DRS 2010 conference in Montreal

2010 July 13

Last week I attended the DRS 2010 conference in Montreal, my hometown. It was quite special for me as the conference was hosted at the School of Industrial Design (University of Montreal), the place I did my BA 5 years ago. Coming back and revisiting the school as a conference participant was a bit weird initially, a bit like bumping into old friends from high-school. On the other hand, it was really nice to meet people I’ve lost contact over the years, plus new people I had only met online through various web projects. In the end, not much has changed at the School of Industrial Design, for the better or worse, it all depends how you see it.

I’m posting a few slides of our presentation. I’ll try to publish the whole thing online very soon. I’ll also try to add my notes about the presentations that struck me most. I find this writing exercise valuable for me, as a way to reflect on what I’ve seen and heard.

It was unfortunate that my co-author Fabricio Dore from IDEO was not able to join the conference. I presented our paper Sketching in Hardware and Building Interaction Design: Tools, Toolkits and an Attitude for Interaction Designers (PDF) on Friday, the last day of the conference. It was in the largest auditorium and the room felt a bit empty. After the session, a few people came and talked to me about it, so I guess there was people listening in the back. I think people liked it overall. I tried to have a visually stimulating presentation, with lots of images and some videos. I find that so many Design Research presentations are very boring, mostly because of the way the content is presented: bullet points, long quotes, poor graphic design, no rhythm, written text that the presenter systematically reads, etc. I guess it depends on your audience, but for me I see a presentation as an opportunity to get people interested in the stuff I’m doing. Not so much as an opportunity to gain respect, status and recognition with my peers. When presenters keep dropping names and refer constantly to other authors that you don’t know, well it gets very difficult to stay alert and interested. Maybe there is a name for it. I could tentatively call it Intellectual Selection. It is like purposely excluding a big chuck of your audience because you consider them not worthy or below of your own intellectual level. Anyway, I don’t like this and I personally try to make my talks or presentations open and accessible to the largest possible group of people. Attendees commit 15-20 minutes of their time and attention to me, so I should give something back, so at the lowest level I try to provide visually stimulating content if I cannot engage intellectually with them.

A few colleagues from Umeå Institute of Design took part in the conference too: our new rector Anna Valtonen, Daniela Rothkegel who recently started her PhD at the school, and Erik Stolterman who is now officially part of Design Research group at UID. I felt UID was well represented. A fair share of people knew about Umeå amazingly. I don’t know if it’s because of me acting as a natural bridge between University of Montreal and UID, or something else.

DRS 2010 website: http://www.drs2010.umontreal.ca

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