Learning UX, and the future.

Learning tools like programming languages, while difficult, is easy in the respect that you are learning discrete techniques. Even in the case of learning Ruby, which is more forgiving in terms of what syntax is acceptable syntax, the person is still relegated with strings have to be within “” marks, break and end marks end conditions for loops, and so on. It’s rather fixed.

User experience, however, can be difficult because it’s fuzzy. User experience relies on people – predominately users – much more than other tools in the technical toolbox. What makes great user experience? The use of color? But different cultures tend to respond to color in different ways. Multi-channel synchronization a la Disney with their parks or Apple with their stores? It depends (especially if the client or organization is small and thus doesn’t have multiple media channels and/or physical artifacts to manage).

User experience requires critical thinking, a good amount of interest in psychology, and creativity. Assumptions must be investigated and discarded if they do not fit what users actually do (instead of what users necessarily say they do).

While technology has been at the forefront of everyone’s life whether they want it to or not, issues of cybersecurity race with the ramifications of the tech bubble in Silicon Valley. VR headsets are on order on Amazon at the same time there are headlines about the dangers of self-driving cars. We are in an era where the humanities can make a crucial difference in technology in terms of what kind of problems technology can be applied to worldwide, or in terms of how technology can better improve human lives – and yet, in the United States, the arts and humanities are among the first discipline fields to be cut in schools. These often include the social sciences, such as psychology and sociology, as well as “traditional” humanities fields like philosophy and literature.

We cannot have the field of UX without the input of the humanities. Even its parent discipline, product design, owes a substantial debt to behavioral psychology; the study of what people do and think and /why/ they might do what they do. Likewise, if the humanities disciplines are destroyed, we may lose even more sight of what technology can help us do – help people to read, help us study history, enable us to retain memories of our favorite poems, help a village learn a language before it is forgotten to time, enable grandparents to see grandchildren half a world away and get farmers in touch with cooperatives or microlenders for new seeds or new ways to help grow food.

 

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