Mensch und Computer 2005 – September 4-7, Linz, Austria

The annual conference “Mensch und Computer” (Man and Computer) is the most important conference for HCI topics in the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). This year’s Mensch und Computer used the tagline “Art and Science – crossing the borders in an interactive way” (“Kunst und Wissenschaft – Grenz?berschreitung der interaktiven ART”). It took place in Linz[GP:Linz] in Upper Austria from 4 to 7 September – quite agreeably in parallel to the Ars Electronica, the most renown festival for contemporary electronic art.

Like its predecessors, the M&C featured a Usability Professionals Association (UPA) track running in parallel to the “scientific” program of the conference. For most participants, this track prove the actual conference program. As for me, I took part exclusively in offerings from the UPA track (except for the invited lectures). Due to my professional move this year, totally new and different subjects were of interest to me: I’ve moved away from the technology-driven SAP[GP:SAP] with its Enterprise Software and its rather special structures to AOL[GP:AOLDE] with its more marketing-driven processes and the consumer software. Subjects such as Knowledge Management or End-User Development lost importance while reports of how to implement user-centered design processes in companies became more important, the question of how to separate work between market research and usability and similar issues. I personally found it interesting to see how much more I took part in discussions this time (compared to the last conferences). Looks like the strengthened illusion of self-efficacy plays a certain role here – the new job seems to have brough this about. The impact of the two strong brands, SAP and AOL, was interesting to see as well: Fascinating how this can influence comments and their reception.

I enjoyed talking with colleagues outside the sessions a lot. I was very happy to meet my SAP ex-colleagues again (Bettina Laugwitz, Udo Arend & Co.), but of course Svenja No? as well. As always, a very fruitful exchange took place between the two of us. And of course there was the usual crowd you meet at the conference every year: Matthias M?ller-Prove, Ralph Hinderberger, Marc Hassenzahl, Matthias Peissner, Franz Koller etc. And there are new people who should be mentioned as well: Henning Brau’s girlfriend Christine Ullmann and Svenja No?’s friend Michele Gauler.

The Ars with its extraordinary exhibits was a sight to see and discover as well. Of course not all of it is accessible to me, and lots I found rather strange, but the atmosphere, the participants’ enthusiasm was fascinating. Truly remarkable works of arts could be seen, e.g. Toshio Iwai’s Tenori-On, a new class of musical instrument belonging to a family of similarly alternative devices. Just as much I was happy to see great numbers of devices with images of a certain fruit on their clamshells. 🙂

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