IASummit 2013: Our UX Director's Feedback

By Caroline 15-04-2013


The 2013 IASummit, the international summit of information architects and UX has just taken place in Baltimore, USA: Sylvie Daumal’s point of view on 3 days of sessions and talks.

Post-digital and complexity

First assessment, shared among others by Jorge Arango (Links, Nodes & Orders) and Andrea Resmini (Ghost in the Shell — Information Architecture in the Postdigital World), but also Scott Jenson the opening speaker (Beyond Mobile, Beyond Web): internet’s ubiquity; in our lives, in our pockets with the smartphones, but most of all integrated, blended in our everyday objects.

This brings the pros to encompass an ever-growing level of complexity, because it’s no longer about designing a product or a service but a full ecosystem. Quoting Christopher Alexander, Jorge Arango states that " more and more, problems reach unsolvable complexity levels ".

The new Internet-of-Things paradigm

To tackle it, Scott Jenson insists on a change of paradigm. Applications (mobiles, tablets) are based on a software model built on the Buying / Installing / Reusing chain. For Jenson, the Internet-of-Things has made this model obsolete, an opinion illustrated by examples such as Nest, GloCap or the tens of smart electric bulb projects on Kickstarter. Instead he pleads for the experience model, based on the Discovering / Using / Forgetting chain.

As designer, he suggests adopting a simple rule to comprehend today’s internet: The value must be higher than hardness. Or, more precisely, by reducing the hardness, the value is automatically increased. He points out at some recent projects like Spark, Cosm, or ownCloud (a single API to access all our storage spaces on the Cloud).

Connected house, sensors and design

Claire Rowland (“Siri, did I leave the oven on?” Experience Design for the Connected Home) looks into the Internet-of-Things at the heart of the house (thermostat, heating control and monitoring and security systems). In her opinion, the issue raises four challenges:

  • Keeping the house its essence: a personal and intimate environment which is also alive and unorganized by nature…
  • Making the data accessible: It gives rise to privacy issues… all the household doesn’t need to know everything on all its members at every time;
  • Not giving the everyday life a particular attention: Daily gestures and objects must lie low (people want to live their life, not spend their time organizing it) ;
  • And finally, using the full capacity of our devices – today we don’t even use half of it.

As a service designer, Claire Rowland answers this complexity by focusing on three aspects: making the use value explicit, allowing interusability (object, mobile and desktop) and building a robust platform supporting the services, devices, monitoring and notification systems, presence detection and private access. She insists on the fact that it’s the underlying Information Architecture that allows the whole system to run.

In this aspect, she agrees with Avi Itzkovitch (Designing with Sensors: Creating Adaptive Experiences) who focuses on the logical chain that goes from sensor to design, going through data: Thanks to sensors, we now have access to data allowing us to create adaptative designs, that is to say deliver information and services always more relevant because susceptible to their environment (the surrounding noise, the hour of the day, the weather, the traffic…) and to the use history. Avi illustrates his position with many examples: Google Now, Nest, Songza, AislePhone, Google Indoor Maps, Google Glass, CityBike… This leads naturally to ponder the questions of data and metadata.

An Internet of data, metadata… and small data!

It’s the heart of Adam Ungstad (Metadata in the Cross-Channel Ecosystem: Consistency, Context and Interoperability) brilliant demonstration, which proves with a simple Google results list the fact that we went from a web of documents to an Internet-of-Data. He shows the importance of metadata to guarantee the information interoperability and the ecosystems underlying consistency, whether they consist of objects, applications and/or websites.

It’s a close subject that was the topic of the most striking and intentionally provocative session: Karl Fast (The Big Challenge of Small Data) talk. He demonstrates with brio that today challenges doesn’t have to do with Big Data, but are about Small Data. The user issue is handling its own information, on a small scale: the inbox e-mails (with all the difficulties keeping to the Zero Inbox), digital photos, mobile applications or everything stored in Evernote.

Like Claire Rowland and Scott Jenson, he reminds us how unorganized are our lives: sure, we’re dreaming of seeing it more in order, but we don’t want to spend our time doing it, because we precisely want more time to live… So, it’s the designers’ job to tackle this challenge: Let’s meet at the 2014 IASummit to pour see the results!


This review was originally published in French on,que-faut-il-retenir-iasummit-2013,35,16793.html



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