Zoe Platt-Young
Design + Strategy

UX Musings

Semi Permanent and First Post!

Was fortunate to spend a great two days at Auckland Semi Permanent earlier this month. Highlights included Hector Ouilhet from the Google Search UX team, Nicholas Kamuda from Microsoft's Sensory Mixed Reality Group, and the futuristic-speculative work of Australian Body Architect Lucy McRae, as well as the somewhat quirky work of scent collector and creator Sissel Tolaas. The unofficial recurring theme seemed to be boldly applying an outsider and/or design perspective to tech to arrive at unexpected and futuristic experiences that still placed the human user front and centre. Lots of emphasis on experiential media and interaction design rather than your traditional design work, which given my postgraduate studies in Human Interface Technology seemed spookily prescient.

Hector Ouilhet's presentation in particular, regarding the transition from us as humans 'learning machines' to 'learning each other' seemed to hit home in regards to the direction of my research. Designing for future situations that are amorphous and ambiguous likely necessitates a mutual learning foundation - we as humans naturally adapt our mental models based on our interactions with people, and as Hector pointed out, why can't this principle also be applied for the enhancement of the user experience between human and machine?

Lucy McRae had some wise words to share about her experience carving a niche for herself in the technology world. Hailing originally from a dance and interiors background, she discussed the experience of not knowing 'which box' she fell into when a particularly exciting career opportunity presented itself in the technology industry. This is a problem I think a lot of multi-disciplinary practitioners encounter, and one which I personally was finding quite challenging until landing upon user experience research and human interface technology (my label would perhaps be socio-design technologist?). Career label in flux, she had a brainstorming session with a mentor to arrive at her title. This is instructive really - she defined the title herself and because of that was able to structure her career accordingly, communicating her particular skill-set and niche with more precision than the traditional boxes would've defined. Her work also incorporates a focus on themes of femininity and maternity within future scenarios, such as considerations of what the experience of long term exposure in space might be on the physiology of the female body. Another interesting project she talked about was creating a shrink-wrap esque installation where participants were encased in suctioned material with measurements taken to assess the physical reaction of the body to the installation stimulus. A serendipitous insight that emerged from this installation experiment was the potential of such approaches to be used in combating haptophobia as a kind of emergent experimental therapy. You can check out some of her body architecture work here.

All in all it was a thought provoking couple of days that illustrated a number of experimentation and user insight approaches, with some futuristic debate well moderated by the program MC Te Radar.