Source: DUX 2007: A great conference, but fundamentally off the mark by Bob Jacobson of Total Experience.
He's at the conference and reports his impressions on the experience of a conference about user experience.
“A user's perception of a device or system” seems a peculiarly narrow niche in which to ply one's experience design skills. Of course, it's important: devices and systems are what drive the machinery of commerce and government, and even how we as consumers conduct ourselves at home and in leisure time. But so mechanistic a conception of the human being is antithetical to our knowledge of how people holistically perceive, think, act, and experience their lives. Maybe that's why Don himself on more than one public occasion has lamented his invention of the term, “user experience design,” suggesting we'd be better off without the “user.”
Perhaps it's a function of the organizing process, but it appears to me that with only a few exceptions, most of the speakers and workshop leaders -- and I suppose, attendees -- appear to be shy of 40 years of age. That means they would have been born sometime after 1967, when systemic thinking was king and every person was treated as a cog in some larger device; and that they came of age in the mid-80s or later, as information technology was replacing systems as the predominant archetypal metaphor.
My own observations and personal feelings are that sooner or later end users will stop basing their experiences on the short-lived thrill of the next rollout of the "something new". There's a movement towards substance and the "integrity of being" as I call it. The impact of the "green" movement tells me that people are ready for experiences that place a strong value and emphasis on their participation and programs that include and welcome them, rather than being a "cog in the wheel".
Designing for participation can be seen in social media, but despite all these new sites designed to bring us together, I still feel disconnected. The experience of social networking is only going to be based on how much we're willing to share. Rather than the whole human, we're more likely to get bits and pieces and believe we're getting a human experience online. We're not.
Consider that playing out right now is the fight over what comes "first" - SEO or usability. The whole argument leaps right over the idea of creating something meaningful. Holly Buchanan wrote about the CVS marketing campaign that, for her, portrays an experience that in no way resembles a real human experience.
Are we not designing or even marketing for the human experience anymore and if so, why not?