Wicked Problems – World Usability Day Frankfurt 2017 in Retrospect
Wicked Problems – The World Usability Day 2017 in Frankfurt
The term “Wicked Problems” is not new: it even celebrates its 50th birthday on December 1, after it was already discussed in 1967 in an editorial by C. West Churchman’s Management Science department. Nevertheless, wicked problems are omnipresent today. These are problems which, by their very nature, can only be tamed, but not solved. They are blurred, complex and in constant flux.
Lectures at the World Usability Day 2017 in Frankfurt
Open questions as challenges for designers…
How do we shape a constantly changing world, a world that is becoming ever more hybrid, ever faster? This year our speakers brought us some really inspiring contributions again.
Jochen Denziger, designer and member of Iconstorm’s management, opened the evening by tearing open the real problem of our time: “Wicked Solutions” emerge from chaos in a time when everything is digitized and a world of complex contexts is created. Innovations are triggered by problems, are reactions to them and can be found in solutions such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Smart Data as a response to Big Data. From the designer’s point of view, this is a completely new challenge, because algorithms become decisive for the quality and design of products. For laymen, however, they are, frankly, black boxes – and we are gradually losing control over our own solutions.
The dilemma of complex problems
Karl Herrbruck is a consultant and software developer. He knows about digitization. And he knows exactly why we all have no idea how to deal with it – not even himself. Based on a wealth of experience dating all the way back to the restructuring of a traffic control center for Lufthansa in the 1980s, he showed us why it is so difficult for us humans to develop and implement concepts for complex problems. Why do complex situations overwhelm us? Why do we often not even try to find solutions in the first place? How does the implementation of said solutions fail?
Do machines understand the world better than we do?
On the subject of machine learning, Prof. Dr. Michael Beigl provided us with insights. He holds the chair of Pervasive Computer Systems at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. He showed us why machines can “understand” the world so much better than humans. Today, even experts in all kinds of fields are no longer able to make themselves sufficiently aware of correlations. The cognitive models we humans create no longer do justice to the complexity of the interrelationships. In contrast to us, machines can map the world’s data volumes, identify patterns, forecast risks and offer solutions. Without any help at all… or can they?
Will people be the future slaves of software?
Sebastian Schmieg is an artist. Therefore, he could shed light on the effects of technology from a completely different perspective. He thought about the living and working environments into which we are forced today – and about how algorithms play a role in this. An oversupply of freelancers competing on job portals for contract work for starvation wages. Armies of poorly paid workers, who in many cases make machine learning possible in the first place by manually entering data records. Do we human beings in a capitalist society increasingly have to subordinate ourselves to the functional logic of such online platforms?
We took a look into the inner workings of UX projects together with Dr. Ronald Hartwig, who is managing director of the UUX joint venture untrouble as well as the UUX working group of Bitkom. His core message: “Despite all the hype surrounding technology and development tools, we must not forget that every project is being worked on by people, by people with different motivations, goals, abilities and views. What do we have to do to lead UX projects to success despite the people involved?
… and 3 possible solutions
A new way of working
In a networked world where problems are in constant flux, users in particular are confronted with their concrete consequences. Oliver Florschütz of the startup company Resourceful Humans. explained to us how that is a problem for many large organizations. It is a problem because decisions are still being made top-down and a management that has little connection to its employees on the ground becomes an informational bottleneck. However, the complex problems of our time require a hands-on perspective, a cooperation of experts, stakeholders and motivated employees in the network. He showed us what methods we can use to break through the “holy order” of corporate hierarchies and, instead, ignite the power of such networks. Will people control the networks again?
A new perspective on things
Moritz Stefaner calls himself a Trust-and-Beauty operator. You have this freedom when you work independently, he says. At the interface between big data, intelligent machines on the one hand, information aesthetics and user interface design on the other hand, he deals with the possibilities of visualizing abstract and unmanageable amounts of data. He provided impressive examples of how we can use design to make data recognizable, perceptible and usable. Can we use these methods to see the Big Picture behind data again from a human point of view and to understand the black boxes that modern machines are to us?
A new challenge for designers
Last but not least, Professor David Oswald von der HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd spoke about how designers will have to work in a more idealistic way in the future. He says that design must move away from pure user centricity and transcend it. To address the world’s wicked problems, we need to look beyond the mere products in the hands of the users and beyond the conventional design space. Innovations are inseparably linked to a complex framework of worldly conditions, between economic, biological, social and technological boundaries and possibilities. Only if we also face the ethical questions and challenges that are connected to their design will we be able to solve the complex problems of this world. And that’s exactly why there is a lot of room for positive impact when it comes to modern design challenges.
#wudffm – What’s next?
First of all, we would like to thank everyone who was there! And of course also our partners, the speakers and our great hosts in the Frankfurt silver-tower of the train! We are sure that 2018 will be another very complex year. The challenges we dealt with at WUD 2017 will therefore continue to accompany us.