Posted by: clare on: October 27, 2011
I’m going to write DESIRE’11 up in the near future, but meanwhile here is a post about Marc Hassenzahl’s invited talk. It was a kick-ass keynote because a) Marc is doing awesome, timely work and b) it turns out he’s very able at communicating that work. Sweet.
So: he started by showing the differences in how little boys and little girls express affection for one another: the gist, as I understand it, is that little girls appear to be touchy-feely, talk a lot, draw on one another’s arms, while little boys punch each other. Marc noted that current social technologies — instant messaging, emoticons etc — support girls’ approaches to feeling close much more than boys’. Then he presented a communication product for boys: two physical pillows, digitally connected, which you can punch. Punching your pillow results in the other pillow moving accordingly.
Marc’s point: you can open up way more stuff by considering not the product, but about the experience it creates. He framed experience as narrative, talking about the importance of anticipation beforehand, and reflection, sharing and story-telling afterwards: he reckons this stuff is intrinsic to the meaning of the experience, and part of how we define ourselves. This, he posits, is part of the reason for Facebook’s success: it’s about sharing experiences.
This set me thinking about what artefacts I personally use to share and reflect upon experiences. I’m thinkin’ a mix of blogs (hello!), digital photos arranged in albums, and physical mementos. I’m sure there’s some neat work in this area, especially looking at crossovers between physical and digital artefacts.
Marc then demonstrated a cute prototype for a system where physical mementos (ticket stubs, for instance) are linked with digital artefacts such as photos or videos from the same event. He touched upon the current trend for people to take happiness and meaning from experiences (climb that mountain, visit that city) over material wealth (cars, houses). That’s right, kids, we’re not living in the 80s any more! (Still: there must be a cultural context for these claims. Where is the data from? In which countries is this more and less strongly the case?)
Marc talked about our current focus on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ in design, whilst calling for increased focus on ‘why’, which put me in mind of my work last year, examining people’s motivations for using geosocial networks.
Marc called for UX design to bridge the gap between abstract high-level needs and concrete products / activities. He posits that ‘experience patterns’ — condensed (TAPTlike?) descriptions of crucial facets of experiences, illustrated with the help of short stories — are a way to tackle this problem. Intriguing!
Key conclusions: focus on emotions over functionality and experiences over products; design is a form of storytelling; be interested in people. You’ll hear no argument from me on those!