For their part, our SPAN speakers and collaborators address these tensions and are pushing the boundaries of how we produce and interact with new technologies, often melding a variety of skillsets—be it design, engineering, computer science, robotics, research, and writing. The artist Jon Rubin, for example, enriches his work with layers of interaction and context—whether it’s creating a restaurant whose concept is based on political conflict, or a billboard that programmatically messages ideas from various collaborators. His work is as much a forum, as it is an artifact. Artist Mimi Onuoha explores the rich territory between data and identity—an area that deserves our increased attention. While Sara Hendren’s vital take on adaptive technologies reveals how our collective tendency to overlook matters of disability and assume that they have little relevance or impact on innovation for the broader population, is a troubling—and shortsighted—contemporary occurrence.
Parsing and organizing the surfeit of information available to us is an endless task, and one that designers, information architects, and UXers are uniquely equipped to tackle. The challenge remains the same, it’s simply our containers that continue to change. In her forthcoming book Architectural Intelligence, Molly Wright Steenson explores the ways in which early Information Architects grasped at the analogue discipline of traditional architecture to find nomenclature to adequately describe the character of their work. Steenson writes, “When non-architects adopt the term “architecture,” when they use “architect” as a verb, they are seeking ways to bring complicated issues into relation with each other.” A design conference, or even a book is yet another kind of container, in which physical adjacencies often spark connections between various lines of inquiry, much like the design (or editing) process itself.