Experience Research & Design


IA Summit 2016 Reflections

The IA Summit this year seemed to be a pretty emotional one for many of us. As a community we talked about humanity and ethics. These topics have been of interest to me since my undergrad media ethics class and have guided my practice over the years, so I was pretty excited about it! In 3 days, we bonded as a community and strived to push IA forward. There were new faces that became familiar as the days went on. Three values described our community and this years Summit, they would be inclusion, humanity, and ethics.


Maybe because it's a place where we can let our freak flags fly, as Peter Merholz said – inclusion was at the forefront of many talks and seemed to be a central theme. As digital products increasingly integrate themselves into our lives, we need to further recognize that we are not our users. There are people out there who are not like us, and that is okay. We see this each year we attend the IA Summit, where we are accepted by the community because of who we are. We need to accept our users for who they are.


Liberal arts teaches us that each individual is a part of something greater. To question, think critically, and understand others perspectives allows our community to show that the liberal arts are vital to our world as we create and help technology advance. We pushed this year to discuss how to make technology more human in the way we convey empathy in the products we build. Over the last few years, math and algorithms have taken over, it’s time we bring them under control. At the core of society, we are humans with feelings and emotions that aren't black and white. Our products need to be able to reflect and mirror what our users are experiencing.


Actively and consciously doing the right thing can be more difficult than it seems, especially when you have a large number of stakeholders involved. Ethics can be a touchy subject to discuss, as it is naturally a gray area that requires critical thinking. Luckily, as IAs, critical thinking falls into our everyday job description. The fact that we were able to start having the conversation shows how open we are as a community to views that are different from our own. The key will be bringing our business and development partners along for the ride and making them comfortable with having these discussions when it comes to building products.

The Whole

IA Summit 2016, you touched on some deep parts of who we are as human beings in an effort to create more human technology. Being a part of the transition from making technology usable to having empathy is a fantastic thing to be a part of. This is my 3rd Summit, and the first where I presented at poster night. With each year that passes, I fall in love over and over again with IA and our community. As Kyle Soucy said, those handshakes quickly turn to hugs. That so accurately describes the IA Summit and the people who congregate to discuss new ideas and support each other as we move the field forward. Thank you to those before me for creating a field and community that allows me to have a career I love, I can’t wait to see where this ride takes us.