A Tail of Two Cities

Peter JonesWu Wei

I’ve just returned from 2 conferences back-t0-back (I don’t recommend it), and the difference between the two venues is almost unthinkable. First Bowling Green, Ohio for the Nexus for Change – followed immediately by the Information Architecture Summit in Las Vegas. Even though the 2 conferences also hosted two very different crowds, one other colleague attended both, Keith Instone.  The mega-hotels of Vegas were all 95% sold out, yet I didn’t see anything there for me to do. Bowling Green is one of those old Midwest small towns built around a state school, removed from the hustle of real life so that students can learn in relative isolation. As far as cultural experience, Vegas is the main trend, BG is way out in the tail.

Neither of these uniquely American extremes of place offered any cultural interest or hope for future renewal. Both were depressing, in very different ways. But the conferences were excellent – and similar in a couple of ways. They were smaller, people knew one another very well from prior experience, and the conferences revealed a common experience. Leaders in both fields live in the question of what it means to develop a practice in their fields. These fields are in no way settled.

At Nexus, change and organizational facilitation. At IA, where the field of Information Architecture is going and whether we are developing a substantive practice. Both embrace a strong ethic of collaboration with clients and the whole team, but both are also service-oriented, and not strongly research oriented. I may find it harder to collaborate with practitioners from both fields than I would from a research-focused conference. In the research world, there’s intent to discover something new and share what’s emergent. Practitioners are more entrepreneurial, implying acertain sense of competition for clients and talent.