Category: The Media Environment


Anonymous Cowards, Avatars, and the Zeitgeist: Personal Identity in Flux

November 3rd, 2009 — 3:31pm

UX Mat­ters just pub­lished Anony­mous Cow­ards, Avatars, and the Zeit­geist: Per­sonal Iden­tity in Flux.  This is the lat­est install­ment of my col­umn on ubiq­ui­tous com­put­ing and user expe­ri­ence, and it takes on the ques­tion of how per­sonal iden­tity is chang­ing is a result of the rise of dig­i­tal tools, ser­vices, and mea­sure­ments for iden­tity.   Iden­tity is a fun­da­men­tal aspect of expe­ri­ence, so it’s crit­i­cal that we under­stand what is hap­pen­ing to this uni­ver­sal ele­ment.  ‘Anony­mous Cow­ards’ is the first of two parts, focused on under­stand­ing how dig­i­tal iden­ti­ties work, and are dif­fer­ent from what we know.  Here’s an excerpt:

Dri­ven by dra­matic shifts in tech­nol­ogy, eco­nom­ics, and media, noth­ing less than a trans­for­ma­tion in the makeup and behav­ior of our per­sonal iden­tity is at hand—what it is, where it comes from, how it works, who con­trols it, how peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions use and value it. As a direct result of this trans­for­ma­tion, the expe­ri­ence peo­ple have of per­sonal identity—both their own and the iden­ti­ties of others—is chang­ing rapidly. As design­ers of the blended dig­i­tal, social, and mate­r­ial expe­ri­ences of every­ware, we must under­stand the chang­ing nature of per­sonal iden­tity. And now that human­ity itself is within the design hori­zon, it is espe­cially impor­tant for design to under­stand the shift­ing expe­ri­ence of dig­i­tal identity.

The sec­ond part will look at the impli­ca­tions of these changes for our expe­ri­ence of iden­tity.  As I put together my pre­dic­tions for what iden­tity will be like in 10 years, I wel­come input — what do you think?

2 comments » | The Media Environment

8 Waves of Change Shaping Digital Experiences

December 11th, 2008 — 5:21am

I’ve been focused on under­stand­ing future direc­tions in the land­scape of dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences recently (which nicely par­al­lels some of the work I’ve been doing on design and futures in gen­eral), so I’m shar­ing a sum­mary of the analy­sis that’s come out of this research.
This pre­sen­ta­tion shares an overview of all the major waves of change affect­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences, some of the espe­cially forward-looking insights around shifts in our iden­ti­ties, and the impli­ca­tions for those cre­at­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences.
The 8 waves dis­cussed here (are there more? let me know!)

  • Dig­i­tal = Social
  • Co-Creation
  • Dig­i­tal Natives
  • Itʼs All a Game
  • Take Away
  • Every­ware
  • Con­ver­gence
  • See­ing Is Believing

Comment » | Ideas, The Media Environment, User Experience (UX)

Why Failed Societies Are Relevant to Social Media

June 18th, 2007 — 10:08am

For reg­u­lar read­ers won­der­ing about the recent quiet here, a notice that Boxes and Arrows will shortly pub­lish an arti­cle I’ve been work­ing on for a while in the back­ground, titled, “It Seemed Like the Thing To Do At the Time: The Power of State of Mind”. This is the writ­ten ver­sion of my panel pre­sen­ta­tion Lessons From Fail­ure: Or How IAs Learn to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bombs from the 2007 IA Sum­mit in Las Vegas.
I’ve writ­ten about orga­ni­za­tions and fail­ure — Signs of Cri­sis and Decline In Orga­ni­za­tions — in this blog before (a while ago, but still a pop­u­lar post­ing), and wanted to con­sider the sub­ject on a larger level. With the rapid spread of social soft­ware / social media and the rise of com­plex social dynam­ics in on-line envi­ron­ments, explor­ing fail­ure at the level of an entire soci­ety is timely.
In The Fish­bowl
Failed or fail­ing soci­eties are an excel­lent fish­bowl for observers seek­ing pat­terns related to social media, for two rea­sons. First, the high inten­sity of fail­ure sit­u­a­tions reveals much of what is ordi­nar­ily hid­den in social struc­tures and pat­terns: Impend­ing col­lapse leads peo­ple to dis­pense with care­fully main­tained social con­struc­tions.
One source of this height­ened inten­sity is the greatly increased stakes of soci­etal fail­ure (vs. most other kinds), which often means sud­den and dra­matic dis­rup­tions to basic liv­ing and eco­nomic pat­terns, the decline of cities and urban con­cen­tra­tions, and dra­matic pop­u­la­tion decrease. Another source is the very broad scope of the after­ef­fects; because a fail­ing soci­ety involves an entire cul­ture, the affects are com­pre­hen­sive, touch­ing every­one and every­thing.
Sec­ondly, soci­eties often com­mand sub­stan­tial qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive resources that can help them man­age cri­sis or chal­lenges, thereby avert­ing fail­ure. Smaller, less sophis­ti­cated enti­ties lack the resource base of a com­plex social organ­ism, and con­se­quently can­not put up as much of a fight.
Exam­ples of resources avail­able at the level of a soci­ety include:

  • Lead­ers and plan­ners ded­i­cated to focus­ing on the future
  • Large amounts of accu­mu­lated knowl­edge and experience
  • Sophis­ti­cated struc­tures for deci­sion mak­ing and control
  • Mech­a­nisms for main­tain­ing order dur­ing crises
  • Col­lec­tive resilience from sur­viv­ing pre­vi­ous challenges
  • Sub­stan­tial stores of resources such as food and mate­ri­als, money, land
  • Tools, meth­ods, and orga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing economies of scale, such as bank­ing and com­merce networks
  • Sys­tems for mobi­liz­ing labor for spe­cial purposes
  • Con­nec­tions to other soci­eties that could pro­vide assis­tance (or poten­tial rescue)

Despite these mit­i­gat­ing resources, the his­tor­i­cal and arche­o­log­i­cal records over­flow with exam­ples of failed soci­eties. Once we read those records, the ques­tion of how these soci­eties defined them­selves seems to bear directly on quite a few of the out­comes.
I dis­cuss three soci­eties in the arti­cle: Easter Island, Tikopia, and my own small startup com­pany. We have insight into the fate of Easter Island soci­ety thanks to a rich arche­o­log­i­cal record that has been exten­sively stud­ied, and descrip­tions of the Rapa Nui soci­ety in writ­ten records kept by Euro­pean explor­ers vis­it­ing since 1722. Tikopia of course is still a func­tion­ing cul­ture. My startup was a tiny affair that serves as a use­ful foil because it shows all the mis­takes soci­eties make in a com­pressed span of time, and on a scale that’s easy to exam­ine. The Norse colonies in North Amer­ica and Green­land are another good exam­ple, though space con­straints didn’t allow dis­cus­sion of their failed soci­ety in the arti­cle.
Read the arti­cle to see what hap­pens to all three!
Semi Ran­dom Assort­ment of Quo­ta­tions
In the mean­time, enjoy this sam­pling of quo­ta­tions about fail­ure, knowl­edge, and self, from some well-known — and mostly suc­cess­ful! — peo­ple.
“Tech­no­log­i­cal change is like an axe in the hands of a patho­log­i­cal crim­i­nal.” — ALBERT EINSTEIN
“It is not the strongest of the species that sur­vives, nor the most intel­li­gent, but the one most respon­sive to change.” — CHARLES DARWIN
“It is impos­si­ble for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” — EPICTETUS
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — THOMAS EDISON
“It is on our fail­ures that we base a new and dif­fer­ent and bet­ter suc­cess.” — HAVELOCK ELLIS
“Life is a process of becom­ing, a com­bi­na­tion of states we have to go through. Where peo­ple fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.” — ANAIS NIN
“We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.” — RABINDRANATH TAGORE
“Who­ever longs to res­cue quickly both him­self and oth­ers should prac­tice the supreme mys­tery: exchange of self and other.” — SHANTIDEVA
“Fail­ure is instruc­tive. The per­son who really thinks learns quite as much from his fail­ures as from his suc­cesses.” — JOHN DEWEY

2 comments » | architecture, Ideas, The Media Environment

The Aargh Page: Visualizing Pirate Argot

January 10th, 2006 — 1:13pm

What hap­pens when this clas­sic ver­nac­u­lar inter­jec­tion meets lin­guis­tics, data visu­al­iza­tion, and the Web?
The Aargh page, of course. (It should really be The Aargh! Page, but this is so fan­tas­tic that I can’t com­plain…)
Here’s a screen­shot of the graph that shows fre­quency of vari­ant spellings for aargh in Google, along two axes:
aarrgghh_full.png
Note the snazzy mouseover effect, which I’ll zoom here:
aarrgghh_zoom.gif
Look­ing into the ori­gins aargh inevitably brings up Robert New­ton, the actor who played Long John Sil­ver in sev­eral Dis­ney pro­duc­tions based on the writ­ings of Robert Louis Steven­son. I remem­ber see­ing the movies as a child, with­out know­ing that they were the first live action Dis­ney movies broad­cast on tele­vi­sion. So do plenty of other peo­ple who’ve cre­ated trib­ute pages</>.
Aargh may have many spelling vari­a­tions, but at least three of them bear a stamp of legit­i­macy, as the edi­to­r­ial review of
The Offi­cial Scrab­ble Play­ers Dic­tio­nary (Paper­back) at Amazon.com explains, “If you’re using the 1991 edi­tion or the 1978 orig­i­nal, you’re woe­fully behind the Scrabble-playing times. With more than 100,000 2– to 8-letter words, there are some inter­est­ing addi­tions (“aargh,” “aar­rgh,” and “aar­rghh” are all legit­i­mate now), while words they con­sider offen­sive are no longer kosher. “
There’s even Inter­na­tional Talk Like A Pirate Day, cel­e­brated on Sep­tem­ber 19th every year. The orga­niz­ers’ site offers a nifty English-to-Pirate-Translator.
Most ran­dom per­haps is the Wikipedia link for Aargh the videogame, from the 80’s, with­out pirates.

Comment » | The Media Environment

Egosurf.org: The Medium Massages You

January 10th, 2006 — 10:48am

ego­surf: vi.
“To search the net for your name or links to your web pages. Per­haps con­nected to long-established SF-fan slang egoscan, to search for one’s name in a fanzine.“
Now a con­sum­able ser­vice at: egosurf.org
From the about page:
“ego­Surf helps mas­sage the web pub­lish­ers ego, and thereby main­tain the cool equi­lib­rium of the net itself.”

Comment » | The Media Environment

Musical Signatures From Your iTunes Library

December 15th, 2005 — 11:51am

We rely on many ways of rec­og­niz­ing peo­ple, near at hand or from afar; faces, voices, walks, and even the scents from favorite colognes or per­fumes help us greet friends, engage col­leagues, and iden­tify strangers.
I was in high school when I first noticed that everyone’s key chain made a dis­tinct sound, one that served as a kind of audi­ble call­ing card that could help rec­og­nize peo­ple. I started to try to guess who was walk­ing to the front door by learn­ing the unique com­bi­na­tions of sounds — clink­ing and tin­kling from metal keys, rat­tling and rub­bing from ceramic and plas­tic tokens, and a myr­iad of other noises from the incred­i­ble mis­cel­lany peo­ple attach to their key rings and carry around with them through life — that announced each of my vis­i­tors friends. With a lit­tle prac­tice, I could pick out the ten or fif­teen peo­ple I spent the most time with based on lis­ten­ing to the sounds of key chains. Every­one else was some­one I didn’t see often, which was a fine dis­tinc­tion to draw between when gaug­ing how to answer the door.
There are many other audi­ble cues to iden­tity — from the clos­ing of a car door, to the sound of foot steps, or cell phone ring tones — but the key chain is unique because it includes so many dif­fer­ent ele­ments: the num­ber and size and mate­ri­als of the keys, or the lay­er­ing of dif­fer­ent key rings and sou­ve­niers peo­ple attach to them. A key chain is a sort of impromptu ensem­ble of found instru­ments play­ing lit­tle bursts of free jazz like per­son­al­ized fan­fares for mod­ern liv­ing.
The sound of someone’s key chain also changes over time, as they add or remove things, or rearrange them. That sound can even change in step with the way your rela­tion­ship to that per­son changes. For exam­ple, if they buy a sou­ve­nier with you and put it on their key­chain; or if you give them keys to your apart­ment. Each of these changes reflects shared expe­ri­ences, and you can hear the dif­fer­ence in sound from one day to the next if you lis­ten care­fully.
And like those other ways of rec­og­niz­ing peo­ple I men­tioned ear­lier, which all reach the level of being called sig­na­tures when they become truly dis­tinc­tive, the sound of someone’s key chain serves a sort of audi­ble sig­na­ture.
Until now, the sound of a key­chain was per­haps the only truly unique audi­ble sig­na­ture that was not part of our per­son to begin with (like the voice). Now that Jason Free­man has cre­ated the iTunes Sig­na­ture Maker, we may have an audi­ble sig­naure suit­able for the dig­i­tal realm. The iTunes Sig­na­ture Maker scans your iTunes library, tak­ing one or two sec­ond snip­pets of many files, and mix­ing these found bits of sound together into a short audio sig­na­ture. You choose from a few para­me­ters such as play count, total num­ber of songs, and whether to include videos, and the sig­na­ture maker pro­duces a .WAV file.
I made an iTunes sig­na­ture using Jason’s tool a few days ago. I’ve lis­tened to it a few times. It cer­tainly includes quite a few songs I’ve lis­tened to often and can rec­og­nize from just a one-second snip­pet. Cal­lig­ra­phers and graphol­o­gists make much of a few hand­writ­ten let­ters on a page: music can say a great deal about someone’s moods, out­look, tastes, or even what moves their soul. I lis­ten to a lot of music via radio, CD’s and even live that isn’t included in this. I’m not sure it rep­re­sents me. I think it’s up to every­one else to decide that.
But what can you do with one? It’s not prac­ti­cal yet to attach it to email mes­sages, like a con­ven­tional .sig. It might be a good way to book­end the mixes I make for friends and fam­ily. I can see hav­ing a lot of fun lis­ten­ing to a bunch of anony­mous iTunes sig­na­tures from your friends to try and guess which one belongs to whom. There’s real poten­tial for a use­ful but non-exhaustive answer to the inevitable ques­tion, “What kind of music do you like?” when you meet some­one new. Along those lines, Jason may have kicked off a new fad in Inter­net dat­ing; this is the per­fect exam­ple of a unique token that can com­press a great deal of mean­ing into a small (dig­i­tal) pack­age that doesn’t require meet­ing or talk­ing to exchange. I can see the iTunes sig­na­ture becom­ing a speed-dating req­ui­site; bring your iTunes sig­na­ture file with you on a flash drive or iPod shuf­fle, and lis­ten or exchange as nec­es­sary.
At least the name is easy: what else would you call this besides a “musig”. Maybe an “iSig” or a “tune­sig”.
Unique ring tones, door chimes, and start-up sounds are only the begin­ning. Com­bine musigs with the music genome project, and you could upload your sig­na­ture to a clear­ing­house online, and have it auto­mat­i­cally com­pared for matches against other people’s musigs based on pat­terns and pref­er­ences. Have it find some­one who likes reggae-influenced waltzes, or fado, or who lis­tens to at least ten of the same artists you enjoy. Build a cat­a­log of one musig every month for a year, and ask the engine to describe the change in your tastes. Add a musig to your Ama­zon wish­lists for gift-giving, or even ask it to pre­dict what you might like based on the songs in the file.
You can down­load my musig / iSig / tune­sig / iTunes sig­na­ture here; note that it’s nearly 8mb.
I’ll think I’ll try it again in a few months, to see how it changes.

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Mental Models and the Semantics of Disaster

November 4th, 2005 — 3:47pm

A few months ago, I put up a post­ing on Men­tal Mod­els Lotus Notes, and Resililence. It focused on my chronic inabil­ity to learn how not to send email with Lous Notes. I posted about Notes, but what led me to explore resilience in the con­text of men­tal mod­els was the sur­pris­ing lack of acknowl­edge­ment of the scale of hur­ri­cane Kat­rina I came across at the time. For exam­ple, the day the lev­ees failed, the front page of the New York Times dig­i­tal edi­tion car­ried a gigan­tic head­line say­ing ‘Lev­ees Fail! New Orleans floods!’. And yet no one in the office at the time even men­tioned what hap­pened.
My con­clu­sion was that peo­ple were sim­ply unable to accept the idea that a major met­ro­pol­i­tan area in the U.S. could pos­si­bly be the set­ting for such a tragedy, and so they refused to absorb it — because it didn’t fit in with their men­tal mod­els for how the world works. Today, I came across a Resilience Sci­ence post­ing titled New Orleans and Dis­as­ter Soci­ol­ogy that sup­ports this line of think­ing, while it dis­cusses some of the inter­est­ing ways that seman­tics and men­tal mod­els come into play in rela­tion to dis­as­ters.
Quot­ing exten­sively from an arti­cle in The Chron­i­cle of Higher Edu­ca­tion titled Dis­as­ter Soci­ol­o­gists Study What Went Wrong in the Response to the Hur­ri­canes, but Will Pol­icy Mak­ers Lis­ten? the post­ing calls out how nar­row slices of media cov­er­age dri­ven by blurred seman­tic and con­tex­tual under­stand­ings, inac­cu­rately frame social responses to dis­as­ter sit­u­a­tions in terms of group panic and the implied break­down of order and soci­ety.
“The false idea of post­dis­as­ter panic grows partly from sim­ple seman­tic con­fu­sion, said Michael K. Lin­dell, a psy­chol­o­gist who directs the Haz­ard Reduc­tion and Recov­ery Cen­ter at Texas A&M Uni­ver­sity at Col­lege Sta­tion. ‘A reporter will stick a micro­phone in someone’s face and ask, ‘Well, what did you do when the explo­sion went off?’ And the per­son will answer, ‘I pan­icked.’ And then they’ll pro­ceed to describe a very log­i­cal, ratio­nal action in which they pro­tected them­selves and looked out for peo­ple around them. What they mean by ‘panic’ is just ‘I got very fright­ened.’ But when you say ‘I pan­icked,’ it rein­forces this idea that there’s a thin veneer of civ­i­liza­tion, which van­ishes after a dis­as­ter, and that you need out­side author­i­ties and the mil­i­tary to restore order. But really, peo­ple usu­ally do very well for them­selves, thank you.‘
Men­tal mod­els come into play when the arti­cle goes on to talk about the ways that the emer­gency man­age­ment agen­cies are orga­nized and struc­tured, and how they approach and under­stand sit­u­a­tions by default. With the new Home­land Secu­rity par­a­digm, all inci­dents require com­mand and con­trol approaches that assume a ded­i­cated and intel­li­gent enemy — obvi­ously not the way to man­age a hur­ri­cane response.
“Mr. Lin­dell, of Texas A&M, agreed, say­ing he feared that pol­icy mak­ers in Wash­ing­ton had taken the wrong lessons from Kat­rina. The employ­ees of the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity, he said, ‘are mostly drawn from the Depart­ment of Defense, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, and from police depart­ments. They’re firmly com­mit­ted to a command-and-control model.’ (Just a few days ago, Pres­i­dent Bush may have pushed the process one step fur­ther: He sug­gested that the Depart­ment of Defense take con­trol of relief efforts after major nat­ural dis­as­ters.)
“The habits of mind cul­ti­vated by mil­i­tary and law-enforcement per­son­nel have their virtues, Mr. Lin­dell said, but they don’t always fit dis­as­ter sit­u­a­tions. ‘They come from orga­ni­za­tions where they’re deal­ing with an intel­li­gent adver­sary. So they want to keep infor­ma­tion secret; ‘it’s only shared on a need-to-know basis. But emer­gency man­agers and med­ical per­son­nel want infor­ma­tion shared as widely as pos­si­ble because they have to rely on per­sua­sion to get peo­ple to coöper­ate. The prob­lem with putting FEMA into the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­rity is that it’s like an organ trans­plant. What we’ve seen over the past four years is basi­cally organ rejec­tion.‘
If I read this cor­rectly, mis­aligned orga­ni­za­tional cul­tures lie at the bot­tom of the whole prob­lem. I’m still curi­ous about the con­nec­tions between an organization’s cul­ture, and the men­tal mod­els that indi­vid­u­als use. Can a group have a col­lec­tive men­tal model?
Accoridng to Col­lec­tive Men­tal State and Indi­vid­ual Agency: Qual­i­ta­tive Fac­tors in Social Sci­ence Expla­na­tion it’s pos­si­ble, and in fact the whole idea of this col­lec­tive men­tal state is a black hole as far as qual­i­ta­tive social research and under­stand­ing are concerned.

2 comments » | Modeling, The Media Environment

Reality TV Revisits Its Origins

November 3rd, 2005 — 2:35pm

Appar­ently, if you wait long enough, all cir­cles close them­selves. Case in point: I’ve always thought Golding’s Lord of the Flies nicely cap­tures sev­eral of the less appe­tiz­ing aspects of the typ­i­cal amer­i­can junior high school expe­ri­ence.
And I’ve always thought that much of the real­ity tele­vi­sion pro­gram­ming that was all the rage for a while and now seems to be pass­ing like a Japan­ese fad, is sim­ply a chance for peo­ple on all sides of the screen to revisit their own junior high school expe­ri­ences once again — albeit with a full com­ple­ment of adult sec­ondary sex­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics. When I do chan­nel surf past the lat­est incar­na­tion of the pri­mal vote-the-jerk-off-the-island epic, Golding’s book always comes to mind.
Then a friend rec­om­mended Koushun Takami’s Bat­tle Royale as recre­ational read­ing. Bat­tle Royale is, as Tom Waits says, ‘big in Japan’ — it being a Japan­ese treat­ment of some of the same themes that drive Lord of the Flies.
The edi­to­r­ial review from Ama­zon reads:
“As part of a ruth­less pro­gram by the total­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment, ninth-grade stu­dents are taken to a small iso­lated island with a map, food, and var­i­ous weapons. Forced to wear spe­cial col­lars that explode when they break a rule, they must fight each other for three days until only one “win­ner” remains. The elim­i­na­tion con­test becomes the ulti­mate in must-see real­ity tele­vi­sion.“
And so the cir­cle closes…

1 comment » | Reading Room, The Media Environment

Foiling Comment Spam

September 17th, 2005 — 10:12am

A tip o’ the hat to Richard Boakes for foil­ing a second-rate spam­mer by buy­ing up the domain they were pro­mot­ing with com­ment spam before they did.

1 comment » | The Media Environment

A Very Postmodern 4th of July

July 7th, 2005 — 6:13pm

I went to the 4th of July con­cert on the Esplanade this past Mon­day, for the first time in sev­eral years, expect­ing to show some inter­na­tional vis­i­tors gen­uine Boston Amer­i­cana. After all, 4th of July cel­e­bra­tions are sin­gu­larly Amer­i­can expe­ri­ences; part sum­mer sol­stice rite, part brash rev­o­lu­tion­ary ges­ture, part demon­stra­tion of mar­tial prowess, part razzle-dazzle spec­ta­cle as only Amer­i­cans put on.
I sup­pose a unique Amer­i­can expe­ri­ence is what we got: in return for our trou­ble, we felt like unpaid extras in a tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion recre­at­ing the hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions for a remote view­ing audi­ence miles or years away. It was — de-centered — hol­low and inverted. It’s become a sim­u­lacrum, with a highly unnat­ural flow dri­ven by the cal­cu­lus of supra-local tele­vi­sion pro­gram­ming goals. The cen­ter of grav­ity is now a national tele­vi­sion audi­ence sit­ting in liv­ing rooms every­where and nowhere else, and not the 500,000 peo­ple gath­ered around the Hatch Shell who cre­ate the cel­e­bra­tion and make it pos­si­ble by com­ing together every year.
Despite all the razzle-dazzle — and in true Amer­i­can fash­ion there was a lot, from fighter jets to fire­works, via brass bands, orches­tras, and pop stars along the way — the expe­ri­ence itself was deeply unsat­is­fy­ing, because it was obvi­ous from the begin­ning that the pro­duc­tion com­pany (B4) held the inter­ests of broad­cast­ers far more impor­tant than the peo­ple who come to the Esplanade.
There were reg­u­lar com­mer­cial breaks.
In a 4th of July con­cert.
For half a mil­lion peo­ple.
Com­mer­cial breaks which the orga­niz­ers — no doubt trapped between the Scylla of con­trac­tual oblig­a­tions and the Charyb­dis of shame at jilt­ing a half-million peo­ple out of a sum­mer hol­i­day to come to this show — filled with filler. While the com­mer­cials aired, and the audi­ence waited, the ‘pro­gram­mers’ plugged the holes in the con­cert sched­ule with an awk­ward mix of live songs last­ing less than three min­utes, pre-recorded music, and inane com­men­tary from local talk­ing heads. We felt like we were sit­ting *behind* a mon­i­tor at a tap­ing ses­sion for a 4th of July show, lis­ten­ing while other peo­ple watched the screen in front.
I bring this out because it offers good lessons for those who design or cre­ate expe­ri­ences, or depend upon the design or cre­ation of qual­ity expe­ri­ences.
Briefly, those lessons are:
1. If you have an estab­lished audi­ence, and you want or need to engage a new one, make sure you don’t leave your loyal cus­tomers behind by mak­ing it obvi­ous that they are less impor­tant to you than your new audi­ence.
2. If you’re enter­ing a new medium, and your expe­ri­ence will not trans­late directly to the new chan­nel (and which well-crafted expe­ri­ence does trans­late exactly?), make sure you don’t dam­age the expe­ri­ence of the orig­i­nal chan­nel while you’re trans­lat­ing to the new one.
3. When adding a new or addi­tional chan­nel for deliv­er­ing your expe­ri­ence, don’t trade qual­ity in the orig­i­nal chan­nel for capa­bil­ity in the new chan­nel. Many sep­a­rate fac­tors affect judg­ments of qual­ity. Capa­bil­ity in one chan­nel is not equiv­a­lent to qual­ity in another. Qual­ity is much harder to achieve.
4. Always pre­serve qual­ity, because con­sis­tent qual­ity wins loy­alty, which is worth much more in the long run. Con­sis­tent qual­ity dif­fer­en­ti­ates you, and encour­ages cus­tomers to rec­om­mend you to other peo­ple with con­fi­dence, and allows other to become your advo­cates, or even your part­ners. For advo­cates, think of all the peo­ple who clear obsta­cles for you with­out direct ben­e­fit, such as per­mit and license boards. For part­ners, think of all the peo­ple who’s busi­ness con­nect to or depend upon your expe­ri­ence in some way; the con­ces­sions ven­dors who pur­chase a vend­ing license to sell food and bev­er­ages every year are a good exam­ple of this.
For peo­ple plan­ning to attend next year’s 4th of July pro­duc­tion, I hope the expe­ri­ence you have in 2006 reflects some of these lessons. If not, then I can see the head­line already, in bold 42 point let­ter type, “Audi­ences nowhere com­mem­o­rate Inde­pen­dence Day again via tele­vi­sion! 500,000 bored extras make cel­e­bra­tion look real for remote view­ers!“
Since this is the sec­ond time I’ve had this expe­ri­ence, I’ve changed my judg­ment on the qual­ity of the pro­duc­tion, and I won’t be there: I attended in 2002, and had exactly the same experience.

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