European IAs are three years behind on their US counterparts*

War­ren Hutchin­son thinks this year’s Euro IA Sum­mit was way behind on the US big broth­er con­fer­ence in both con­tent and form. I can’t con­firm or deny this (as I’ve nev­er been to the US sum­mit) but I’d say any sum­mit is bet­ter than none, and it’s clear we’re still build­ing a practice.

He also bemoans the preva­lence of con­ser­v­a­tive, ‘lit­tle IA’ think­ing and a pas­sive con­sumerist atti­tude with the major­i­ty of con­fer­ence goers. True as this may be, putting your­self on a pedestal look­ing down on those that have been less for­tu­nate than you in their devel­op­ment and expo­sure to big IA (or EA) thought is hard­ly the most pro­duc­tive path to take IMHO. Also, Hutchin­son implies he has a tighter bond to the US sum­mit and in some ways seems to deny a rela­tion­ship with the EU design com­mu­ni­ty, which I feel is a bit sus­pect and in some ways per­haps symp­to­matic of UK design thought.

I’d rather see Hutchin­son take up the chal­lenge of being an exam­ple for Euro­pean IAs, design­ers and what­not, as he did with his great pre­sen­ta­tion on work­shops (or is that work­shop on work­shops?) and not slap his eager stu­dents in the face because they haven’t yet got­ten the point entirely.

Just to be on the safe side: please take some of this crit­i­cism with a grain of salt. Lets have a healthy con­struc­tive discussion.

* As you can tell I don’t agree (com­plete­ly) with this post’s title, which is inspired by one of the com­ments on Hutchin­son’s post by Jonathan Mul­vi­hill.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.

3 thoughts on “European IAs are three years behind on their US counterparts*”

  1. …inter­est­ing that you think I’m ‘slap­ping them in the face’, which I would say is a tad harsh.

    I think its the con­fer­ence agen­da that needs a slap for being to safe, for not pro­vid­ing a soap box for some­one to atleast stim­u­late some reac­tion from the crowd.

    I don’t imply a tighther bond with the US sen­ti­ment either, I sim­ply state that the IA Sum­mit is a lit­tle more sophis­ti­cat­ed in terms of its content.

    My point is a sim­ple one, Infor­ma­tion Archi­tec­ture is a slith­er of the wider dis­ci­pline fo Expe­ri­ence Archi­tec­ture. The term IA does­n’t ade­quate­ly describe the role I play on project or in the rela­tion­ships I have with my clients or reflect my edu­ca­tion­al background.

    I’m very inter­est­ed in pro­gress­ing the Euro­pean dis­cus­sion of Expe­ri­ence Archi­tec­ture but am not arro­gant enough to think that its for me to do. I hope it’s some­thing the guys at Euro IA will seek to do.

    BTW — I also don’t put myself on a pedestal as you may have noticed when we ran Wicked Work­shops, we’re not inter­est­ed in talk­ing down, more so talk­ing to.

    This inter­change is what was lack­ing IMO.

    As such, I very much look for­ward to the next Euro IA in Barcelona and hope to have some more pro­gres­sive dis­cus­sions about the roles of the Inter­ac­tion Design­er, Infor­ma­tion Archi­tect, Usabil­i­ty Prac­ti­tion­er and Expe­ri­ence Architect.

    What is good, is that final­ly we have some debate over it all.


  2. Great to see you’ve tak­en the trou­ble to reply War­ren. I appre­ci­ate that. I’ve been aching for some dia­logue myself. Which in part is why I’ve been writ­ing a series of posts on Euro IA themes (which con­tain some ques­tions and state­ments aimed at pro­vok­ing dialogue).

    • I agree the agen­da was ‘safe’. How­ev­er, as the com­mit­tee can only work with what they receive as pro­pos­als, it’s at least part­ly to blame on the com­mu­ni­ty as a whole. 
    • The US sum­mit is undoubt­ed­ly more sophis­ti­cat­ed, they have a few year’s advan­tage over “us” when it comes to build­ing a body of IA work.
    • I’m a trained IxD and as such see IA as a sis­ter dis­ci­pline. I too see both as parts of the larg­er user expe­ri­ence field. As such I rec­og­nize your ‘I’m not an IA’-sentiment. I’m not sure about the term EA, which I sus­pect might be a bit LBi-centric.
    • I would­n’t call tak­ing on (part of the) respon­si­bil­i­ty of mov­ing the IA / UX field fur­ther arro­gant. I’d call any­one who takes time and trou­ble to do so benev­o­lent or maybe generous.
    • You were cer­tain­ly very acces­si­ble, unas­sum­ing and open dur­ing your work­shop (which I enjoyed huge­ly). Slight­ly less so in your post. Anoth­er proof of the val­ue of non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion I guess.
    • I look for­ward to the next sum­mit too, and hope to be able to speak to you in per­son on this and oth­er top­ics. I’m sure we’ll have fun.

    Thanks again for engag­ing in this dia­logue, which I great­ly appre­ci­ate, and apolo­gies for being a bit provoca­tive. I did not mean to offend you in any way, but pre­fer a dis­cus­sion to have a bit of spice.

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