TOTAL EXPERIENCE explores designing for experience: its theory, its practice, and how designing for experiences affects us socially and in our personal lives.


  • Bob Jacobson
  • Paula Thornton
  • BOB JACOBSON is fascinated by the experience of experience. A planner and technologist, Bob has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning & Design from UCLA. He's been a policy researcher, technology CEO, science writer, and consultant. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied cellular telephony's impacts on transborder communities in the Nordic Arctic Circle. Bob edited Information Design (MIT Press 2000) and is now writing a book on the theory and practice of creating edifying, transformative experiences.
    ( Archive | Contact Bob )
    CORANTE PAULA THORNTON says, "Understanding human behavior (economics), optimizing interactions (design) and facilitating conversations (markets), are the means to achieve strategic differentiation. This is the focus of our discipline. It is not a 'nice to have'‚ and is not, like documentation once was, an afterthought. It is the means by which to start a strategic discussion and the means by which to drive a tactical initiative. All design should be evidence-based."
    ( Archive | Contact Paula ) >

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

    Experience Design Websites
    Core 77 Website & Forum
    Business Week|Innovate
    InfoD: Understsanding by Design
    The Wayfinding Place
    Wayfinding Focus
    Design Addict
    L-ARCH (Landscape Architecture Mailing List)
    DUX 2007 Conference
    Digital Thread
    Enmeshed, Digital Arts & New Media
    Ludology (Game Playing Theory)
    Captology, Persuasive Computing
    Space and Culture
    Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces
    timet (acoustical design)
    Steve Portigal, Ethnographer
    Jane McGonigal's Avant Game
    Ted Wells' living : simple
    PingMag (Japan)

    Experience Design Blogs
    Adam Greenfield's Speedbird
    Experience Designer Network (Brian Alger)
    SmartSpace: Annotated Environments (Scott Smith)
    Don Norman
    Doors of Perception (John Thackara)
    Karl Long's Experience Curve
    Work•Play•Experience (Adam Lawrence)
    The David Report (David Carlson)
    Design & Emotion (Marco van Hout)
    Museum 2.0 (Nina Simon)
    B J Fogg
    Lorenzo Brusci (acoustics)
    Cool Town Studios
    Steve Portigal
    Debbie Millman
    MIT Culture Convergence Consortium
    Luke Wroblewski, Functioning Form|Interface Design
    Adam Richardson
    Putting People First (Paul Vanderbeeken/Experientia
    Laws of Simplicity (John Maeda)
    Challis Hodge's UX Blog
    Anne Galloways's Purse Lips Square Jaw
    Bruno Giussani's Lunch over IP
    Jane McGonigal's Avant-Game The Future of Work

    Experience Design Podcasts
    Ted Wells' living : simple Podcast
    Design Matters Podcast, Debbie Millman
    Icon-o-Cast Podcast, Lunar Design

    Experience Design Firms and ED-Oriented Manufacturers
    Barry Howard Limited
    Hilary Cottam
    LRA Worldwide, Inc.
    BRC Imagination Arts
    Stone Mantel
    Experientia s.r.l
    Herman Miller
    Cooper Interactive Design
    Doblin Group
    Fit Associates
    Strategic Horizons LLC (Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore)
    Cheskin Fresh Perspectives

    Education and Advocacy
    Centre for Design Research, Northumbria University (UK)
    Center for Design Research, Stanford University
    International Institute of Information Design (IIID)
    Design Management Institute
    Interaction Institute IVREA
    Design Research Institute (UK)
    UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Design Research
    History of Consciousness, UCSC
    Design News Magazine
    Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)
    Design Museum London
    Center for Sustainable Design
    Horizon Zero, Digital Arts+Culture in Canada
    Design Council UK
    First Monday

    Total Experience on Technorati
    Technorati Profile

    Get Camino!
    In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

    Total Experience

    « Mark Hurst: “What Makes a Good Experience” | Main | Big Changes at experience-design Mecca, Disney Imagineering »

    February 19, 2006

    Designing the Experience of Islam

    Email This Entry

    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Orientalism, the term invented by the late Edward Said and the title of his culminating work of scholarship, anticipated today's almost total breakdown of understanding between the West and “street” Islam, the Islam of the masses in Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia. The problem as Said saw it was an historical tendency on the part of Westerners to romanticize and in some ways infantalize Islamic culture -- “orientalizing” it -- and in the process, giving it a unitary appearance that, up close, is a complete illusion.

    Even before Said wrote, the experience of being Muslim had become so geographically dispersed, diversified, and internally conflicted, no single individual or group could claim sole authority to interpret the Prophet or Islam's essential record of his teachings, the Quran (Koran). Now, with the rise of an “angry” Islam that appears intolerant of everything, including the West but also sizable portions of other Muslims, Said's problematic needs restating: the primary problem now is not the West's ignorance (though that still pertains), but rather mainstream Islam's inability to recognize itself or speak for its interests in a way others can productively respond. So the “street” rules. Burning embassies, stoning dissidents, and ultimately killing those who disagree, however, is not a formula for persuasion: it is an invitation to absolute retribution by the rest of the world.

    The population of self-identified Muslims now exceeds one billion persons spread around the world, but concentrated in the nations of North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and Indonesia, with sizable populations in Western Europe and smaller communities in North America. Like Christianity and Buddhism, which preceded Islam -- a religion with fairly recent origins -- Islam has gone through seismic turmoil resulting in deep internal divisions. The most famous of these schisms is between Shi'ite and Sunni Islam, a dispute based (as is so often the case in religious conflicts) on who the true descendants of Mohammed, the original Prophet, might be.

    Be that as it may, Islamic society today projects a collective persona that's always on the defensive. (In this, it's very similar to evangelical and conservative Christian sects that claim a hostile world is out to destroy their repressive Kingdom of God.) It wasn't always so: in it's initial sweep across the Middle East and Spain, Islam founded a “golden age” culture that confidently developed medicine, astronomy, music, architecture, mathematics, theology, and other intellectual streams that led to the Renaissance, humanism, and (in Al-Andalus, known today as Andalucia) remarkable religious tolerance.

    For the next thousand years, there remained Islamic bright spots despite the Mongol depredation and ruinous wars of conquest by the Ottoman Turks. India under the Muslim Mughals was a gem of civilization.

    But now, there is no center to Islam, as Mecca and Baghdad once were. And over the centuries, conservative Muslim clerics have proven the dire enemy of cultural and economic progress. Hand in hand with Western colonialism interests, they've kept Islamic culture largely frozen in the 15th Century, while their resources -- and their most innovative citizens, including tens of thousands of Christians and Jews -- have been exploited by more dynamic societies.

    With most of the West ignorant about Muslim society, and Islamic society itself so fractured as to be unable to speak with a clear voice, the presentation of Islam has been left to extremists in each camp: denigrators in the West and firebrands in the Islamic “street.” What a travesty.

    A culture with a legacy as noble as any is reduced to cartoon caricatures by those who place press freedom above simple respect for other traditions, and Muslims are now known best for violent demonstrations, destruction of property, and people dying for no better reason than to protest cartoons. (Inviting cartoons about the Holocaust, as an Iranian publisher has done, doesn't even the score. It merely distorts the images of Muslims and Jews in each others' eyes, and makes all parties look pathetic in the eyes of the world.)

    This is not how I would design the experience of Islam for my fellow Americans or Westerners anywhere. But it suits the needs of those who benefit by xenophobia, social hysteria, and violent conflict, including the truly powerful (and carefully invisible) economic forces who do best in these situations. This is not a formula for understanding. It is a formula for continuing strife that reminds everyone of the Crusades, another experience contrived for political gain in the name of religious ideals, an experience that resulted only in hatred, human suffering, and lasting hatred.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations


    1. sean coon on February 20, 2006 1:05 AM writes...

    as i began to read your post, i started to knaw at the thought of the construct of a "center" to islam -- such as a pope to catholicism -- and how that imposed hierarchy would affect the core concepts of islam, specifically, the prose of the koran. but your points are well made, especially with your spot on observation of conservative muslim clerics and western interests.

    " suits the needs of those who benefit by xenophobia, social hysteria, and violent conflict, including the truly powerful (and carefully invisible) economic forces who do best in these situations. This is not a formula for understanding. It is a formula for continuing strife that reminds everyone of the Crusades, another experience contrived for political gain in the name of religious ideals, an experience that resulted only in hatred, human suffering, and lasting hatred."

    here, here.

    Permalink to Comment

    2. Bob Jacobson on February 20, 2006 10:36 AM writes...

    Today, Iran's foreign minister called for an end to violence regarding the offensive cartoons. The Pope issued a proclamation for tolerance, also. These aren't exactly mainstream speakers, but their support for restraint provides a framework within which others can begin a reconciliation...if they're up to it.

    To my design colleagues: what factors can be changed or added to achieve a desired outcome -- comity -- and how can we as designers abet it?

    Permalink to Comment

    3. sean coon on February 20, 2006 11:11 AM writes...

    as designers, i believe our most valuable contribution lives in our ability to frame the communicative conflict or debate with a twist on perspective and POV; encourage people to struggle with their own bias, as it's diametrically expressed within the state of their own belief system.

    well, at least that's what i attempted with the cartoon controversy via images, hyperlinks, title tag quotes and the constituant of bloggers who rallied behind the edict of free speech.

    Permalink to Comment

    4. Hala on February 20, 2006 11:31 AM writes...

    Translation that is what we need... Cultural Translaton and mediation. Designers can play the role of facilitation and go between the 2 worlds. We basically need empathy.

    IIn addition, we need involvement from people who know both worlds and can help bridge the gap... I see a lot of miscommunication based on the lack of understanding of the "other". Designers can be that bridge.

    Permalink to Comment


    Remember Me?


    Email this entry to:

    Your email address:

    Message (optional):

    Making Lemonade
    Amazon Kindle: Video Review
    Davos 2008: Collaborative Innovation at the Global Country Club
    Designing Today for a Very Different Tomorrow: Suggestions for the coming Age of Austerity
    Designing Today for a Very Different Tomorrow: The coming Age of Austeriy
    Amazon Kindle: A New Experience Channel
    Shine Doesn't Matter
    Prisoners in the Digital Panopticon: The Experience of Constant Surveillance -- Or, When Bad Things Beckon to Good Designers