EuroIA 09 in review

It’s important to accrue tactics to cope with the disruption of travelling. Quick currency conversions, self-conscious squints at unfamiliar coins, departure lounge distractions (ask Alain de Botton). In Scandinavia, I’ve learned to open clearly with “Hello” to announce myself as a foreigner, since the local salutation “Hej” is a homophone with informal English equivalents.

Copenhagen, site of EuroIA 2009, and Malmö, where my evening sofa awaited, share more than greetings, efficiency and cost of living. They are joined by the 7.8km Öresund Bridge, a zoetrope giving glimpses of distant wind turbines in the water.

This sense of mutual destiny – two nations connected by a single structure – feels entirely European. EuroIA was similarly interwoven with shared experiences of linguistically awkward networking and untold cultural unity. The sessions ranged from poor to intriguing (I’m still no fan of the blind review process) but there was something of a BarCamp atmosphere of willing each other to succeed. EuroIA is a gathering of the underdogs, feisty and proud, and it doesn’t have to be the way they write it in the States.

I particularly enjoyed Joe Lamantia‘s peek into the architecture of fun, Sylvie Daumal‘s struggle for acceptance in a hostile environment, and Andrea Resmini‘s intricate analysis of how IA can bridge the real and digital worlds. Perhaps it was a shame that these sessions were book-ended by an American keynote and closer. Their sessions were undoubtedly interesting, but I hope to see a European presence in these elevated slots next year.

My talk The Future Of Wayfinding seemed to be well received. The topic fitted well with the conference theme of Beyond Structure. Topics such as the Semantic Web, ubiquitous computing and what I can only clumsily label ‘unhierarchy’ were prevalent, and I fully expect them to be reflected in next spring’s US circuit.

Next year we visit Paris, capital of a country almost entirely oblivious to user experience work. It seems we Europeans really do pull together in the face of a challenge.

Cennydd Bowles