As I mentioned in my last post, I had the opportunity to travel to Interaction 10 last week which took place in beautiful Savannah, Georgia. (PS you can sign up for Interaction 11 now and save $250 bucks! Interaction 11 site) This was my very first UX conference, and I loved it. The conference itself was extremely well put together. The talks were a perfect length, the spaces & locations that were used were fantastic and the food out of this world. The speakers and workshops were full of insightful ideas that had me really reflecting on my practice as an interaction designer, and how to make it better.
As I was listening and engaging, I couldn’t help but reflect on the concept of a conference overall. I kept thinking about how we were at a conference talking about interaction design and user experience, about creating meaning and facilitating delightful experiences, but yet we were all sitting in a room, listening to someone’s point of view on these topics… and hopefully providing feedback to them afterwards. I kept asking myself “Is this the best way to create meaning for us as UX practioners? Is this the best way to facilitate delight in our learning experience?”.
Please don’t get me wrong. Interaction 10 was one of the best experiences I’ve had and this post is in no way trying to convey anything negative about it (or else I wouldn’t be promoting Interaction 11). What this post is meant to do is to get us thinking about the concept of conferences overall and if they are the best or only way to increase the knowledge and talent of the UX community while at the same time providing meaning and facilitating delight.
During my time in Savannah I started thinking about how conferences started in the first place. I got some general thoughts on this, but to be honest I don’t have any written proof of the history of the events. I did do some research on Business Conferences vs. Academic Conferences which did help to frame the idea for me better, but I’m still hung up on the question… is this the best way for us to learn? Just because businesses and academia put on these events, should our community rely on them? We are different afterall… right? I’m not saying conferences should go away, but just asking what part of our growth as practioners do they facilitate? There are different ways that we learn and grow, and I’m sure conferences fill some need (or they wouldn’t exist).
In talking to my friend who is a professional counselor, he mentioned that counseling conferences are very different. Why? Because, as he put it, they have to focus on how they work with and predict behaviors of other people. That stopped me in my tracks because frankly, we do that too! He explained that counseling conferences were much more hands on and group oriented (probably similar to the workshops that we’ve seen), and focus on teaching methods for getting results. Perhaps this isn’t exactly what we’d want to do, however it does shed some light on a different way. Afterall, does it make sense to have a group of people who are conceptual and visually based to sit in a room and absorb information without interacting?
So I’m asking all of you your opinions on the topic. How do you think conferences help us in our practice? How are they structured to create meaning for us? And mostly do you think that there is potentially a different way to instruct and help the “different” kind of professionals that we are?
Can’t wait to hear what you’ve got!