The title of this workshop is a reference to The Artist Is Present, a performance art piece by Marina Abramovic. Marina spent months at MOMA sitting silently across from a nearly endless series of museum visitors, some of whom broke into tears.
The notion of presence is a critical idea for those of us in user experience. At the risk of sounding like Yoda, presence is tied to self-knowing. During ten years of writing, lecturing and coaching on “interviewing users”, many of the questions that Steve Portigal receives are about controlling or influencing another person’s behavior. Yet these interactions with others are really about ourselves, what’s inside us, who we are.
Therapists, as part of their education, must go through therapy themselves. They are expected to achieve a certain level of insight about themselves — their biases, their discomforts, and so on. While we are not therapists, we go out and study people without that level of self-insight!
A lack of self-insight sometimes manifests itself as passion, commitment, or being driven by a mission. While those have their place, it’s easy to become blinded by what we can’t let ourselves see. Sometimes this shows up as discomfort at the micro level, when we react to something a user might tell us about themselves; sometimes it’s a macro issue, when we’re uncomfortable with people who hold different values, preferences, or beliefs than ourselves. And it crescendos as know-it-all douchebaggery, when we think our job is to tell other people what’s best for them — when phrases like “frictionless sharing” fall from our lips as naturally as “what time is dinner?”
In this workshop, you’ll tap into a new level of personal authenticity to unlock a powerful boon. Together, we’ll explore this point of view and participate in a range of exercises to learn more about these ideas — and about ourselves.