This week, I’ll be trying something new: I’ll attend UXcampCPH, my first “unconference”, in a neighboring discipline, namely user experience.
How it’s new for me
Unconferences are new to me. Apparently, unconferences forego much administrative clutter, such as advance session programming and sponsored presentations, for a more grassroots approach of: “The conference is us!”
That means unconferences emphasize participation and networking. Attendees bring presentations they want to present and pitch them at the beginning of the unconference.
I’m expecting a good deal of “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” attitude and possibly a glitch or two. Considering the occasional bust session I’ve caught at conventional conferences, I don’t think unconferences need to be worse on principle, though.
User experience (UX) is one of those neighboring disciplines that I bump up against in tech comm ever so often. According to the ISO definition, it means “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. Tech comm brings practitioners, theory and research to UX, as Ginny Redish shows in the first part of the article “Overlap, Influence, Intertwining: The Interplay of UX and Technical Communication“.
Seeing how closely UX is connected to what we do in tech comm makes me regret knowing so little about it and wonder if I shouldn’t take it into account more. (Other disciplines which evoke similar reactions include usability, accessibility, content strategy, etc.)
Why I recommend trying new stuff
I have no idea how much I will actually get out of UXcampCPH. But I’m excited about the opportunity to participate for several reasons:
- Find out how UX people tick. Hanging out with them for a weekend will give me a good idea what’s important to them, how they approach their work and what they think of tech comm’ers.
- Include UX in my work. I’m hoping to get beyond my theoretical, distant understanding of UX towards a more practical grasp that can help me incorporate it better when conceiving and creating documentation.
- Spread tech comm goodness. In the second part of the article mentioned above, Ginny Barnum asks “Why should technical communicators claim a seat at the UX table” and endeavours to “stimulate technical communicators to join with UX specialists”. I guess some UX’ers might feel about tech comm the way I feel in reverse: They might know about it from more or less distance, but maybe not understand exactly what we do or how we add value. I’d be glad to point out where and how we can work together, each with our individual skills and talents.
I’ll be one of the tech comm guys. If you attend UXcampCPH and are wondering what tech comm does or why documentation can be so weird, feel free to talk to me.
I’ll be the pattern recognition guy. If you attend UXcampCPH, vote for me: I’ll pitch my presentation how we can apply cognitive processes to improve UX (and tech comm). Thank you!