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UPA 2005: Post-Conference Reflections
by Joi Roberts
Conferences Still Matter
UPA conference attendees often contribute as much to the conference as they receive from it. One third of every conference session is designed to be interactive, encouraging a steady exchange of ideas between presenters and participants. Further, Idea Markets are purposely designed to engage attendees in an interactive, fluid exchange of ideas around a set of critical user experience topics. At each idea station, session "activators" stir up lively discourse, while attendees roam from one topic to the next, sharing their knowledge and experience at each station they visit.
Lastly, the conference provides an opportunity for participants to further the work of the industry. This year, for example, two of the workshops were related to ongoing projects aimed at producing guidance on reporting usability results. And, several of the Special Interest Group sessions continued the World Usability Day, Body of Knowledge and Code of Conduct projects.
The conference theme, “Bridging Cultures,” is particularly relevant to our industry right now. Every day we encounter different cultures through our families, our work places, and our communities. Contrasting cultures can create rich learning experiences, but they also create the potential for miscommunication and misunderstandings. Growth happens when we are able to bridge the cultures and utilize the strengths of each.
Caryn Zange Josephson, UPA 2005 Conference Chair, reminds us that “as usability professionals, we are uniquely qualified to ‘be the bridge’ between cultures.” Our skills of observation help us identify the needs of different groups. This can help us translate the needs of one group into the results created by another group. We often do this in our work by observing and understanding the needs of our user community, and then becoming the "bridge" that translates those needs into requirements that can be understood and acted upon by designers, business owners, and technical teams.
During the conference sessions, we observed the bridging of design cultures such as agile software development and user-centered design, as session attendees searched for ways to integrate these two approaches. We also witnessed the bridging of ethnic cultures. As conference co-chair, DeeDee DeMulling journaled in her post-conference blog: "I stepped in on The Jigsaw Puzzle of Intercultural Usability tutorial to see the group had broken into teams for a project, one team was speaking in French and one in English, while the presenter, Lada Gorlenko, had a hint of a Russian accent. The teams then came together and shared their ideas with another. This is just one example of how a tutorial can live up to its promise."
If you missed the conference
and would like more information, visit the UPA 2005 post-conference website
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