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Interaction and Design
February 12-13, 2003 in San Jose, CA

special members' workshop
Global Organizations, Small Worlds, and Social Software
Tuesday, February 11, 2003

overview speakers agenda

Topics include:
• Information architecture and understanding
• Advanced and extreme interfaces
• The expression business
• Product design and appeal
• Industrial and interactive design
• Entertainment and experiences
• Concepts of look and feel

conference overview
Much as an animator brings a character to life, a talented designer makes experiences truly accessible and engaging. Interestingly, with the exception of consumer industries like apparel or automotive production, design has played a relatively minor role in business to date. Seldom central or integrative in the development of business, "design" is often outsourced after the fact, as if sending a product to finishing school.

Design itself is being redesigned, as are our attitudes toward it. Equipment manufacturers now see competitive advantage in the "look and feel" of products. Systems and service providers know that customers truly value ease-of-use and understanding, and they are taking a design approach to their corporate/consumer interfaces. Computer developments have focused attention on the quality of interaction. The multimedia nature of the Web has raised the importance of previously abstruse bodies of knowledge, such as typography, animation and music. Design of sensible and smart interfaces is being driven into the business arena.

Today, design is accepted but rarely sought after. It is welcomed, but not required. As businesses discover its value and learn to embrace creative design as a crucial core asset, new talents will be needed and new questions will arise. We'll introduce advanced concepts and leading thinkers in design to find out what new elements produce marketable (and profitable) results. Just a few years ago, designers would have been considered icing. Tomorrow they will be the cake.

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Ms. Rebecca Allen, Professor of Design | Media Arts, University of California, Los Angeles
Mr. Steven Bathiche, Research and Development Program Manager, Microsoft Hardware
Mr. Joe Chung, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder, Art Technology Group
Mr. Nigel Holmes, Information Architect, Explanation Graphics
Mr. David Kelley, Founder and CEO, IDEO
Dr. John Maeda, Associate Professor of Design and Computation, MIT
Mr. Michael Naimark, Media Artist
Dr. Don Norman, Co-founder, Nielsen Norman Group and Professor of Computer Science, Northwestern University
Mr. Max Oshman, Partner, pLot Multimedia Developers
Mr. Ralph Osterhout, Founder, Osterhout Design Group and CEO, Inter-4
Mr. Lars Perkins, CEO, Lifescape Solutions, Inc.
Mr. Gary Rydstrom, Director of Creative Operations, Skywalker Sound
Ms. Tiffany Shlain, Founder and Creative Director, The Webby Awards
Mr. Richard Saul Wurman, Architect and Founder, TED

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workshop description
Clay Shirky, Internet Consultant and Writer
The launch of the Internet created something genuinely new: social software. Social software such as mailing lists, weblogs, wikis and IM provides a way to have group conversations without regard to geographic distance, and without being limited to broadcast (one-to-many and one-way, such as television) or point-to-point communications (one-to-one and two-way, such as the telephone).

By removing the technological barriers to group conversation, the Internet has exposed many previously hidden social limitations. Though a thousand-person discussion group is technically possible, the tradeoffs human groups face between size and focus make such interaction socially impossible.

Humans work most productively in groups of four to six, according to Harvard psychologist Richard Hackman. Primatologist Roland Dunbar suggests that we can only keep reasonable track of groups of up to 150 but no more, a thesis given a popular airing as "The Rule of 150" in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point. The limits we face on group communication now have more to do with the wiring of the human mind than the wiring of our networks.

So we solved one problem, only to run into another. Many businesses and organizations have thousands or even tens of thousands of employees. If each of those employees would work best in a group of half a dozen, within a division of no more than 150, is it possible to structure large organizations with anything other than a rigid hierarchy?

One possible answer is "Small World" networks. These networks operate on two scales -- a local, highly clustered scale, and a global and more loosely woven one. This two-scale organization allows a large number of people to gather in small clusters, while keeping the degrees of separation between people low. The desirable characteristics of Small World don't show up in networks that are either too rigidly structured or too chaotic, nor do they show up in networks with geographic limits, where the likelihood that two nodes will be able to connect falls with distance.

The message of Small World networks is that there is no "one size fits all model" for arranging a network. Intimacy and reciprocity of local arrangements don't scale up, while the looser organizing principles of global arrangements don't provide enough structure to be applicable at smaller scales.

In this workshop, we'll explore developments in social software, by looking at tools like IM, weblogs, wikis, and Groove, with an emphasis on how these tools shape or support group interaction. We'll also examine such questions as:

• What are the implications of Small World networks for organizations as business becomes increasingly global?
• Can we find ways to create large dynamic organizations that nevertheless enjoy the benefits of strong local context?
• What sorts of social software environments and tools support Small Worlds networks?
• What tradeoffs do organizations face when choosing to implement such software?

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