I'm recording some of what I took away from the UXnet panel on UX disciplines held in New York City last night. Lou Rosenfeld led the panel. The requisite issue of defining UX pervaded the discussion, although some people were also interested in how we might identify and bridge gaps in our understanding of the processes of the many disciplines under the UX umbrella. There was also some interest in identifying what disciplines are not currently included in our UX world that should be. Some of the participants comments and observations paraphrase below resonated with me. I apologize for the incompleteness. I didn't take notes.
* Whitney Quesenbery made the analogy of UX to the theater (Whitney began her career as a lighting designer). As a lighting designer, when asked what she did, she replied that she worked in the theater. Similarly, during a usability interview she'd done recently, a participant answered the same question about what she "did", by replying that she "made baby food safe." The actual tasks in her day revealed that this person was a statistician. For Whitney, the definition or delineation of what makes UX isn't as important as the fact that we have this umbrella under which we can share discourse.
* Marilyn Tremaine disagreed, asserting that people, especially students and those familiarizing themselves with this practice, need something to hold on to. Additionally, she noted the need to get our job titles recognized in places such government lists of job titles. She also joked that that next Friends-like sitcom should include an Interaction Designer instead of an archaeologist. Her point is that awareness in the masses would be good for our disciplines.
* Anders Ramsey argued that it didn't matter to him as an individual what the umbrella term or tent was called. What matters is what you produce.
* Conor Brady suggested that UX really only meant the creation and process of building products with multi-disciplinary team.
* Someone in the audience suggested that user experience should be defined by figuring out what aspects of the process contributed to the design of good experiences.
* Mark Hurst suggested that experience is the best education and that our learning might best come from looking at case studies rather than pursuing UX academically.
* Marilyn Tremaine noted that one community that does UX but doesn't call it that is a group of people organized under the Association for Information Systems. This group of people is very interested in quantitative measures of user experience and is largely comprised by MBAs -- the people who are hired into companies to hire professionals in our disciplines.
* There was some agreement, regardless of how to define UX to individuals or to the outside world, that there was value in gathering individuals outside of their disciplines to learn from and understand what others are doing outside of one's discipline.
* Mark Hurst noted that the people they've hired in the past were predominantly Art History majors, so now they add "Art History a plus" to their job advertisements. So I'd make a good candidate I guess. Funny, a lot of Art History majors also go on to become lawyers. I've always thought it had to do with the analytical nature of looking at art.
* Mark Hurst noted that the people who will survive are the ones doing UX in the majority of their time rather than trying to define it (at least I think I heard him say something like that).
If you can't tell, I found Mark Hurst's self-described rants to be the most interesting part of the panel.
The panel discussion was recorded and will apparently be podcast at some point.