After some deep conversations with Matthew Milan, Matt Nish-Lapidus, Andrew Hinton, Andrea Resmini, Karl Fast, and Joe Sokohl (as well as seeing presentations by Peter Moreville, and Peter Merholz), I have a new take on the experience/context dynamic.
First, the simple version …
The basic notion is that an actor (user, customer, consumer, etc.) operates within a context, and interacts with it either directly or mediated through code (since the device and the code are nigh inseparable, I have decided to just stick with code for now).
The interactions, and the effects they have, form the experience. The experience, in turn, affects the context. This system is truly dynamic with each part acting and reacting to all of the other parts.
Now let’s look at the larger version …
The actor is immersed within the context. He or she is constantly observing, orienting, deciding, and then acting (I will post about the OODA loop soon … I promise). Cultural elements (in the anthropological sense) move in and out of the actor’s context. Very few of the actor’s interactions are purely direct or purely mediated by code. In fact cultural elements, code, and the actor share a dance of sorts within the context.
A good example of that dance is found in the nature of place and space as explained in Andrea Resmini’s IAS12 presentation. In brief (and in Andrea’s words) place is where we pause, and space is where we move. Imagine a trip from your home to your favorite restaurant. During your journey you will pass many cues that tell you that you are on course – street signs, landmarks, etc. On another occasion one of those landmarks may be a place where you pause, but on this journey it is just a navigation marker.
The experience of the journey to your favorite restaurant is a series of interactions that move your context from home, to the car, to the journey, to the restaurant, to dinner with friends. All along the way we experience a constant flow of touch point interactions and changes in context.
So why call out code? As I have previously posted, code is becoming ubiquitous. It pervades all of the contexts that we flow through. And finally (and this is the key point) it is the material with which we IAs, IxDs, and UXers build our contribution to the experience and the context.
Later I will write more about the practical implications of this model, but for now I want to stay on the theoretical side in order to refine this a bit more.