Highlights from IxDA Interaction’09

Posted: February 13th, 2009 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I finally got back to London after a week packed with excitement, great scenery, interesting journeys and new acquaintances. Before going into details on the main reason for this trip - to attend IxDA Interaction’09 conference in Vancouver - a few words on the amazing flight journey to San Francisco (stop-over on the way to Seattle).

I left London the morning after the biggest snow storm the city had witnessed in the past 20 years. The streets were chaotic and sidewalks looked more like skating rings. The plane took off from a snow-covered Heathrow into a limpid blue sky heading for San Francisco. The weather remained crystalline throughout the entire journey, offering the most beautiful and arresting scenes. From the iceberg-covered ocean and snowy mountains of Greenland, to the frozen lakes of northern Canada, crossing the impressive rocky mountains and the flat lunar surfaces of Nevada - It was quite breathtaking.

Hosted in the beautiful city of Vancouver, IxDA Interaction’09 was a great event, joining many passionate Interaction Design professionals on the strengthening of the field. This year’s organization, led by Greg Petroff from SAP, was effective and relentless, making sure the event went as smooth as possible. It started with an engaging and thought-provoking keynote by John Thackara, and ended with a brilliant and inspiring talk by Kim Goodwin, from Cooper, wrapping up the 3-day conference in a distinctive way. In between there was a disastrous panel discussion hosted by Jared Spool, a stimulating keynote by Robert Fabricant from Frog Design, an overly excited audience attending Dan Saffer’s keynote, and some compelling lighting rooms. I particularly enjoyed Jenifer Tidwell’s presentation on Mobile Interaction Design Patterns, Nadya Direkova’s showcase of game design techniques applied to non-game products and campaigns, Kars Alfrink’s compelling presentation on Game Design, and finally colleague Miles Rochford’s talk on Contexts of Use.

My presentation went very well. The room was packed and there was a lot of positive feedback in the end. It’s always challenging (for me at least) to squeeze all your ideas in a 25-minute session, but it was well worth it. The title of the talk was Network Visualization - at the age of infinite interconnectedness, and covered 4 topics: (1) 5 Reasons for the current Outburst of Visualization, (2) Introduction to VisualComplexity.com, (3) Current Trends in the field, and finally, (4) the challenges on building a formal foundation for Network Visualization, divided in two areas - Visual Representation Methods and Interactive Exploration Techniques. The presentation (without the videos) is now available on slideshare. I have already two other talks scheduled for this year, you can keep track of them here.

Darwin’s Anniversary

Posted: February 12th, 2009 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of a genius. On February 12th, 1809, Charles Robert Darwin was born. This date is being celebrated by people and institutions in events all across the globe, as a way of highlighting Darwin’s contribution to biology and promoting science in general. There’s the Darwin Day Celebration, which showcases a vast list of international events, and there’s also the Darwin 200 celebration, hosted by the Natural History Museum in London. For the University of Cambridge, this year will be celebrated in a special way. 2009 represents, not only the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work ‘On the Origin of Species’, but also the 800th anniversary of this venerable institution.

Besides all the Darwin-related events happening throughout 2009, many books have been (or will be) published this year. Here are a some of them, from a list gathered by NewScientist:

Being a big admirer of Darwin, and living in London, it would just be a matter of time before I headed down to the house that sheltered his extended family and saw him write his remarkable theories on evolution. In September 2008 I went to Down House in Downe, Kent, which is fairly close to London. There you can explore a beautifully preserved garden and many of the house’s original settings - of particular relevance is Darwin’s studio, where he spent many hours researching, testing, writing, and certainly debating with himself many of his earth-shaking ideas. Here are some of the images I took from the trip.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life image that appeared in Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, 1859.

The image on the left, representing the Tree of Life, was the only illustration in the original version of his seminal work On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, published in 1859. Darwin believed that phylogeny, the ascent of all species through time, was expressible as a metaphor he termed the Tree of Life. The modern development of this idea is called the Phylogenetic Tree and there are three projects in VisualComplexity.com that focus on this particular topic (see below):

Nature in Motion

From the many magazines covering the anniversary of Charles Darwin, I particularly enjoyed reading the extended coverage by Scientific American magazine (January 2009), reflecting on the current and future progress of his original vision. In reference to Darwin’s outstanding contribution to Science, evolutionary biologist Francisco J. Ayala of the University of California, said: “Darwin completed the Copernican Revolution by drawing out for biology the notion of nature as a lawful system of matter in motion that human reason can explain without recourse to supernatural agencies”.

Heading to Vancouver

Posted: February 2nd, 2009 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I will soon be heading to Vancouver (after a short stay in Seattle) for the IxDA Interaction’09 conference. I will be talking about the current outburst of network visualization and some of the challenges in creating a taxonomy of the field. I will obviously make sure to share this presentation with you once I get back next week. But apart from my presentation I’m really excited to attend many talks on Interaction Design by prominent speakers, among them, John Thackara, Genevieve Bell, Dan Saffer, Fiona Raby, Jared Spool, and Kim Goodwin. I will also be occasionally posting on interesting topics that might emerge during the conference.

Interview with Albert-László Barabási

Posted: February 2nd, 2009 | Author: Manuel Lima | Filed under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Here’s an interesting interview by Seed magazine with Albert-László Barabási, author of Linked, one of the key figures in the science of complex networks, and a major influence on my own personal research.

In reference to the 21st century being seen by many as the century of networks, of complexity, Barabási points out how “students who in the past would have gone to physics and math, now are enrolling in computer science and biology, or are trying to understand networks and complexity”. And he continues his train of though saying that this “network explosion coincides with humanity turning inward”.

Interviewer James Fowler then ends the discussion by stating: “It’s an open question whether or not we are going to make it until the end of the century. But I think that if we are going to make it, it’s only because we’re able to understand ourselves better by using this new technology. That’s really going to be what helps us find solutions to these problems that we face in the century of networks”.

Check the interview video on the Seed Salon.