of violence happening during Kenya’s post-election crisis, and subsequently used for election monitoring and to support disaster relief efforts around the world.
Pentagram’s Lisa Strausfeld works at the intersection of the physical and the virtual, where the navigation of information and the navigation of buildings come together in a unified experience. In this talk, she showcases many of the inspiring projects she has worked on.
Richard Buchanan is a huge name in our field, arguably best known for inaugurating the postgraduate interaction design programs at Carnegie Mellon. His talk runs the gamut—from design’s subject matter (“Design has no subject matter … We MAKE our subject matter.”) through defining interaction design and through his four orders of design (which define the types of interaction that we design) to the importance of knowing the history of the field.
Brenda Laurel has had a long and distinguished career in the design field. Through the lens of the innovations that she helped conceive, she illustrates a number of important “hinges”—turning points if you like—that were important enablers of subsequent innovations. This talk reminded me of what author Steven Johnson calls “the adjacent possible”, whereby all new ideas are new combinations of existing ideas.
Jason Bruges shows off some of the brilliant installations (pun intended) that his studio has created. I can’t help but think that this stuff is a bit frivolous. But on the other hand, if they make people think and help to make our cities nicer places, what’s wrong with that?
Bruce Sterling: Closing Keynote
This is the icing on the cake. Bruce Sterling delivers the smackdown. But he does it with such humor and empathy that we can’t help being taken in. And he really does give us some meaty stuff to chew on. Morality in design, user Stockholm Syndrome, and so much more that I can’t begin to go into here. Expect to see the themes he brought up being discussed a lot in the near future.
You can find lots more great videos like these over at Johnny TV.