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Wicked Ambiguity and User Experience

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A keynote on aliens, nuclear waste, wicked problems, and the one big thing that unites everyone working in user experience: AMBIGUITY.

See a video and the full transcript of this keynote at http://www.jonathoncolman.org/2015/05/21/wicked-ambiguity/

How do you solve the world’s hardest problems? And how do you respond if they’re unsolvable? As user experience professionals, we're focused on people who live and work in the here and now. We dive into research, define the problem, break down silos, and build value by focusing on intent.

But how does our UX work change when a project lasts not for one year, or even 10 years, but for 10,000 years or more? Enter the “Wicked Problem,” or situations with so much ambiguity, complexity, and interdependencies that—by definition—they can’t be solved.

Using real-world examples from NASA’s Voyager program, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and other long-term UX efforts, we’ll talk about the challenges of creating solutions for people whom we’ll never know in our lifetimes. The ways we grapple with ambiguity give us a new perspective on our work and on what it means to build experiences that last.

Originally presented as the opening keynote for the 2014 Society for Technical Communication Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Redeveloped as the opening keynote for the 2015 Confab Central conference and presented on May 21, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A keynote on aliens, nuclear waste, wicked problems, and the one big thing that unites everyone working in user experience: AMBIGUITY.

See a video and the full transcript of this keynote at http://www.jonathoncolman.org/2015/05/21/wicked-ambiguity/

How do you solve the world’s hardest problems? And how do you respond if they’re unsolvable? As user experience professionals, we're focused on people who live and work in the here and now. We dive into research, define the problem, break down silos, and build value by focusing on intent.

But how does our UX work change when a project lasts not for one year, or even 10 years, but for 10,000 years or more? Enter the “Wicked Problem,” or situations with so much ambiguity, complexity, and interdependencies that—by definition—they can’t be solved.

Using real-world examples from NASA’s Voyager program, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and other long-term UX efforts, we’ll talk about the challenges of creating solutions for people whom we’ll never know in our lifetimes. The ways we grapple with ambiguity give us a new perspective on our work and on what it means to build experiences that last.

Originally presented as the opening keynote for the 2014 Society for Technical Communication Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Redeveloped as the opening keynote for the 2015 Confab Central conference and presented on May 21, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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