World Information Architecture Day 2017, Slides

In a previous post, I mentioned attending World Information Architecture Day 2017, in New York City, and how I connected with a few of the presentations. I also mentioned a decision to put together a post collecting videos and links from other cities.

Since I only speak English, I’ll only include the videos and presentations that are in English. But, presentations took place all over the world and there are presentations in other languages, so do your own search if you are looking for more presentations.

It was a little difficult to find presentations, but I found some from 5 cities. I’ll post more if I find them.


New York, NY USA

Flag for New York City
Flag for New York City

line drawing of a woman in marker on a sticky note
From the presentation activity
 Leading Creative Ideation – World IA Day (NYC) 2017

 

Washington, D.C., USA

Coat of arms for Washington, DC.
Coat of arms for Washington, DC.

Monterey, CA USA

Flag for Monterey, California
Flag of the city of Monterey, California

Also available as an essay on Medium.

Okinawa, Japan

Flag of Okinawa Prefecture
Flag of Okinawa Prefecture,  Japan

Vancouver, BC, Canada

Flag of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Flag of the city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Older man with brown skin standing by a road
Not an image from the presentation
Empathy is Not Enough – Designing Systems for Emerging Markets

I like this insight: “When we look at our products in North America, trust is generated by institutional cues, like how well a company did the past year, how many awards a product has won, etc. But in others cultures, people’s trust in a system is highly dependant[sic] on already uses it.”

Impressions: World Information Day 2017 and Meetup

Several weeks ago, I attended World Information Architecture Day, held at Bloomberg. In case you’re wondering what World Information Architecture Day is, here is an explanation from their website:

“World Information Architecture Day is a one-day annual celebration hosted by the Information Architecture Institute and held in dozens of locations across the globe.”

It takes place in 58 locations, across 24 countries, on 5 continents on one day. Pretty neat. As it was one day long so there weren’t that many presenters. Two presentations stuck out for me.

Favorite World IA Day Speaker Presentations

The first presentation was about team building and team dynamics. It was called Designing Teams for Emerging Challenges – available on SlideShare.

The speaker had a friendly demeanor and it’s easy to feel an emotional connection to the topic of team dynamics. I felt an easy connection to this presentation. On slide 24, the speaker talked about helping people feel comfortable being themselves. He warned that this is not the same as fitting in. He made the observation that sometimes team members can end up forming little cliques, because people like hanging out with others who are like them.

The other presentation was called Beyond User Research. It promotes using a combination of quantitative and qualitative research to continuously improve a user interface. This presentation got me thinking about the field of User Experience and remembering that it’s not all about making things look pretty. The speaker made a well-observed comment about introverts, which I connected with, too. 🙂

The presentation showed that in order to provide real value, UX designers and architects should regularly incorporate a wide variety of research into their practice. UX architects should be open to using web analytics research, in addition to traditional UX research.

I liked slide 36 because it was easy to see the relationship between the different research techniques in one view. The slide comes from an article from Nielson-Norman Group, called When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods:

Summary: Modern day UX research methods answer a wide range of questions. To know when to use which user research method, each of 20 methods is mapped across 3 dimensions and over time within a typical product-development process.

Another Speaker Event, Meetup

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get out more and attend more Meetups. Shortly after the World IA Day event, I attended a Digital Product Design Meetup for the first time. The speaker for this event gave a presentation called Evolving the Design Game. There is a link to a video of the presentation. (This is video is expertly produced. Very well done.) There is no link to the slides themselves.

I didn’t have the same takeaways with this presentation as I did with the other presentations. However, the presenter did get across that he felt his work was misunderstood and under appreciated, and he felt that was true across the industry.

At one point in the presentation, he asked the audience about their experience with a CEO making a color change request. He said that he did not have a solution to stop that type of behavior.


A dark brown chess piece with a gold crown sitting on top, resembling a queen.

Finding Solutions

At its heart, engineering is about using science to find creative, practical solutions. It is a noble profession. – Queen Elizabeth II (http://Read more at: BrainyQuote)

What popped into my head as a solution to this problem was slide 26 from the Beyond User Research presentation. I was thinking about research, not design.

I’ve observed a growing emphasis on the visual design skill of UX designers, including mandates for specific wireframe software. In contrast, I observe very little emphasis on research methods. My conclusion is that non-UX designers, coming into contact with the field, end up doing the same thing: overemphasizing looks and under-appreciating research.

The solution could be as simple as getting back to basics. A long-term commitment to research, treating every aspect of the work thoughtfully and deliberately, might help designers earn greater respect and appreciation for their work from their clients and co-workers. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll write about using the UX audit as a part of a UX research plan.


Old tube-style TV

Or…maybe the answer is to watch more videos from World IA Day! In an upcoming post, or on my Tumblr, I’ll post videos or links. Or you can search on Twitter at #WIAD17 or #wiad17.

 

William Kentridge: South African Artist

In February, I watched a EuroNews report about a South African artist named William Kentridge, whose work is being shown in Copenhagen, Denmark. Here’s the article video.

Link to the article on EuroNews.com

I was very interested in learning more about the artist after seeing that he uses a combination of video installations, animation, and live action. As seen in clips in the article, he’s also not afraid to explore the difficult history of his country. As MoMA puts it, “Dealing with subjects as sobering as apartheid, colonialism, and totalitarianism, his work is often imbued with dreamy, lyrical undertones or comedic bits of self-deprecation that render his powerful messages both alluring and ambivalent.”

This can be seen in the following video, which is embedded in the text of the article. It’s like a New Orleans marching band, set in a lyrically dystopian world.

When I looked up more about the artist, I was surprised to find that he was not ethnically African, because as the video shows he is using black subjects in the artwork. In my experience, it’s not that common to find an artist using the experience of another ethnicity in their artwork, although it does occur in decorative arts, photography, and performing arts.

I suppose performing artists do this because music, dance, and theater are somewhat universally accessible for all people. Photography is a little different, in that the photographer has to take a documentarian or voyeuristic point of view, as opposed to being part of the art. Wikipedia explains that Kentridge is Jewish, with attorney parents that fought against apartheid. Perhaps he felt like both an outsider, voyeur-documentarian and part of the struggle in South Africa.

What I find revealing is how well Kentridge’s use of African subjects shows his strong empathy and understanding of apartheid and this difficult period of South African history. He says, in Pain & Suffering, shown on art:21, that artists use the pain and suffering of others for their work.

Animation Style

Wikipedia explains one of his animation methods:
“in all of his animated works do the concepts of time and change comprise a major theme. He conveys it through his erasure technique, which contrasts with conventional cel-shaded animation, whose seamlessness de-emphasizes the fact that it is actually a succession of hand-drawn images. This he implements by drawing a key frame, erasing certain areas of it, re-drawing them and thus creating the next frame. He is able in this way to create as many frames as he wants based on the original key frame simply by erasing small sections. Traces of what has been erased are still visible to the viewer; as the films unfold, a sense of fading memory or the passing of time and the traces it leaves behind are portrayed.”

The video above doesn’t show one of this animation style very well, but his style can be seen in other clips. He also uses stop-motion.

Other Work

Aside from animation, he uses live video and different masking and editing effects in his work. Here’s a video of him, from the Danish museum, the Louisiana, interviewing himself:

More Resources

I won’t be in Copenhagen anytime soon. But if you’re interested in learning more about William Kentridge, there are examples of his work online.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Of course, there is the Louisiana Museum that is currently holding a William Kentridge exhibition. It looks like an interesting exhibit. The site is in Danish, but Google should be able to translate.

art:21

art:21 has the most examples of him working and explaining his process. There are several clips of some of his video/media pieces.

MoMA

MoMA has an archival page documenting his 2010 exhibition, Five Themes. Also still available is a flash-site that contains many examples of his work and his process.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia also has plenty of information about Kentridge, from his bio, to listing his films and many exhibitions around the world. There are also external links, if you’re interested even more information about this artist.

Tips For Better Conference Calls

Recently in an interview with a company that has overseas offices, I discussed some tips I picked up while working at Chevron on how to have a good teleconferencing experience. Lots of companies have conference calls, but in my experience not many do a good job of hosting the call or running the meeting when on the phone. Here are a few tips I shared with them.

Background

After I left Chevron, I sort had the assumption that every company did things in the same way. Big companies often get criticized for having a lot of bureaucracy and you might feel burdened to conform. But, although they may have a strong culture, sometimes its for the best. In this case, I thought they did a great job with helping employees have conference calls and not feeling like someone was left out because they weren’t on the phone. Here are a few of my own tips, along with a few others I found online.

Tips

Be on time. This comes from Entrepreneur.com, and I agree. Since you have many people calling in from different locations, it’s a huge waste of time and money to have people sitting on a call waiting to start. If one person is in charge of the host line, and that person is running late, either let everyone know and/or give out the host passcode so that someone else can start the conference call. Plus, many people will simply hang up after 15 min if the host hasn’t joined.

A round of introductions. At the start of each meeting, everyone should say their name and possibly title, if it’s unclear who does what (if that’s important to know). If someone joins late, whomever is speaking pause long enough to make sure to let that person introduce themselves. Don’t sit in the back without speaking up.

Identify yourself. This is one of my pet peeves. Whenever someone in the conversation begins speaking, that person should say their name out loud, so that everyone knows who it is. This isn’t as important if someone has a distinctive voice, if it’s a small group of people, or if only one person will be speaking, like the CEO. But for a group of people that don’t know each other, saying your name before you speak will help personalize the entire experience.

Keep noises down. Side conversations during a conference call are a big no-no. This includes people in the room chatting quietly together or someone who gets a phone call. The microphones in conference call phones cannot distinguish between the noises next to the phone and those far away. So all the noises sound the same, which means that it’s hard to hear the person currently speaking. People in the room, or on the phone, should request that side conversations end so that people on the phone can hear what’s happening.

Mute is your friend. Likewise, use the mute button if you’re not talking. This goes for someone calling in from their desk, or people in a room together. However, if you’re in a room together, you need to be careful to know when the mute is on or off. I remember I once called into a meeting when I was at home with a head cold. I assumed my phone was on mute, but unfortunately it wasn’t before I blew my nose. Trust me, no one wants to hear you blow your nose or bite into your sandwich. Mute your phone.

Watch the microphone. Microphones can be good at picking up stray noises. Don’t be the dreaded mouth-breather! Learn to use your headset. (OK, this one was a useful tip, but also pretty funny. And a true story!)

Present documents slowly. Screen sharing apps are great but they can be kind of slow. Sometimes the people on the other line are still on page one, when you’ve jumped to page 3. Scroll slowly, or a little as possible, to give the other line a chance to catch up. In addition, use the cursor and a good description to help people orient themselves in the documents. I’ve seen companies present documents as though the people on the other line have worked on putting the presentation together with them. This leads them to give short and fast explanations, without giving the people on the other line a chance to understand what they’re seeing.

Be polite. The last tip comes from Jabra.com, and it might be the most important. Actually, I’d say to be extra polite. Tense conference calls are no fun. Give people the benefit of the doubt.


Ultimately, the goal is to run a good meeting. Other websites had tips about taking notes, stating the agenda, not eating, and paying attention, which are all tips about running a good meeting, too.

I hope these tips help you run your next conference call more efficiently and with better communication.

Identity and Men: Is there such a thing as the male identity crisis?

I’m still on my body image kick, but I’ve been thinking more about identity. Recently, we’ve had a discussion about women vs. men and technology on our school’s student email listserv. I don’t want to keep posting to that thread (but here’s another article ‘Why No Women Want To Be On A “Women In Tech” Panel‘), but as I just read an article in the New Yorker about the feminist movement and The Feminine Mystique, (“Books as Bombs: Why the women’s movement needed “The Feminine Mystique”), I can’t help but see some related overlap. So instead of posting to that list, I’ll just make some related comments here.

In the thread, someone mentioned male identity and how men, in general, seem to be “falling behind” in certain social and eduction context, in comparison to women. For instance, more women graduate from college than men. In checking out a Wikipedia entry on identity, I checked out an external link on “Our male identity crisis: What will happen to men?” which itself is a blog entry on Psychology Today.

In the article, written by Ray Williams, he states, “In a post-modern world lacking clear-cut borders and distinctions, it has been difficult to know what it means to be a man and even harder to feel good about being one. The many boundaries of a gendered world built around the opposition of work and family–production versus reproduction, competition versus cooperation, hard vs. soft–have been blurred, and men are groping in the dark for their identity.”

The gist of many of his points I like, but not quite how he gets his points across. Such as, “The last bastions of male dominated roles appears to be top leadership positions, particularly in the corporate world, the military and politics, although even those areas are slowly being eroded. But leadership in those spheres has often been associated with the traditional male identity–with power, control and often aggression.” Are women supposed to feel guilty because we want to be in charge, too? And, if men have been holding the traditional top leadership positions all this time, why the negative slant to what is supposedly the “traditional male identity…power, control and often aggression”?

One commenter made an excellent point in stating that the advancements made by women in our society do not need to be seen as zero-sum, “where if women gain, men must lose.” She follows by stating, “Our culture’s slow shift towards gender equality for women is throwing into sharp relief the restrictive roles that men are still taught to identify with. That, in my opinion, is where the identity crisis and cultural backlash against feminism is coming from: that women are taught that they can be anything they want, from housewives to CEOs, but men are still taught that they can only be CEOs and that to do want or do anything that is ‘feminine’ is unmanly and unforgivable. That is what we need to change and is crucial to bringing this culture to true egalitarianism.” Eloquently put.

And, while Williams’s points about women’s gains in higher education surpassing statistics for men in high education may be true, I also wonder historically how many women were deliberately kept out of school so that they could stay home and work, or because going to school was for boys and men only. Still happens in some countries.

After this, I reviewed another blog post on a related subject that I liked a lot better. This article, “Bring home the bacon AND fry it up?“, by Samantha Smithstein, Psy.D., was focused on how women being the breadwinner has changed the dynamics of marriage and being a couple. While it did address men’s identity roles, it put them in the context of couples, rather than pitting men vs women. For instance, in reference to women out-earning men at work and at university, she quotes a variety of reasons and suggests that “some couples are choosing this lifestyle, others are forced into it.”

She does address how changes in traditionally held perceptions of men’s and women’s roles have affected men. “Studies indicate that in spite of the changes in women’s earning potential and role as breadwinner, men have struggled with issues related to their pride as well as social pressure and pressure from family when their wife is the breadwinner, often feeling emasculated or low self esteem.” In response, she goes on to say that it is up to both men and women to shift their perceptions of the roles of men and women, to fit their current lifestyles.

I agree with the commenter to the first blog post, in that while there may be shifts in male identity, I’m not sure if I’d call it a crisis. I also think that men and women should be working together to change our perceptions and notions of who and what men and women are and what we do, as men and women, in society. Pitting women vs men against each other isn’t going to help us understand each other and certainly won’t make things easier. I doubt that things will ever go back to the way they “used” to be.

Body Image: User Research (Interviews)

In the development of my project on body image, I started thinking more about the concept of body image. I wanted to incorporate more interpretations of body image, outside of only the idea of body size. But, I realized that in order to make something that was more representative of what body image means to other people, I needed to talk to other people about their own experiences.

I conducted a few interviews with a few other students. Most of them actually turned out be of the same relative minority group – female, Asian – though I did get different viewpoints in the group, including those of an international student, and another interview with a gay male. I really found the international and the male/gay male perspectives very interesting because they discussed concerns with body image that represent non-American ideals and perceptions, as well as really understanding more about the male aesthetic, from a male perspective. And, the gay viewpoint was really fascinating, since I hadn’t thought as much about how much sexuality might play into body image.

From the Asian students, I did learn a few things. First, Western cultures are considered the body aesthetic to follow. That is, it’s better to have light or pale skin and to be thin.

The desire to emulate people in the West seems to come mainly from the huge economic differences between many in Asia and many in the West, (i.e., the desire to be as rich and glamorous as the people from the West are perceived to be). In addition, these aesthetic desires also seem to be due to exposure to Western media and to a history of, particularly, European colonization, though colonization in general seems to be an influence, too. Resembling a previously colonized people seems to not be considered a high standard of beauty.

Even in countries where many people have darker skin tones, advertisements to women include many ads about using creams to lighten their skin tone. And, undergoing plastic surgery to permanently get more Western features (incl. nose, eyes, jawline) is a relatively accepted cosmetic practice. In addition to skin tone, there is a big emphasis on attempting to achieve a thinness that would be considered relatively extreme in the US. The Asian students said that their relatives and sometimes strangers are very willing to offer their honest criticisms of women who might be slightly considered average or just above average in the US. One student said that though at one point she weighed more at one point in her life, she feels more comfortable in the US because people seem to be more accepting of different body types. She also feels that in the US darker skin tones are valued as an exoticism.

This video, produced by the BBC, discusses controversy raised after a well-known Bollywood star endorses an Indian skin lightening cream that critics claim reinforces the stereotype that lighter skin is good. Apparently, skin lightening creams are a £90M industry. Asian skin cream controversy, from the BBC

The only male student, who was also gay, made it very clear that “if you want to be somebody” as a gay man, image is of the utmost importance. Culturally, many gay men seem preoccupied with the desire to physically look good, which seemed to represent a certain superficiality and shallow attachment to others. He said that he does spend time on his appearance, but he didn’t feel that he went as far as some gay men do and he finds the superficial and shallow attitude disappointing.

All the students mentioned that there is some type of “ideal” body type. It differed for each student, which depended on the values of each student, as well as their cultural background. Most cited a Hollywood ideal: tall, thin and curvy – perhaps, Selma Hayek.

Virtual reality used to transfer men’s minds into a woman’s body

Researchers projected men’s sense of self into a virtual reality woman, changing the way they behaved and thought.

Scientists have transferred men’s minds into a virtual woman’s body in an experiment that could enlighten the prejudiced and shed light on how humans distinguish themselves from others.

Men who took part in the virtual reality experiment said it felt as if they occupied the womans body. They even flinched when she was slapped. Photograph: Guardian
Men who took part in the virtual reality experiment said it felt as if they occupied the woman's body. They even flinched when she was slapped. Photograph: Guardian

Subjective/Objective Migration of the Caribou

Caribou from Allison Walker on Vimeo.

For an assignment intending to investigate our chosen animal, Caribou, from a subjective and objective perspective, Jenine Durland and I made a pseudo-documentary of the Porcupine Caribou. I dressed as our character, while Jenine provided the voice-over in the video. Video editing by her; voice editing by me.

The mask is the same mask I used in a previous assignment. (Check out this video I made for another class using those stills.) For the antlers, I just used a coil of wire I found on the junk shelf and made a headband out of it. The car adapter serves the purpose of not only looking interesting but also keeping the antlers on my head.

It was a fun time, but I can’t say I’ll do it again. The weirdest feeling I had was definitely on the train. You can’t imagine the stares I got when I started to put on my mask and antlers. The dog in the video was also pretty confused with me and didn’t really seem to know how to react.

Still thinking about changing my final project idea: interactive plant vs blinky lights?

A discussion Monday night got me thinking about my Phys comp final again. I like the bionic gardening, but I also want something really fun. The other student I was talking with was trying to convince me to do my original-ish LED light board idea. So, at home I thought about it a little bit more.

If I had the time to do this, I’d get 108 RGB LEDs, and a perfboard in 5″ x 5″ squares to measure a rectangle 30″ L x 10″ H. Each LED would be spaced 2.5″ from its neighbor, so that there would be 9 LEDs per square.

The interaction: When a user walks by, the LEDs light up in response. The color of the LED depends on how far or close the user is to the LED board. So, the closer, the more red; basically it goes through the visible light spectrum starting from indigo to red.

In addition, my original idea had sound output as well. Sound might be too confusing. I sort of just like the LEDs. I think this is something that would look spectacular, but I just don’t feel that I have enough time.

UPDATE: Perhaps I’ll just do this on my own, anyway. Seems easier than the UV Sunlight watch, but more difficult than the talking plant. In any case, I need to order ton 0′ parts, soon!