Corante

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

CO-AUTHORS

  • 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 ) >
    EXPERIENCE DESIGN:
    THE METAVERSE....

    CALENDAR OF EXPERIENCE DESIGN EVENTS
    (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
    NetDiver.Net
    DesignBoom
    Digital Thread
    Archinect
    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
    FutureLab
    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
    Nokia
    Herman Miller
    Steelcase
    IDEO
    Cooper Interactive Design
    Gensler
    Doblin Group
    Fitch
    Fit Associates
    Jump
    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
    AIGA DUX
    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
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    Total Experience

    Category Archives

    January 3, 2008

    Amazon Kindle: A New Experience Channel

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Amazon%20Kindle.jpgWhile the likes of the iPhone expand our access to online, Amazon embraces our changing states of online and offline by synthesizing them in an experience-specific device, the Kindle, for wireless reading. Amazon reinforces the synthesis by using the term “electronic-paper”. With a pricetag of almost $400, the fact that they’ve had to post the following statement, says something for the market response since its November 2007 debut, and its potential:
    Kindle Availability Due to heavy customer demand, Kindle is temporarily sold out. We are working hard to manufacture Kindles as quickly as possible and are prioritizing orders on a first come, first served basis. Please ORDER KINDLE NOW to reserve your place in line. We will keep you informed by email as we get more precise delivery dates. Note that Kindles cannot currently be sold or shipped to customers living outside of the U.S.

    The Kindle even has its own Wikipedia post (maybe offering full access to Wikipedia offline is related? Oh, and did I mention a full version of the New Oxford American Dictionary?). The post reports that the initial offering resulted in a sellout in 5.5 hours. Sure beats standing in line for hours on the street only to end up empty-handed. While the device was announced well over a year in advance, and even though I’m on Amazon weekly, it’s never caught my attention until this week. That suggests to me, that there’s a lot more upside to this product. [Gosh and I’ve already spent my $400 buying a pair of XOs – I got as far as charging it up, but haven’t had the time to power it up. More later…]

    Here’s where the total experience gets more specific to a focused scenario: If you look very carefully above main contents of the Amazon Kindle product page (bottom of the page header) you’ll see a series of links related to the Kindle Store. Select “Kindle Books” and you get a collections of book ‘products’ different than their non-electronic brethren. These SKUs will download, on purchase, to your Kindle device, in 2 minutes. Not sure if you really want that title, and thinking of going to a retail store to flip through the pages? Grab the first chapter for free. That, my friends, now differentiates the offering by the experience — an experience that spins endless new offerings for the brand.

    When you specialize the experience to the product and the products to the experience, how quickly can the competition respond? [Repeat again, “The experience IS the product.”]

    Amazon is a market maker. When some companies waste valuable cycles building walls against the competition, Amazon goes out embraces theirs. By expanding their model to include used and second-market books Amazon capitalized on a larger portion of the demand chain, and expanded the total market (just ask the many used book vendors who liberally leverage Amazon’s online storefront) – recognizing as Bill Gates did, that when the pie gets bigger so does their slice of it.

    Amazon does this one better by creating the Kindle Edition of major newspaper subscription content. Bear in mind that these publishers have already had to grapple with the transition of their identity from newspaper to content provider. I wonder how long it will be before the section label will change to drop the “newspaper” reference? [I’d sure like to hear the debates that went on around the division of product collections and how to label them.]

    And while there’s been some whining about the cost of the newspaper subscriptions being the same as the newspaper stand versions for content that is more frequently being offered for free online, Amazon is likely looking to capitalize on the long tail of economics. Don’t think that they’re not going to experiment with the elasticity of pricing for these offerings over time. In the meantime, they capture the small slice of the market that finds reason for this offering to most closely match their specific scenario needs. [I know I’d want to be doing some ethnographic work to identify a potential Kindle-factor on BART, WMATA, and MTA (amateur sightings welcomed).]

    How many more dots can Amazon connect?

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    June 28, 2007

    The 5 P's of Design & Development

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Note: I've redated this to raise it again with new info. Forrester had published an insightful report (July 2006) that spoke to larger considerations for workspace design: Untethering Information Workers: Rethinking Workplace Location and Layout (subscription only access). I was going to call out a few key points here but there were too many to pick from. Let's just say that it does a good job of highlighting many critical aspects of the TOTAL experience. Someone in our discipline could run with this and add tremendous detail and value to this 'start' of the story.

    Alternate Title: Microsoft Embraces New Work Spaces Reminicent of the Purple Sofa Era

    Both titles bear a bit of explanation. Marketing has 4 P's used as a model for strategy: Product, Price, Promotion, Place. In the process of uncovering the details of events going on within one group at Microsoft, I realized that they'd effectively identified 5 P's for Design & Development. These are shared in the context of this piece.

    As to the Purple Sofa Era, those of us who lived it, immediately identify with it. In the late '90s, nearly every dot.flop interactive agency (and even some internal corporate eBusiness groups) created more dynamic, creative physical work spaces to support the different work they were intending to generate, and to attract highly-creative resources.

    purple%20sofa%202.jpg These environments seemed to have common elements: purple sofas, Herman Miller furniture (especially Aeron chairs), writeable walls, and foosball tables. What is disheartening is that what follows in this piece was clearly suggested, with research (The People Are the Company), in 1995. So we're a little slow on the uptake.

    There are two supporting media pieces: the short version (a 15 minute tour of Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Lab) and the long version (a 49 minute interview describing the evolution of the group and their workspace).

    Notes and Observations...

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    March 10, 2007

    Forthcoming: the cellphone industry's customer-experience debacle

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

     It Wp-Content Photos AdvertisingThe icky experience of cellular telephone service is about to get ickier. “The Ad-Free Cellphone May Soon Be Extinct,” laments an February 24 article in the New York Times by Eric Sylvers.* The last non-advertising communications medium. An endangered species.

    For all that's been written about the ethics and aesthetics of cellphone design -- cellphone user interfaces, mobile interaction design, the on-cellphone “user experience,” and “user-centricity” -- and the many investments in and careers built on this engrossing pastime, commercialism, not design, ultimately rules the cellular service roost. Cellular customer experience is about to undergo a momentous transformation, not for the better.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology

    February 28, 2007

    "Making Meaning": Nathan Shedroff interviewed by Steve Portigal on Core 77

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Broadcasts ShedroffNathan Shedroff, a good friend and author of the first (and so far, only) book on holistic experience design -- aptly entitled, Experience Design 1-- is interviewed by Bay Area ethnographer Steve Portigal on the ever informative design portal, Core 77 (link here for the MP3, 47MB). From the Core 77 introduction:

    Nathan Shedroff, experience design guru, author of the seminal Experience Design 1 and co-author of Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, sits down with Steve Portigal in San Francisco to talk about the experience and design of experience design. Seriously.

    Shedroff's definition gets things started: “Experience design is an approach to design, and you can use that approach in pretty much any discipline—graphic design or industrial design or interaction design, or retail design. It says the dimensions of experience are wider than what those disciplines normally take into account. And if you think wider—through time, multiple senses and other dimensions—then you can create a more meaningful experience.”

    And he follows it up with the 5 levels of significance:

    1. Function (“Does this do what I want it to do?”)
    2. Price (“There are lots of cars out there to get me from point A to point B”)
    3. Emotion (“That's where lifestyle is engaged. How does this make me feel?”)
    4. Identity or Value (“This is subconscious: ”Would I be caught dead with this?; am I a Nike fan, or an Adidas fan?“)
    5. Meaning (Not ”Is this me?“, but ”Does this fit my reality?“ ”Does this even fit inside the world as I perceive it?“)

    Nathan addresses his talk mainly to commercial designers, but it has universal application to all design disciplines and practices. I understand from Nathan that he's contemplating republishing his book online, in an easier to read format. Nathan: please do!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology | The Practice of Experience Design | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    February 19, 2007

    Wikinomics

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    wikinomicsglobetop.jpgLeveraging the common model to combine a book with a discussion, Wikinomics claims to focus on how mass collaboration changes everything.

    The thoughts framed by this concept were central to the discussions that went on at the recent FASTforward 07 event (which I'm already planning to attend next year). Conversations around the event and the thinking that went on, continue with high energy. Aside from the uniqueness of the event in the pre/post use of the blog which was seeded with some high-energy thinkers in the intranet / Enterprise 2.0 space, the event was unique in that although hosted by a vendor (and sponsored by several others), it was clearly an event to bring together bright minds and allow for deep conversations to go on around the topics and possibilities for this space -- such that the vendor(s) themselves can learn from the discussions as equal participants.

    What was refreshing is that principles of Experience Design were front and center in the conversations. It was clearly a 'design thinking' sort of event.

    One concept that came out of the discussions, which is reinforced by the Wikinomics artifacts, is that we need to embrace the power of the 'individual as a channel'. Major companies are thinking through new business models to both embrace and capitalize on this reality. Related discussions were quite heady.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    November 30, 2006

    For whom the bell tolls: “A Timeline of Timelines” and “Clash of the Time Lords”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Nuremburgbig-1Our experience of time is indivisible from our experience of living. Two recent sources indicate how thoroughly intertwined our notions of time are with our other perceptions, and how therefore they can be intentionally reshaped by others working on our perceptions (so to speak, from time to time).

    Thanks to information designer and friend Stuart Silverstone, in Santa Monica, for turning me on to “A Timeline of Timelines,” featured in Cabinet Magazine Online. Authors Cabinet associate editor Sasha Archibald and University of Oregon history professor Daniel Rosenberg, Timeline features snippets describing timelines created over the last 1,700 years, beginning with Jewish scholar ben Halafta's calculations of the earth's history in the 2nd Century CE, but really taking off with the first “modern” timeline by physicist Joseph Priestly in 1765. The article contains numerous graphics that illustrate the almost infinite ways by which people can conceive of and represent time and history, and persuade others to think alike. In his introduction to an earlier, shorter version, Rosenberg explains;

    ...Priestley argues that although time in itself is an abstraction that may not be “the object of any of our senses, and no image can properly be made of it, yet because it has a relation to quantity, and we can say a greater or less space of time, it admits of a natural and easy representation in our minds by the idea of a measurable space, and particularly that of a LINE.”

    After Priestley, the form of the timeline caught on. In addition to its visual effectiveness, the timeline amplified conceptions of historical progress that were becoming popular at the time. The relationship was mutually reinforcing. As Priestley himself suggests, the timeline filled in as a kind of fantasized visual referent for an object without material substance. In its simplest form, it appeared to guarantee the simplicity and directionality of past and future history. But Priestley's commentary points to a problem too. History had never actually taken the form of a timeline or of any other line for that matter. And simplicity, the great advantage of the form, threatened also to be its greatest flaw. The timeline could function as “the most excellent mechanical help to the knowledge of history” because it could impress the imagination “indelibly.” For the same reason, a century later, Henri Bergson would refer to the “imaginary homogeneous time” depicted by the timeline as a deceiving “idol.”

    0062199Messing with our experience of time can happen through less visible, but even more fundamental means -- by controlling the clocks, specifically the atomic clocks that now keep world time. In “Clash of the Time Lords,” in the current (December) Harper's (not yet online), Michelle Stacey explains why the usurpation of responsibility for telling the time, formerly the domain of astronomers observing objects in the sky, by physicists who measure the decay of radioactive matter, has radically reshaped our concept and actual measurement of time. A corollary is that the United States, which owns the most atomic clocks, is able to formally nominate its own US Naval Observatory to be the world authority on time for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the UN entity that defines the UTC Time Scale that controls all telecommunications, all telecom-dependent activities, and thus all of our lives.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology

    October 30, 2006

    Digital Hollywood LA Report (complete)

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    290X50La06Fall-1If it's one thing they should tell you when you assume the mantle of a not-for-profit blogger is not to promise anything with a deadline attached. Lots can happen (and did this week) to retard this blog-in-progress.

    But my delay in publishing this entry is a direct result of my lingering inability to get my head around Digital Hollywood LA, until now.

    http://totalexperience.corante.com/img/Victor%20Harwood-thumb.jpgThe conference is one of the best of its type. Few publicly-accessible conferences in any domain or at any cost (let alone DH-LA with its modest registration fee) bring together so many high-level executives, technologists, academics -- all do-ers -- and the press to talk about their subject. Even fewer conferences examine as topical and shifting a target as the morphing media in their multiple roles of information channels, places to sell things, political soapboxes, an infinity of forms of entertainment, and cultural events; and for most of the people at Digital Hollywood, also their livelihoods. The Loew's Hote provided an intimate, personal setting. Everyone was approachable. DH-LA was a kaleidoscope of ripe meanings just waiting to be plucked. Congratulations to Victor Harwood, Digital Hollywood's founder, who persevered in his vision of a conference populated equally by people in media, entertainment, and technology, before convergence was cool.

    DH-LA was so rich in meanings, however -- overt and subtextual -- it could also be confusing. Several smart people told me they were bewildered by DH-LA and “what it all means.” For many participants, the conference is a stage on which to play out the part of New Hollywood types, characters you'd cast in a 2006 remake of The Day of the Locusts or Sunset Boulevard. For others, high level executives who didn't “get it” before, it's a chance to hop on the digital-media bandwagon before it leaves town. Technologists are there to pitch their latest “enabling” products while the producers, big and tiny, use lots of video to hawk their products for mobile, locational, in-the-workplace, at-home, while-you're-out-having-a-good-time, and morning-after-edification purposes. A few press types like me, fairly low-key at this conference (perhaps because so many attendees are bloggers themselves and can publish a thing or two about too-intrusive inquisitors), are checking it all out, trying to capture the infinity of announcements -- some made off-hand during panels -- and spotlight what they consider the most salient points about this gathering.

    As you readers will know, I covered the Preview Day in an earlier posting and the rift it revealed between those who see the Internet as a service to the Broadband Nation and those who see it as something to be sold. I missed Day 1 due to my own affairs. Day 3 was pretty much a repetition of Day 2 and I used it to cruise the exhibition hall. (So I didn't attend the panel on adult entertainment, “The $10B Opportunity”? I didn't think the thesis, that adult fare drives technological innovation, needed further defending.)

    I'm going to concentrate on Day 2, because the three panels I attended together tell the story most of interest to experience designers: the errant, often-unclosed loop joining technologists, media monetrizers, and the people whose sensoria and pockets they're trying to reach -- known respectively as the “users,” “consumers,” and “us.” Media's ability to shape our society and cultural values is immense. Yet, it turns out, there's no Invisible Hand working to ensure that anything turns out right. The disconnects among the actors who are deciding the future form of our media environment, and between them and the rest of us, whose quality of life will be enhanced or diminished, are dramatic -- which all readily admit. For all the learned dissertations churned out by media scholars and visionary forecasts dispensed as corporate white papers on glossy stock (or now as podcasts), theirs is not The Media Future that actually will be. Personal agendas may be partly at fault, but there's more than a little Heisenberg Principle at work here, too. Speak the Next Big Thing and suddenly it's not, it's Something Else. No wonder they pay people so much to worry about what comes next, and how to plan for it. It never stops.

    The first panel I attended on Day 2 was “The Networked Entertainment Home -- the PVR/DVR -- the Set-Top & PC Entertainment Server,” to see what the technologists had to say, the people building the pipes and devices. It turned out that the panel, smartly chaired by Strategic's Gary Price, was about a lot more than just media centers. I took copious notes, but the bottomline was that the scientists and engineers who are responsible for developing the technological infrastructure that make possible today's and tomorrow's media wonders don't get much guidance from the media people who guide their work -- and when they do, it's often contradictory within and among the industry sectors and the companies and agencies they comprise. The complexity of working on a global basis, Motorola's Nick Chakalos reported, makes vendors slow to roll out services because of all the different markets, strategies, and channels that now must be served. This affects technologists' planning and development activities, emphasized Nvidia's Scout Vouri, right down to the level of the microprocessor: the “chip.” There was a vigorous debate about how to deal with security in the Net. Many panelists and attendees side with individual user, whose identity must be kept secure, thus requiring all sorts of interoperability bridges (and opportunities for them to fail) between standards-setting and solutions. Others, like Sun's Bill Sheppard, believe that identifiable personal devices are our best bet to create the “Open Media Commons” (an open DRM -- digital rights management -- regime) that provides equal open access to services.

    During the Q&A, I questioned whether the industry, while the FCC dithers about decency, is taking its own steps to learn what it is that users want, need, and will use. It turns out, it is, but in a somewhat indirect manner, through its own technology councils and standards groups. These IBM's Stephen Mannel advocated as worthy of greater industry participation. CableLabs' Frank Sandoval noted that TV (particularly as cable) is now the entry point for most new media -- largely, TV shows and movies, and gradually, interactive experiences -- suggesting that their success on cable, because of its large audience, is a reliable de facto metric for their success. (Now and in the future?) He also made the trenchant observation, seconded by the other panelists, that “the distinction between devices, service vendors, even content providers, will disappear.” Disney's Phil Lelyveld, in the audience, had several important things to say; two stayed with me as relevant to media designers. First, interoperability, as much as it may be the technologists' Holy Grail, is a danger to artists' rights in a environment that's universal, where content can flow without regard to the artists' wishes. If one repository is cracked, they all can be. Second, Phil lamented that none of this is very sexy and thus it's not large in the public's consciousness.

    But all of this reconnoitering among the technologists left my question still unanswered: why is the infrastructure segment of the media industry still disconnected from its end users? Perhaps because the middle-men and -women, the media vendors, are as benighted as anyone else.

    This was the impression I got from the second panel I attended, “TV & Interactivity: Evolving Content & Business Models: Content, Commerce, and Branded Entertainment.” It's not that the self-moderated panel (four interactive TV executives and one advertising researcher) didn't appreciate the environmental changes taking place. They do. But most of their employers don't.

    The four interactivists -- FOX Reality's Ed Skolarus, A&E's Jim Turner, Showtime's Chris Lucas, and NBCi's Jon Dakss -- were strong, proponents for the case that the established broadcast and cable media should embrace interactivity as a way of more closely aligning with their audiences. The examples they gave were really stunning, particularly NBCi's exciting interactive promotions that spice up some very uninteresting shows; Showtimes' portal art forms, employed most recently exemplified by the Dexter and Weeds websites; and Turner's videogames, prepared in collaboration with Kuma Reality Games, that will allow viewers to simulate historic battles depicted on The History Channel's “Shootout!”, debuting November 3. (I intend to download my share). The problem is that, for all their successes, these imaginative folks' work is hamstrung by enormous inter- and intra-organizational bureaucracies -- once again centering on who owns properties and who earns from their reuse -- and budgets that, in my opinion, limit their scope. Sure, as with any Internet offering, it's possible to measure various aspects of an interactive audience and its opinions. But the interactive audiences, though growing, remain barely representative of the larger TV-viewing population. Through lack of vigor in funding and promoting the interactive services, it remains distressingly disinterested in them.

    More broadband access is one solution that doesn't require voluntary media transformation; in fact, it's driving transformation, involuntarily. (FOX's Ed Skolarus predicted the emergence of virtual channels online in the next year.) Still, what's it all about? Lydia Loizides, VP for Consumer Experience in Interpublic Futures Marketing Group, disconcerted everyone with her unit's survey research that found that for all the hoorah, most people still haven't warmed to mobile media forms, let alone more sophisticated inter-media packages. As a result, a good deal of her time is spent brokering relationships among advertisers, media, and technology vendors in order to create a more hospitable business environment. Her goal is to realize potential alternative media synergies -- which she characterized as “permission-forming,” gaining viewers' acceptance -- especially in underexploited markets.

    Following on her comment, I speculated during Q&A that if the panel had been titled “Interactivity & TV,” rather than the other way around, it might have revealed a very different point of view. Interactivity would properly be seen as the potential growth market, rather than stagnating TV for which the demographics are declining. Obviously, that's why the TV moguls have brought all of these very bright people onboard (most of whom, BTW, were experienced, of middle-age, and not post-teenyboppers) -- to stem the bleeding. Yet few TV executives are making the necessary investments to find out how to grow this market and then support it. They hardly know their audience. No wonder the technologists are baffled.

    The third and last panel I attended on Day Two, “Venture Funding and Leadership in the Entertainment and Technology Space: Games, Wireless & Broadband, decisively tipped me toward my conclusion that the technology-media-entertainment circle is broken. The panel, moderated by spunky business consultant Joey Tamer, consisted of three well-known VCs, two investment bankers, and a corporate VC, all with strong histories of media investing -- Charles River Partners' George Zachary, ComVentures' Roland Van der Meer, Spark Capital's Todd Dagres, UBS' David Higley, Oppenheimer's Sun Jen Yung, and Intel's Mike Buckley. Although all trek to “Hollywood” occasionally, only Higley, so far as I know, lives and works in Southern California. In fact, This weak link in relations between those who fund the development of new media and those who will deploy it is only one of the impediments that afflicts the cutting-edge of media innovation. Another is the unspoken tension between the traditional investment community and the media industry -- the production houses and producers, not the product technologists trying to sell into the industry. Venture investing is big on risk reduction and high on reliable growth and earnings, two factors that make non-entertainment investors skeptical of working with the industry, where risk is abundant and growth/earnings are a binary deal: they briefly skyrocket before descending or, more often the case, vacillate and then plummet.

    As for coordination between the media industry and the investors whose money defines the media environment five or ten years out, it's a little thin. Roland Van der Meer cuttingly commented, “When it's hot, it's already not.” He meant that whatever is currently in the public's eye, or the eye of media executives, is already passe from an investment standpoint. MySpace, GooTube, and their ilk regardless of their merits, held little interest for investors for most of this year and generate less now. George Zachary told us: like the others, he's investing in “do-able, innovative Web services that haven't been done yet.” Taking George at his word (and knowing him well, I do), the results of most early-stage technology investments will manifest over the horizon, well beyond the state-of-the-art technology and services currently deployed or about to be. A cognitive gap separates them. It's not actually a disconnect. The VCs are pathfinding; but the medial industry will be able to follow only a few of the paths that the investors are breaking, and then only slowly. Which ones will they tread? Why, of course, the one's the users -- us -- want them to. And there's the rub. No one knows which they are.

    I respect investors. VCs, made had my last company, also visionary, possible. Investors, like designers, rapidly suck up and process information, maintaining real-time situation awareness about the sectors they care about. Their limited partners, large pension firms and the like are often less intuitive and sometimes exert pressures that result in unwise investments. Investment bankers and corporate VCs tend to be more conservative, but those in the media/entertainment domain are likewise more intuitive than their mundane counterparts. All successful investors -- those who survive -- develop a sixth sense about what will work and what won't based on many factors. They may write and speak prolifically about the orderly manner in which they do this, but the sagest among them will admit that experience, heuristics, and a hyper-sensitive business radar, plus a wise personal network, have more to do with their success than lessons learned in management school. In the same way that designers often turn up good designs without knowing why, smart VCs and other investors make guesses about the future that are right more often than wrong. Most of their portfolio companies fail, but usually from poor management, not misdirection. Trusting to investors, however, we're consigning our media future to a tiny handful of men and women whose personal judgments, no matter how informed, are a weak substitute for “what the people want, need, and will use.”

    One of the reasons for ferment on the leading edge of media invention is the fact that “too much capital is flooding the domestic market,” several of the panelists agreed, motivating investors to take chances that share characteristics with investments made during the Dot-Com Bubble. “Too many successful companies today are blood-soaked ticks that arbitrage services carried on others' infrastructure,” Todd Dagre sneered. “And I support them. That's capitalism. But it doesn't build a future.” Eventually the free-flowing capital will dry up and investors will retreat. The legacy they leave behind will be the companies that are tomorrow's new media. For now, there's a glut.

    Nevertheless, as David Higley pointed out, “Two years ago there were all these tech types at Digital Hollywood, and the media guys just watched from their offices down the street and smirked. Now it's changing. Suddenly it's all media types, and the tech guys are in the minority.” Is that good? Is that bad? Does it mean more on-target media in the future, or more of the same? Digital Hollywood brought the players together, once in a very long time. Whether it achieves the melding of visions and interests that remains Victor Harwood's goal remains to be seen. I know, as an experience designer, that I'd be a lot happier if there was a discernible common strategy among those creating our new, digital media environment. There's nothing like a road map to know where you're going. But there isn't one. For the foreseeable future, we're driving -- or being driven -- by the seat of our pants. Hand over your A Ticket and buckle up: we're on a Mr. Toad's Ride into the future!

    * * *
    I was proud to see at Digital Hollywood so many members of METal, the Media-Entertainment-Technology Alliance, actively participating on DH-LA's panels and in the audience. METal, a collegial, professional men's group based on LA's Westside, is an organization with possibly the greatest concentration of new-media experts anywhere. Its founder, Ken Rutkoskwi of KenRadio.com leads one of the industry's greatest resources. Thank you, METal Men, it's an honor to be among you.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    October 24, 2006

    Digital Hollywood LA, Report No. 1 -- “Two Internets, Coexisting”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    290X50La06Fall
    Digital Hollywood LA on its Preview Day has already proven a very interesting conference. Beyond it's “Hollywood” theme and flavor -- lots of beautiful, politely aggressive people pushing product -- unique among the Internet conferences, DH features a striking subtext. Here more than ever, the Internet Dichotomy separating those who see the Internet as a service from those who see it as a product, has become a yawning chasm. Having worked on both sides of the gap, and intending to again, I make no value judgments. I merely observe: two Internets coexist on the same global network, and which (if either) will be dominant remains to be seen.

    This was revealed most starkly on Preview Day, when I attended two panels that couldn't be more different.

    The first panel, “Citizen Media -- Blogs, PODs, Activist Media & Personalized News,” was one of four dealing with user-generated media. It was a contentious free-for-all on social and personal media, during which eight very sincere people (like AOL Weblogs Jason McCabe Calacanis, Reuters SVP Dean Wright, social media theorist and critic JD Lasica, and moderator and venture capitalist Shelly Palmer -- who did a great job adding fuel to the fire) debated such weighty topics as the pros and cons of the “wisdom of crowds,” collaborative journalism; the role of the professional editor in filtering scurrilous reporting; and those Siamese Twins, truth and opinion. It was taken for granted by most of the panelists that Google's AdSense advertising model is the most efficient way to fund citizen media, and perhaps the best indicator of media quality. As Palmer put it, there are three ways to fund anything: “with your money, with my money, or with someone else's money.” Advertising seems the best bet to conserve the first two.

    Calacanis repeatedly had the most trenchant comments, including two that will remain with me. First, he said, studies have repeatedly shown that bloggers practicing their often lonely craft are motivated by three things: “recognition, affiliation, and a distant third, compensation.” He also noted that “the key ingredient to successful expression on the Web is authenticity.”

    Perhaps, but authenticity had nothing to do with success for the panelists of the second event I attended, a lengthier show-and-tell, “Mobile Video & TV -- The Who's Who of Content.” The secret for these panelists was monetization, turning packaged media, sometimes user-authored, more often professionally produced, into revenue streams. The speakers were representatives at the top of the current mobile-media production and distribution pyramid: Sling Media, HELIO, Sony Pictures TV, Sprint, MobiTV, and a half-dozen others. One by one they promo'ed their fare, short videos intended to be seen on the tiny screens of a cellphone, iPod, or portable computer, presumably while wearing a headset. Some were lyrical, a couple poignant, but most were blaring, edgy, and trivial: try-to-hard humor, sports, rap, and all the other genres that appeal to pre-teens. The future of this panel's Internet will be very different from the first panels, in scale and direction.

    The most memorable comment was an observation by moderator Frank Chindamo of Fun Little Movies, an accomplished teller of five-years-too-soon, arrow-in-the-back pioneer stories, of which he has a admirable collection. (Thank goodness FLM has become successful in his lifetime!) He reported that studies have shown that the length of time a viewer spends with a production is directly proportional to the size of the screen on which its presented. This means, until Bluetooth and its descendants make it possible to point your cellphone at a big wallscreen and gain dimension, we are blessed that most future mobile productions will be short. Hallelujah.

    Pretty much for the entirety of the rest of DH, it's the monetization crowd that will rule the roost, in keeping with the conference's Hollywood half of its moniker. “Monitor, syndicate, and monetize” is a mantra I heard reported frequently.

    After the first panel, a senior participant with years of experience in media, online and offline, turned to me and asked, “So what's it all about?” I could almost hear him add, “Alfie?” “No one really knows,” I replied. “If you took 100 people from the four conferences on the Internet and communications that are taking place simulatenously right now, maybe we could assemble a mosaic. But this is Digital Hollywood, and this is what it's about, now.”

    * * *

    Regrettably, a personal project kept me away from the official Day One, but I'll be back for Days Two and Three. These promise actual insights as to what it may be all about in our multiple futures, online and off.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    October 16, 2006

    Studio 360: “Scratch and Sniff,” The Mystery of Smell

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Studio360
    The first 40 minutes of this week's Studio 360, New York Public Radio's always fascinating show about design and experience, is entitled “Scratch and Sniff,”and features four short audio programs (in Real format) about the wonders of smell.

    Frontchandphoto2
    Small Portrait“Scratch and Sniff” begins with a conversation between Studio 360 host Kurt Anderson and author Chandler Burr, the New York Times' first perfume critic (“Scent Strip”) and author of the bestselling The Emperor of Smell: A True Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses. In Emperor, Burr profiles the biochemist Luca Turin, a compelling force -- and highly controversial -- in the $20-billion-a-year perfume business. Turin believes that smell is actually a result of molecular vibrations, not chemical reactions, and can be tuned like music. (An archive of Turin's now-closed blog, Perfume Notes, can be downloaded here in PDF format. Turin's monthly “Duftnote” is now published in English in NZZ Folio.) Burr advocates founding a “museum of smell” to celebrate smell as an evolutionary triumph and driver of creativity and commerce.

    The show's other smell-related audio articles include “Snow in a Bottle,” describing the work of Christopher Brosius, “a perfumer with a different approach: he bottles the smell of celery, a gin and tonic, thunderstorms, even snow”; “Scent of a Painting,” which looks at the love of painters for the smell of paint and canvas; and “Death in Venice,” in which writer Adam Haslett, author of the short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here. admires Thomas Mann's Death in Venice for its stench. “Everything in the story, he says, is 'overripe.'”

    Profile Nose Smell, as poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman reminds us in her lyrical A Natural History of the Senses, is the most emotive of the senses, able to evoke memories of places, people, and events long after their sights and sounds have been forgotten. When two people experience a smell together, it can be the basis of a lifelong bond. Yet smell is the sense we have the most difficulty talking about. Because smell and taste are so intimately fused in the human sensorium, we commonly use taste words to talk about smells (“sweet,” “sour,” “like roses,” etc.). Ackerman also introduces us to the mysterious folks within International Flavors & Fragrances, IFF, a multibillion-dollar laboratory that invents smelly and tasty chemicals for inclusion in our foods, cosmetics, new cars, and virtually every perfume not made with 100% natural products. IFF's new Visionaire 47 TASTE is “a limited edition arts publication that pairs paintings, photographs, and conceptual images with specially-created flavors.” A best-smeller, for sure.

    Digital media do a poor job of capturing and representing smells. Smell-O-Rama, a recent technology for “attaching” scents to email, and other such strange inventions for conveying the experience of smell are notable more for thier oddity than for their effectiveness, although the search continues. One non-digital format that works is “scratch-and-sniff” paper, the once ubiquitous stinker-upper of fashion magazines, now largely banned because it stirred allergic reactions in too many readers.

    mid_logo.gif Black-DeathHow can we design compelling experiences to exploit people's sense of smell? Displays of perfumery and taste enhancers are common. A more expansive example is London's Museum in Docklands (sister museum to the popular Museum of London). As part of a historical walkthrough, reports Museum spokesperson John Joyce, modern chemical science has recreated the smells of tides, ships, warehouses, inns, trade goods (like spices, tobacco, and tea), even sailors and sewers, that characterized the Dockland's streets and quays during successive historic periods. Most challenging of all, according to a radio reviewer? Creating the odor of disease and death during the 17th-Century calamity, The Great Plague of London (recalling Monty Python's classic line, “Bring out your dead! Bring out yer dead!”). A laboratory commissioned to develop these aromas reportedly was all too successful: the display is a repellent success.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | Theories of Experience

    October 9, 2006

    Advertising rediscovers experience design: more of the same, or a sea change?

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    As a former advertising creative director (as you may read in my prior entries), I've been giving a lot of thought to the advertising industry, wondering why it hasn't embraced experience design in the same way that the avant-garde design community has -- or at all. But change is in the air.

    Experience design, actually promoted as such, is practiced mainly by individuals and boutique consultancies. As a result, most experience design projects that have been undertaken so far, except for those sponsored by governments or an enlightened corporation, are usually one-offs, invisible to the business world.

    Of course, if you know how to look for it, experience design is taking place all of the time, in virtually every profession. This blog, for example, has featured articles about designed experiences in architecture, product development, exhibitions, customer services, traditional and online communications, landscape architecture and urban design, interior design, and many other fields. But when an experience design project is conducted by industrial designers, it becomes industrial design. When conducted by architects, it becomes architecture. Experience design is cloaked in its practitioners' disciplinary costumes. This has prevented the formation of a formal experience design community large enough to command potential clients' attention or scale practices that can win and execute large projects consistently.

    Because we who style ourselves “experience designers” consider ourselves pioneers, we're prone to look for new developments on the edge of business, not in its mainstream. Though some experience design firms are relatively large -- LRA Worldwide, a customer experience company in Pennsylvania; IDEO, headquartered in the SF Bay Area; and the Design Council's RED, in London, are known to readers of this blog -- but although their projects are emcompassing, even these organizations feel unique, particular, and narrowly focused in terms of their clientele or practice.

    Now the advertising industry is getting into experience design -- baby steps, to be sure, but it's making progress nonetheless, possibly moving experience design into the mainstream.

    Advertising agencies are definitely in the mainstream. They've been designing experiences for large audiences since the birth of the modern advertising profession, 150 years ago. Their media and methods have been limited, however, grown stale over the years. Except for the fact that market research, media, and messages today are more often digital than analog, the business of advertising has remained almost the same since its inception. The modern parade of Edgy, Ironic, and Cute advertising is more impressive for its quantity than for its quality. And people are turning off. Media consumption is at a record high, but attention to commercial messages is low. Advertisers must resort to crude devices like product placements in films and TV shows, information planted on Internet blogs and forums (“buzz”), and guys waving arrows at intersections to compete for the small proportion of their attention that consumers are still willing to share.

    Responding equally to this crisis and to the opportunities brought on by technological and social change, the advertising profession has opened to the possibility of a more systematic approach to experience design. Three new initiatives illustrate the variety of these approaches: Interpublic Group's (IPG) Consumer Experience Practice, Publicis Groupe's Denuo, and the independent Brand Experience Lab. (IPG and Publicis are two of the world's largest advertising combines.)

    Interpublic Logo-1You'd think it almost stealth, so unremarked upon is IPG's Customer Experience Practice (CEP) by IPG itself. CEP, founded in February 2006, is led by IPG senior executive Stacey Lynn Koerner, now president of CEP. It's staffed with a handful of “consumer-centric” experts drawn from within IPG but mainly outside hires including vice president Lydia Loizides, whose Techie and the Media blog provides insights to the unit's interests. Currently, the CEP, among other things, gathers “buzz” about forthcoming media happenings (like new TV shows) and shares that information with its clients (who may include other IPG units, it's not clear) regarding new trends. Located in IPG's Media group, CEP is complemented (I think) by the also new Emerging Media Lab (EML), with a broad mandate to explore the future of media -- but which seems at least temporarily stuck in the online world. Studying popular and online media by no means constitutes a fleshed-out experience-design practice, but it's a start. I think Lydia Loizides' recent blog entry, “Extension Versus Creation: What Does Technology Actually Do?”), sets a direction. Now if only all the oars will pull in the same direction....

    Denuo Logo-1At about the same time that CEP was formed, Publicis was rolling out Denuo, a “futures practice.” Denuo is led by Rishad Tobaccowalla, Denuo's CEO and Publicis Groupe Media's chief innovation officer; and president Nick Pahade, who directs the unit. It has about 15 staff members, approximately equal to the size of IPG's CEP and EML, recruited from the wireless, Web, and videogaming industries. Despite an exuberant (though overly “ad-ish”) mission statement on its homepage (“Denuo gets to the future first, making tomorrow tangible today”), Denuo displays the same fixation on “new media” that characterizes many large communications firms now getting into the futures game. Digital developments rightfully command everyone's attention, as a new phenomenon of unknown dimensions. But it's a strangely asymmetrical fascination for advertisers, because (as experience designers constantly, but obviously so far ineffectually, point out), most people's experience is not digitally mediated, not even as consumers. Nevertheless, dealing with social issues raised by the digital onslaught inevitably will drag Denuo and the others into the larger realm of experience. Expect its team to grow and mutate in an experience design shop when it encounters this irresistible force.

    Brand Experience Lab Logo-1The third model, and the one I find most appealing for its holism, is the Brand Experience Lab (BEL) founded by virtual-worlds pioneer David Polinchock, BEL's founder, chairman, and chief experience officer; and CEO Barry Grieff, an entertainment marketing entrepreneur. It's an unabashedly experience-design firm with some seriously exciting projects underway, like this one described in AdWeek (quoted on the BEL blog, Experience Manifesto (aka The Experience Economist):

    In shopping centers, Mindshare sibling The Wow Factory, a nontraditional ad specialist, teamed with high-tech brand firm Brand Experience Lab to create displays for malls that transmit “sonic blankets” of broadcast-quality audio. Wow president Connie Garrido said that laser-activated motion-detector technology triggers the audio when shoppers pass by the display, but the sound is contained to just within that “blanket” of space, so it doesn't echo throughout the mall.

    It's the first time the technology has been used for advertising, and Sunsilk has an option to retain the technique exclusively through 2007, she said. Some mall operators were concerned it would be disruptive to shoppers, but the feedback so far has been positive, said Garrido. The transmitted voiceovers address hair issues (e.g., “My hair is poofier than my bridesmaid dress”) that reflect the visual message.

    Sex and the City co-star Mario Cantone, who played the sassy, raspy-voiced “gay friend” Anthony, is the voice of the effort. “The audio and the tone of the campaign is very distinctive, and we looked for a way to incorporate that audio into the media in ways that had never been done before,” Noble said.

    Calling BEL a “high-tech brand firm” confuses metaphors and misses BEL's point, which is to deeply understand culture and think creatively about how people use technology in this context. David is a regular contributor to Paula Thornton's Experience Design newsgroup, and based on his posts there and a history in the design of virtual worlds (which he and I share), BEL is squarely among the ranks of experience designers.

    Alas, BEL is yet only a boutique, but it's crossing a chasm to educate and inspire the larger advertising community. This move is not without risk, given the insularity of the advertising profession. In today's posting to Experience Manifesto, Polinchock quotes an editorial that appeared in today's Advertising Age (not available without a subscription). The editors had just attended Advertising Week 2006, a major industry blow-out in Philadelphia:

    Talk about a squandered opportunity: Titans of the media industry turned out to speak at Advertising Week - and had nothing to say.

    There was an all-star lineup for many sessions that offered many worthwhile lessons and tidbits; Tom Schumacher even got the famously private John Wren to open up. But when push came to shove, about the most provocative comment made during the industry's recent confab was Martha Stewart's remark that her lawyer wanted her to waffle.

    It's a regrettable commentary on an industry supposedly on the bleeding edge of popular culture, one that gives a lot of lip service to calls for action and motivating the consumer. And it is by no means limited to Advertising Week; far too many of the usual conferences have served up smart speakers who stick to safe topics and warmed-over case studies.

    Whatever happened to the industry's paradigm-shifters? The advertising world is in the throes of the biggest upheaval since the advent of TV, and the revolutionaries are nowhere to be found. Instead, there are predictable arguments from predictable sources: The old-media mavens espouse the importance of integrated solutions with new media, and new-media moguls chatter politely about spreading the wealth with network TV. Just once we'd like to hear a broadcast-booster bash the whole concept of broadband marketing or the other way around. At least it would get a decent debate going.

    Of course, it takes courage to be an agitator. And that's exactly what's needed to stimulate an industry on the brink of an entirely new, if you'll forgive us, advertising age.

    At this writing, the Association of National Advertisers' meeting hasn't convened yet in Orlando. (It will be wrapped up by the time you're reading this.) Without benefit of hindsight, we are hoping that the reinvention and innovation theme -- and a roster including keynoter A.G. Lafley and big-thinking creative minds such as Russ Klein and James McDowell -- will generate a much-needed provocative spark.

    The industry most certainly needs one.

    Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or do they? One of my favorite Taoist sayings is, “You never step into the same river twice.” Here's to advertising's rediscovery of experience design -- this time around, “consumer-centric” experience design -- with, one hopes, attention paid to the full range of human potential and experience.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology | The Practice of Experience Design

    September 25, 2006

    September 19, 2006

    Video Democracy Online: Once a Reality, Soon a Dream

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Logo Tagline SmWho hasn't heard of YouTube by now? It's a Web-based video scrapbook cum social network that features thousands, perhaps by now millions of videos submitted by professional producers and marketers, aspiring actors and musicians, parents and children, and the family dog. Many are original, most probably contain copyrighted material. This week it was revealed that while Universal pictures has threatened to sue YouTube for copyright infringement, other leading movie and TV distributors, including Warner, will be offering their properties on YouTube for playing, sale, and incorporation into mashed-up derivative products. Even the Bush Administration is posting ... anti-drug videos. YouTube is the largest of the Web's video scrapbooks, but it's got plenty of company, ranging from iTunes to Atom Films to AOL to Yahoo! 9 to Google Video and more.

    Obviously, there's a sea change happening in the way Internet users are accessing their media. Or is there? I'm not so sure.

    Frontcover1Nr5I was a participant in the Public Access Movement of the late 60s and early 70s (chronicled in its irregular journal, Radical Software, archived online). Its basis was the belief, based on various strands of critical communication theory, that via the media, we know our world -- and to the extent that the media are free for any point of view to be expressed, our individual and collective knowledge of the world, and our ability to act in it, is enhanced. Unable to penetrate the television establishment, public-access media activists used the first portable video cameras -- Sony Portapaks and Hitachi hand-helds, recording on narrow-gauge videotape -- to document local people, places, and events, hoping to distribute them over then burgeoning cable TV networks. The Movement's purpose was the democratization of the media, beginning with cable TV, which appeared vulnerable to local pressure. Most of the time, however, Movement “productions” showed mainly offline, in lofts and warehouses, not on cable. Cable operators fiercely defended their “right” to restrict access to their networks, especially those who wouldn't pay for the privilege. Over time, their position softened thanks to federal, state, and local regulation that opened a few channels to public producers. But not in time to save the Movement. Without broad public awareness or support, it evaporated. Many activists went on to careers in the media, but most, I suspect, couldn't bear to abet America's Funniest Home Videos posing as the legacy of public access.

    Given my background, you'd think I'd be head over heels about the success of YouTube et al. Doesn't it signal the triumph of media democratization after all? Hardly. For several reasons, I remain skeptical and even concerned about the future of media on the Internet. These factors are, in serial order:

    21. Video publishing is a fad, visual “long-tailism.” Yes, millions are publishing video content on the net. Some is original, most is not. Some is exquisite (so far as can be told from a three-inch image on a four-inch window on a 15“ screen). Most is not. Some is funny, most is banal. What are the motivations of those who publish the ”most“ stuff? Novelty is a leading cause. They do it because it can be done. Rank self-promotion is another. There are those who use the Internet for artistic expression, though art per se will only come off well when Apple's mythical iTV or some other device for easily sending video from the computer to the TV becomes available. Probably millions of parents are using YouTube like they used their wallets in the past, or Flickr more recently, to show off their kids. Kids are using it to show off their vacations, friends, really good rock shows, and the family dog. (We won't talk about the soft porn that consumes petabits of bandwidth.)

    Wow. That's a lot of video. Try plowing through it sometime for something truly informative or edifying, or exceptionally entertaining, and you'll realize just how much. One's only recourse are the recommendations of colleagues, friends, and family, who -- according to the network Power Laws, first enunciated by Clay Shirky right here on Corante.com -- are drawn to that which is already best known. Blogs are still going strong even though only a fraction of a fraction ever have a readership, so maybe video publishing could continue indefinitely as the global community's video scrapbook and broadsheet. Probably not. We may never find out, because other forces are at work.

    Images-12. Multitasking leads to the demise of attention. Recent research indicates that the more individuals multitask -- the more things they try to accomplish simultaneously -- the less able they are to focus their attention. Follow-up tests and surveys almost always indicate reduced awareness and memory of experiences had while in a multitasking situation, compared to the results when individuals attend to only one thing at a time. Implicit in this diminution of experience is finding joy in it. I don't mean momentary hah-hah, as when the guy juggles balls to Jimi Hendrix, or a soccer match in Manchester makes it to the Little Screen. I mean something that would bring one back repeatedly, not just to the production, but to the genre of production. Call me old school, but I see a lot of fall-off as people grok that more video doesn't necessarily mean better video, or even good video. It's just video, probably better when seen without an iPod impairing one's hearing, the cellphone urgently texting, and business or school homework -- homeWORK? -- waiting to be done. Unless we're evolving into homo mediocritus.

    3. Professionalization of the medium. As a result of the aforementioned banality of most online video, professionals are stepping in in hopes of elevating themselves and their work above the fray. I enjoy many of the shorts on Atom Films. The ones I like best are produced by professionals, ad agencies, indie producers, and similarly skilled individuals. The computer monitor doesn't do their work justice, but at least it can be seen. Gradually, it's noticed. Over time, word gets out. The Power Laws kick in. In no time we have a cadre of media producers, larger than the one that serves broadcast and cable, but vastly smaller than the total audience of publishers who are now blasting the numbers -- postings and pageviews -- into the stratosphere. Video viewing is Newtonian, not quantum: what goes up must come down. The other consequence of professionalization is that real money starts to get necessary as the ambitions of producers and artists is fueled by the celebrity of public attention. Can Procter & Gamble, Chevron, and Target be far behind?

    Itv2005 44. Invasion of the corporations. BMW pioneered major-corporation videos online, first with excellent 3D product graphics, then with engaging short stories featuring Beemers for sale (now beamed straight to your iPod as "vodcasts"). Amazon.com now hosts features with big name stars and full production quality. Little by little, branded novellas are showing up on proprietary websites and on the scrapbook sites. As is said in Hollywood, money talks, everything else walks. YouTube is furiously cutting deals with big distributors in anticipation of an IPO. (YouTube as a public company? More like TheirTube.) Apple can't get enough high-quality product from Disney to fill the l iTunes Store, so it's after big money too, this time from its customers, to pay for the best. What remains to be seen is which corps win and which lose in the new ratings game.

    5. The total valorization of online visual experience. Not wanting to play Cassandra more than I already have, I was reluctant to include Reason 5. But it's the honest truth. With the rise of total monitoring comes total marketing and in its wake, total merchandising. The end of Net Neutrality as a policy option, the edict of a Republican Congress hypocritically for the little guy (”having it out for the little guy“ is more like it), means that additional, invisible infrastructural pressures will soon be brought to bear on those who produce and distribute the most video content, raising its price. Within the decade, virtually everything online that's truly watchable -- pleasurable, memorable, edifying, and attractive -- will have a price (extracted in dollars and cents or time spent dully watching mandatory ads). That price will go up, and up, and up, reducing the amount of time people spend watching, in the same way the rising price of oil is gradually constricting commuting and leisure driving alike.

    ImagesSo, sorry: no democratization of media this time around. It shouldn't be a surprise. Each time a new medium struts onto the proscenium, the hopeful audience shouts ”Freedom!“, ”Democratic communications!“, and ”Information just wants to be free!“ For a little while, it is. But as happened before with the printing press, photography, radio, TV, and cable, over time the numbers of content producers and controllers of distribution ceases to be proportionate to the volume of material available over the medium. I'm not saying this is wrong or conspiratorial, though the hegemonists do do their darnedest to preserve their advantages. It's just human nature. Only, this is about more than human nature. It's about messing with the media by which most of us come to know the world and our place in it, and to learn from others what their places are. When organic, democratic expression ceases to be free, what we're left with is paid expression. And paid expression...well, you get what whoever pays for it wants it to be. The new media is the old media. Good night, and good luck.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Experience Design & Technology | Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    September 14, 2006

    Experientia's e-democracy, RED's “Kitchen Cabinet,” and Planetizen: bringing experience design to the public sector -- and the public

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Logo-4e-democracy is a new blog launched by Experientia, the Torino-based experience-design consultancy co-founded by Mark Vanderbeeken, author of Experientia's well-read other blog, Putting People First. It's a necessary new venture aimed at exploring the interface between more representative forms of governance, technology, and social innovation. The announcement:

    Experientia, the international experience design consultancy, launches today a thematic blog on e-democracy.

    E-Democracy is aimed at public authorities.

    It gathers information on citizen participation, the use of web 2.0 technologies, and innovation in general in the websites of public authorities, public administrations and local governments.

    The blog starts from the premise that the role of public services is to help people or to represent them, based on people’s needs and contexts. It is set up to guide innovation-oriented public website managers with examples of best practices and a discussion of the main issues. It is managed by Mark Vanderbeeken.

    Designcouncilred R1 C1The role of experience design in governance, the provision of public services and infrastructure, and public participation has become timely given the many crises facing local and national governments. The UK Design Council's RED program (written about earlier) has embarked on “Kitchen Cabinet”:

    Kitchen Cabinet is a project to design and prototype new systems of interaction between MPs and constituents and to create an open resource of ideas, suggestions and best practises that MPs can use to strengthen the connection between people and politicians.

    A summary description, downloadable video, and report are available on this work-in-progress.

    Planetizen-LogoA third source that focuses on similar issues is Planetizen, a volunteer-edited, news-and-features website/blog that serves the planning community and which is hosted by Urban Insight, a web and interactive design firm in Los Angeles that provides services to a large number of local governments, public agencies, and non-profits. (It also serves commercial clients.) I read it regularly to keep in touch with my planning roots. Planning as a discipline has evolved from utopian “City Beautiful” and more mundane zoning practices to become highly involved with citizen visioning of desirable futures and planning for their achievement. At UCLA, where I studied, heuristics were the order of the day, learning how to make decisions to bring about desired futures.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Projects of Note | Experience Design & Technology | The Practice of Experience Design

    July 21, 2006

    PingMag: “New levels of Experience Design,” an interview with Liisa Puolakka, Nokia's new Head of Brand and Sensorial Experiences

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    PingMag - The Tokyo-based magazine about “Design and Making Things” features Matt Sinclair's probing inteview of Nokia's new Head of Brand and Sensorial Experiences, Liisa Puolakka. The lengthy interview, interspersed with copious visual examples of how Nokia takes to heart the lessons of experience design, is worth careful reading.

    Puolakka offers this observation regarding the deployment of experience design:

    Experiencedesign01You can see it used everywhere nowadays, but I think the main thing is that rather than just designing an object you take a more holistic approach. That means the design language and how it relates to other products; how does it feel to use, both rationally and emotionally; how it’s packaged; what accessories are available; the kind of environment it may be sold in; what services should be targeted to the consumer of that product. And when you start with that kind of approach you end up with something much more purposeful for the user, but not just purposeful, also more pleasurable, so the consumer is surprised, in a positive way, when they use the product. That’s perhaps why experience design is so talked about right now, because those things relate back to the brand, to the way that consumers think about a company’s image. Experience design is about the way a person experiences a brand.

    And how does that translate into a job? Puolakka's is a broad mandate to intervene throughout Nokia's product-design and brand-management activities:

    For the last two months I have been working as the Head of Brand Visual and Sensorial Experiences, and basically that means the way the brand is experienced by the consumer, the ‘look and feel’ of Nokia. That can be in any of the situations where a person touches, or comes into contact with, the brand; it could be online or in a Nokia Flagship store, it could be advertising campaigns on TV or in magazines, it could be events which Nokia sponsors or attends. In terms of execution most of the work is done by agencies, so that means we need a clear view of the brand strategy in order to brief and communicate with those agencies. I’m not really involved in the creation of the product any more, though of course there is a strong link, we need to start at the same point and head in the same direction.

    Liisa Puolakka is inspiring and instructive -- and in her new role, she demonstrates why Nokia continues to rule the mobile devices field despite assaults from its lower-cost (but little-inspired) competitors.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | ED Projects of Note | Experience Design & Technology | The Practice of Experience Design

    July 17, 2006

    “A Beautiful Conference”: SIGGRAPH 2006's creative schizophrenia

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Sig2006SIGGRAPH 2006: The 33rd International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, happens this year in Boston, MA, close to MIT and...? Well, sure, there's more happening in the Northeast than interminable rain, blistering heat, and high-humidity -- but Boston isn't the epicenter of computer graphics that LA, the longtime home of SIGGRAPH, has been and remains. (For those that do not know, SIGGRAPH is the Association for Computing Machinery's “Special Interest Group” -- SIG -- on “Computer Graphics” -- GRAPH. The ACM is the world's largest organization of computer-associated professionals, academics, organizations, and fans.)

    This year's SIGGRAPH is truly fascinating, in that its organizing committee has slipped the surly bonds of computer graphics to fly high with interaction design. SIGGRAPH's keynoter is Joe Rohde, Disney Imagineering VP and Executive Designer responsible for Disney World's Animal Kingdom attractions, most recently Expedition Everest. (I like the DW website's request to “Choose Your Experience.” Very nice.) Themed attractions are interaction design raised to a very high level.

    The result is a creative schizophrenia that on the one hand thematically subordinates computer graphics (CG) to the creation of experiences (mainly interactive) -- the conference's main draw -- and on the other hand continues to focus, via expert panels, on the specifics of creating, producing, and selling/using CG technology and techniques. Don't get me wrong: I applaud this blurring of boundaries. CG is a computer-science concept. Sequestering CG from the broader human context within which it's being applied -- to increasingly holistic experiences, beginning with film but now expanding to full-blown experiences like Expedition Everest -- has always been an artificial distinction. Attendees noticed this in the mid-90s, when virtual reality exploded on SIGGRAPH's stage as the Next Big Thing. (It's once again the Next Big Thing, I happily note, now that Web hysteria is subsiding after a decade, “Web 2.0” notwithstanding.) Synaesthesia is the Bomb.

    Sigchi-Logo-Homepage(How does SIGCHI, the ACM group on Computer-Human Interaction, feel about this? SIGCHI's April conference came and went without much fanfare, that's for sure. Since SIGs compete for members and vendors to survive, does SIGGRAPH's poaching signal hard times ahead for SIGCHI -- or a merger?)

    TruckI'm sorry I can't be at this year's SIGGRAPH. SIGGRAPH is always a wonderful event, full of surprises, a lively gathering of unusually knowledgeable, talented, and adventurous people. Plus, the exhibition floor, at least for me, is far more interesting, involving, and provocative than such circus affairs as E3, which features nothing more than loud “ka-booms” and dead avatars. On this point, I draw SIGGRAPH attendees' attention to the Sandbox Symposium on videogames, colocated with SIGGRAPH 06, and organized by my friend and colleague, and noted CG authority, Alan Heirich (now with Sony). Have fun in the Sandbox...!

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    July 14, 2006

    LRA Worldwide, a customer experience firm “that gets it”

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    Lra Logo Top MenuRob Rush is the CEO of LRA Worldwide, Inc., located in a suburb of Philadelphia, PA. Until Rob contacted me -- with nice words to say about Total Experience -- I didn't know about LRA or that it was in the “customer experience management” business, with an impressive array of clients and a long list of projects completed in their behalf. I'm glad that Rob got in touch. LRA is every experience designer's dream: a thriving company that validates the vision shared by many in the experience design community, but heretofore largely unrealized.

    What's LRA about? Here's how it describes its primary activity, Customer Experience Management, or CEM:

    Customer Experience Management is a relatively new term with a number with a number of different interpretations in the marketplace. Our view of Customer Experience Management, however, is quite simple. Every time a company and a customer interact, the customer learns something about the company that will either strengthen or weaken the future relationship and that customer’s desire to return, spend more and recommend. LRA's customer experience management consultants identify each of these “moments of truth,” ensuring that the company and its people, products, processes and culture are aligned across all of these “touch points” to best serve the customer... based on what is most important to that customer.

    I like that. Simple, concise, and easy to understand. But then, that's what these guys are all about: understanding.

    Karl Long, on his ever insightful Experience Curve blog, seconds my impression that LRA is an experience design firm of a type we haven't seen before. In an exchange with me on Paula Thornton's Experience Design newsgroup, in which I compared LRA with better-known “experience design” companies like IDEO and BRC Imagination Arts, Karl had this to say:

    What [LRA does] is engage at the right level in companies to help change happen across departments and organizations. IMHO, the IDEO's and BlastRadius-type companies can create staged experiences, but they don't have the influence at the right level across all departments.

    LRA is truly in the “customer experience management” space.

    To which he added,

    Don't you think if they wanted to move into “experience creation,” they would need some distinct skills that they probably don't have now, a kind of imagineering division?

    Well, yes, Karl, I do.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology | The Practice of Experience Design

    November 20, 2005

    Gastronomical Goes Astronomical

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The strongest point that Joseph Pine makes in his book Experience Economy is how companies capitalize on the economic return scale by increasing the experience value. Where Starbucks moved the coffee bean up the economic chain by making the drinking of their coffee an experience, there are a number of Chicago restauranteurs who are taking cooking and eating to the next level. [Recognition given to CBS News Sunday Morning for their feature on this timely topic.]

    bacon.jpgPushing the limit not only on the preparation of food, but also on its presentation and delivery, these epicurial artists have kitchens that resemble high-tech research laboratories. Transforming balsamic vinegar from a liquid into a solid or delivering a popcorn soup where a quick dip in liquid nitrogen turns the consumption into a smoke-blowing, dragon-like experience, to ordering from the menu delivered on a plate and then eating it as the opening course. These creators are pushing the edge on both the product and the way in which it is delivered and consumed. The standouts include Moto and Alinea (who's fabulous photography is shared here). The latter experiments with new delivery mechanisms, such as the bacon slings pictured here, to feature their unique creations.

    As you uncover more of these unique eating experiences, be sure to share your finds here.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    December 10, 2004

    Rethinking the Computer as a Human Experience: "The GUI Is NOT Where the Growth Is," John Latta reports on Bill Buxton

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    Posted by Bob Jacobson

    It's amazing that for all the stylistic changes, computers still retain the functional identity of 1970s technology. PCs merely shrink the package. Besides cosmetic changes to the shell and some easing of the user-computer interface burden, still computers are a challenge and their power most always underutilized. What would change that?

    Here are some ideas from the excellent Fourth Wave report on wearable computers, by John Latta, with a long discussion of a presentation by industrial designer Bill Buxton. (The full report features other designers in addition to Buxton, and actual projects.)


    john.latta.jpgWEARABLE COMPUTERS 2004
    by John Latta

    2004 8th IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC)
    November 1-2, 2004, Arlington, VA

    This conference was held back-to-back with the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality - ISMAR 04. This has ong been at the leading edge of where many feel computing will go - creating new environments that one can wear, see and otherwise experience. Much of this dates back to the early efforts in VR in the late 1980‚s and early 1990‚s. Those days have passed but the lure and potential of the technology has not. This conference, in spite of being small, about 200, has an international scope. It is equally divided between North America, Asia and Europe.

    Certainly the notion of wearable computers is not new but, having watched this technology evolve over the last 15 years, there is a sense of gradual maturity. The displays are smaller, computers are being shown that are the size of a belt buckle and many of the attendees wear a HMD throughout the conference. Certainly the interest of the military in wearable computers is a powerful forcing function, at least in the US. But what strikes us is the depth of what is considered a wearable computer and how these are being applied. We are at the beginning of a shift from computing as we know it today and wearable computers is just one component of that shift.


    birdlhousesm.jpgBILL BUXTON, "TIME TO RETHINK THE COMPUTER INTERFACE"

    Bill Baxton, well known industrial designer, yanked the audience around mentally with his notions of the user interface in the era of ubiquitous computing. His keynote address was thought provoking. It reinforced a theme heard many times before ˆ the epicenter of personal computing is shifting from the PC.

    Bill was at Xerox PARC and other research organizations. He is now on his own at Buxton Design.

    Bill's keynote talk was, "Whereable Computing." He made the following key points:

    • We are about to change the role of IO, in the human context, with computing. In the past the output, including the GUI, dominated while future user inputs will actually exceed the output from the computer. [Continued]

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    September 30, 2004

    Customer Experience Is the Brand

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    Posted by Paula Thornton

    I'm not one to support the mention of brand and experience in the same phrase, but there is one brand that has been around for a long time that has always embraced a deep understanding of customer needs: REI.

    Featured in a Fast Company article "Smart Strategies: Putting Ideas to Work" one of the most telling statements was: "No longer content with the emotional imagery of advertising campaigns, shoppers now demand experiences in exchange for brand loyalty." But there's a lot that the article misses about this particular company and its relationship with customers.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology