Social Media at the #NAI2011 Workshop

I compare the annual NAI National Workshop to final exams. I spend most of my year building to this one week, during which I go sleepless, subsist almost entirely on buffalo wings and nervous energy, and then crash afterwards until someone wakes me for the holidays.

I have been to 10 NAI National Workshops, and I remember each one distinctly for different reasons. There was the 40 Days of Rain Workshop (Virginia Beach, 2002), the “Wheel of Fortune” Slot Machine Workshop (Reno, 2003), the Shiny Horse Incident Workshop (Wichita, 2007), and, of course, the Shorn Head Workshop (Las Vegas, 2010).

Last week’s Workshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, will always be the Social Media Workshop to me. Smart phones and tablets were everywhere throughout the event, and there was a steady stream of Tweets and Facebook posts from participants. NAI promoted a Twitter hash tag, #NAI2011, which participants used when Tweeting about the event.

For those not familiar with Twitter, a hash tag is a short phrase or set of characters set off with a pound sign (like #NAI2011) that Twitterers use to link their Tweets to other Tweets. In Twitter, you can click on a hash tag and see all of the Tweets that have included it. Being relatively new to Twitter, I was struck by the following effects of the #NAI2011 hash tag:

It generated buzz:

It connected people—in person and online:

It made people feel bad:

It spread the message:

It expanded the conversation beyond the session rooms:

It gave participating organizations a line of communication to their people:

It provided instant feedback:

It highlighted some of the tangential benefits of the event:

And, of course, it encouraged shenanigans:

I co-presented two sessions during NAI 2011, one on blogging with my esteemed IBD co-author Shea, and one on using social media in interpretation with Friend of IBD Phil Sexton. Both were well attended, but in particular the social media session was packed so full we called it Occupy NAI, and our room monitor was turning people away. That session was popular for three reasons: 1. New media is incredibly important to the field of interpretation. 2. People believed me when I told them that Phil is actually Kenny Rogers. 3. I can’t remember the third reason.

I consider the #NAI2011 hash tag experiment a success. It was widely used by participants, encouraged conversation, facilitated connections, and generated buzz about the event.

Now, on to #NAI2012!

Being Square With All Audiences

Warning: This post contains no baseball references, while Paul and I take a break to recover from our teams’ sudden departure from the postseason. (At least the Yankees didn’t get beat by a wildcard team empowered by a squirrel.)

For some time I have wanted to write something about designing for those with disabilities. As with most things I write, I have the concept but no specific direction. If you regularly read IBD, you know this already. During this pensive time of reflection (or procrastination as my wife calls it) I received an email link related to a different twist on the classic Rubik’s Cube toy for blind persons. While trying to learn more about the thought processes behind this modern twist, I came across someone else’s idea of designing for those with visual impairments (or other disabilities), that I had to share. I think you will be happy, for once, since I didn’t write it.

It seems as most of the buzz online began with German designer Konstantin Datz’s version at the Museum of Modern Art. According to the MOMA website:

 Datz has reimagined the popular Rubik’s Cube for people who cannot see the toy’s original colors. Datz stuck white panels embossed with the Braille words for each color over the squares, transforming the game from a visual puzzle into a tactile one.

For those with normal sight, the design is simple and striking. This is an excellent reminder that keeping a design simple and clean is always a great approach.

As I mentioned above, I came across a perspective that was so well written I had to use it here. The website is Drawar, The Imagination Community, a unique approach to a design blog (very different from IBD that could be categorized as unique for very different reasons).

In the post about Datz’s cube the following statements were made on Drawar:

When you are designing something there is a chance you have the luxury of being able to see it, hear it, feel it, or taste it. I know I often times forget that having all of these senses is a luxury and that there are millions upon millions of folks who aren’t afforded such things. How will they interact with the stuff that I design? When you start to consider this for even a second you see that your perspective on a design changes just a little bit.

It can be almost impossible to provide the exact experience for everyone in the world, but that doesn’t mean the experience for people with disabilities shouldn’t be as fulfilling to them as it is to someone else. Whenever I write I want everyone to be able to access and read my words. People without sight won’t be able to see my plain sense of design, but at least they will get to the real experience which is the words.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, maybe I could have but it would have involved at totally unrelated story in a weak attempt to create an analogy and would have involved many more parentheses.