IA Summit 09 – day 1

Seriously, 8.30am for a keynote? Not easy, particularly for those still getting used to Central Standard Time.

Michael Wesch‘s “Mediated Cultures” started laboriously, making points we’re all hopefully familiar with by now: changing media changes relationships, and so on. To quote the disillusioned Generation Y-er Wesch frequently referenced, “Whatever”. However, he soon livened up as we dived headlong into his preferred territory: internet counter-culture. Any keynote featuring 4chan’s Pedobear has to be deemed pretty interesting, and a welcome tone of openness and iconoclasm was set for all.

These themes have continued throughout the day. There does seem to be a genuine willingness here to tackle the issues and neuroses of the IA community, and perhaps even to overcome some of the divisons that we’ve so carefully constructed over the last few years. Whisper it quietly, but some even posited that, you know what, IA has been design all along. Eric Reiss’s session “RoI: Speaking the Language of Business” broke through some of the voodoo economics our forefathers* have been passing off for years, and implored us instead to sell the value of our services. The conclusion – focus on close, trusted relationships rather than mythical dollar values – seems dangerously close to that employed by design consultancies for generations. Similarly, Donna Spencer‘s Design Games session was pithy and direct, skillfully ignoring any nervous questions of process (“Why design games?” “What’s the deliverable?”).

Other sessions were patchy, as is to be expected of a blind review process, but the breaktime discussions as ever proved to be the really valuable moments. It’s been fantastic to connect with some very smart people, and I hope to continue in the same vein tonight and throughout the weekend.

It’s just one day, but it’s been fascinating and I’m sensing the stirrings of a breakthrough. Perhaps the pendulum of specialisation is swinging back, and the days of arguing over job titles and definitions can soon be dropped in favour of discussing what we have in common, and how we can all be better.

*Well, Jakob.

Cennydd Bowles