Wicked Ambiguity and User Experience

A presentation at Designers + Geeks SF in in San Francisco, CA, USA by Jonathon Colman

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.



The following resources were mentioned during the presentation or are useful additional information.

  • Wicked Ambiguity and User Experience

    See multiple videos, slides, and the full transcript of this keynote.

  • Ambiguity in Design

    We are welcoming Jonathon Colman to the stage to speak about ‘Ambiguity in Design’. How do you solve the world’s hardest problems? And how would you respond if they’re unsolvable? Join us for look at what it means to grapple with ambiguity while designing for the next 10,000 years.

  • Designers + Geeks

    Designers + Geeks is a community for people interested in design, art, and technology. We host monthly events that feature great speakers on interesting topics.

    Our community is open to everyone, and our events currently take place in San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Our newsletter is the best way to be notified when we announce new events.

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