Monday, November 14, 2005

Conference Introductions & Keynote: by Brian Canny

Tracey and Ken introduced the conference theme as a space where we can talk about "our work" - with those terms in large part to be defined as we go along. And this conference will be a great opportunity to define "our work."

We moved to the keynote, then, and Rick Robinson framed the introduction to the theory section in a useful metaphor as "situating a conversation" - and the need to engage the client in this conversation, the third part in that ongoing conversation of practitioner, client, and participant, the conversation that compromises "our work."

It is crucial to emphasize the client - for one, these are the people who will be using our research. That brings with it the moral obligation embedded in the work we do, the power and responsibility that comes with shaping the future. Our work does not just stop with the present - but in large part works to shape the future. The conversation about theory is significant in that frame, for it does account for those moral obligations in our work.

Kris Cohen took up this important moral discussion with his theme of "exclusion." By defining users, one is making a political decision - defining Who is in one group makes a political decision on who is excluded. In going through the notion of exclusion, I think about the ink spilled recently on the design and atmosphere of electronics stores - which are oriented to a specific Who, (in this case, younger men) thus becoming an unwelcome place for others - in essence, flattening the notion of who uses the store. How a product gets used, who goes in to a store, etc., are all actually very complex issues to unpack.

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