Thanks for the thoughful write up. I only attended half of DUX (though I went to DIS last year), so hearing your reflections was really helpful in understanding how these conferences differ. When you only get to go to one conference a year, the paradox of choice sometimes makes it painful.
With regards to theory, I'm not sure what they mean either, and I took a doctoral seminar in ethnography. But it was through Management Science & Engineering, and it was from someone who I believe was originally a sociologist, so it probably wasn't good enough. :P My notion of theory is two things: 1) a self-critical stance that questions the interventions the researcher makes just by being there, or what biases are developed when you develop liking for or rapport with your subject, etc etc etc 2) being informed about theories that are developed to form accounts of how people behave (sociology, psychology, anthro?)
For 1) you are probably more hip to the latest critical stances if you're coming from anthro discipline ,but for 2), from your descriptions of hte conference, it seems like disciplinary allegiance is a disadvantage.
Good stuff, Lilly. Funny that you mention the relationship with the subject - that was actually the topic of the workshop that I led - the interpersonal connections that get created in fieldwork between researcher, client, colleague, respondent, etc. And what do we do with those? It was, as workshops tend to be, more of an open space for discussing around a theme and less of an event to produce any final insights. We did come up with a good list of themes, but very few conclusions.
Thanks for the thoughts on theory as well. That helps.
Perhaps you need to go back and read some of the papers rather than relying on the memory of how dull they were to hear. Just a thought...As a "trained" sociologist, and I say trained with some reluctance since anyone really trained in the social sciences probably lost most of their creative energy in the process, I've found some useful insights in the paper by Kris Cohen, "Who We talk about when we talk about users." I especially liked the following:
"This feels to me like a unique circumstance for social and
cultural research, for theory; in any case, it has important implications. Foremost among which is this:
when people (the ones the design research field often calls “users”) interact with products, they are also
interacting with—literally using and adapting and negotiating with—particular ideas about how the
world should work or might work (for now, call these ideas “theory and method” for short). This is
true in three senses that I can think of: (1) all products, whether inspired by user research or not, body
forth a kind of social theory in that they try to predict, and in some cases, dictate to people's uses of that
product; (2) products which are inspired or touched in some way by design research perhaps embody
social theory in a slightly more literal, or conscious way than those which do not: it is literally the
matter from which those products are formed; (3) whatever the intentions of products or their
designers, people, individually and collectively, write their own scripts for how the world might work
(in a sense, write their own theory) when using products. We could even say that today—as design
research becomes accepted as an orthodox feature of product design while the academic production of
social and cultural theory remains marginal, at least to most people's conscious lives—people's
encounters with products are the closest most will ever come to encountering (consuming or using)
social and cultural theory. We should be eager to see what happens in these encounters, to see what
becomes of embodied, enacted, public theory as much as to see what becomes of the products which
try to embody, enact, and publicize it."
Perhaps it is a bit abstract, but the basic idea seems important and not really obvious to a lot of people. I'm thinking here of the sometimes painful thinking over whether a designer needs to control the environment and experiences of customers. Cohen charges us to remember that we are designing for experience rather than designing experience.
Larry - I'm not reviewing the papers; I'm sharing the experience of attending the conference. If the papers stand alone, then just send 'em out and we'll stay home - why do I have to sit there and be read to in a monotone?
Not sure why you imply that I haven't or won't read the papers - I'm reporting on something else entirely.
Sorry if that wasn't clear in my writeup, and glad that you find Cohen's paper so useful.
Point taken, and by the way, I really do appreciate your providing the link to the proceedings.
Don't get me wrong, I've never enjoyed academic conferences for many of the reasons you outline. Its a peculiar thing about academics that the professions involved tend to downplay the importance of presentation skills, thinking the information content is enough. Attendees at a conference like EPIC should expect more. After all, if someone has something useful to say about ethnography in relation to industry it is not too much to ask for some basic design and delivery techniques. Perhaps the presenters with academic backgrounds were afraid of "going native." ;-)
My response was more to your questioning the value of theory than to your point about the boring way people deliver their presentations.
Larry - I hope I don't continually come off as defensive, but I will refute the statement that I questioned the value of theory, in general. I admitted that I don't even really know what theory MEANS, in general, and in my work. I think maybe some levelling would have made a more inclusive learning environment. For much of the audience "what is theory" would have been the most pathetic waste of time, because they were stepped in theory and in discussions of theory. But for MANY of us (and I may be the only one admitting it) it's a foreign conversation. So for this conference to try and bring together different perspectives, we can't assume theory as a common ground; my point about the voices not being represented, etc.
As far as "native" goes - I was actually struck by - esp comments from the audience - the prevalence of the word "design" - we do design, we are designers - it was a common thread among those that were not presenting. And it's not that "they" were academics and "we" were designers, but more a lower-case-d design, an orientation to the process of "makin' stuff" I think. That was cool and clearly an evolution.
Thanks, Larry, for the discussion!
Just as a closing comment, and don't feel it necessary to respond if you aren't inclined, anyone who wants to discuss theory as a generalized concern has too much time on their hands...however, I think that most people do design, designers though do it with intent...that was my point in quoting Cohen, people adapt technologies to their purposes...designers try to anticipate how that happens relative to an artifact...as a result, a lot of stuff is learnable from that slippage between design and use...probably the best treatment of how this works for technology is the book by the social historian Claude Fisher, America Calling.
I have to agree with your critique of DUX.Post a Comment
a couple of my humble thoughts:
1. it's a design conference. there should be some kind of design (problem solving) involved in every project. just identifying a problem isn't enough. just identifying a moderately new process isn't enough.
2. half the presentations, double the presentation time.
3. no more than 1 or 2 slides per minute of presentation time
It seems so often at these conferences that the presentations are an afterthought. Something is wrong when one of the most interesting and engaging presentations is from a keynote speaker that didn't even have a clue what UX was. I'm willing to read the papers, but realistically, I don't have time to read all of them. A presenter should be able to inspire me to actively learn more about their project. John Thackara wrote a nice entry related to this a couple years ago: http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2002/11/does_your_desig.php
Would be interesting to have a conference where presenters have to submit a video of their presentation instead of the paper (or at least alongside).