Taking a Broader View
of the Human Experience
Experientia | firstname.lastname@example.org
[ 1] Kuniavsky, M. “User
Experience Design for
interactions 15, no. 6
[ 2] Nathan Shedroff,
with author, 5 November
March + April 2009
Experience design is a human-centered activity. It starts with a
deep understanding of people’s
needs and contexts of living or
working, and the end result is a
product or service that provides
people with a quality experience
or a culturally relevant solution.
With such a clear and deliberate focus on people, other
issues such as technology,
economics, belief systems, or
the broader topic of ethics and
sustainability take a secondary
role. But should they?
The way we organize our
lives and societies in social,
economic, spiritual, and environmental terms is very much
part of the human experience.
And since we are living in a
time of rapid change, our task
as professionals is not just to
understand the current context
or anticipate future possibilities, but to help create a future
world that is socially, economically, spiritually, and environmentally sustainable.
From this vantage point, the
end-result of our work—that
quality experience or culturally
relevant solution—takes on a
whole other meaning that goes
beyond the relevance for an individual (the “user”) or a client.
Distributing Technology to
Four billion mobile devices
are currently in use in a world
population of 6. 6 billion.
Deduct infants, and you realize that a very large percentage
of humankind has a mobile
phone. The advantages of this
technological tsunami for the
so-called bottom of the pyramid
have been widely publicized,
but most of the important decisions in how our countries and
economies are run are still in
the hands of very few people.
Even in the best scenarios,
this power concentration is
based on the logic that we
need to delegate decisions to
accountable leaders, that we
cannot involve ourselves in all
decisions that matter to us,
partly for practical reasons.
This is now changing.
Distributing technology in the
hands of the many opens previously unfeasible options for a
growth in participatory decision-making. But how can this
be implemented in the future?
What kind of tools would
designers need to create to
support this? And how can the
design itself be decentralized?
As Bruce Sterling recently
said during the LIFT Asia ‘08
conference to an audience of
“When you are working on
cell phones, when you are working on the Web, when you are
working on electronic money
and payment systems, you need
to think: What if my user is a
North Korean? How would I do
this differently if I knew my
user was from Pyongyang, that
his regime had collapsed, that
his economy had collapsed, he
was completely bewildered, and
he had never seen a cell phone
or a computer in his life, and I
intended to make him a productive and happy fellow citizen in
10 years, what kind of technology would I give that person,
what kind of trading system,
We don’t have all the answers
yet, but it is clear that pervasive
mobile devices—these always-connected mobile computers—
are going to have a transformational impact on our world.
Designers have a responsibility to enable this transformation, to bring the power to the
people, and to provide them
with the tools to better govern
their lives and the communities
and societies they live in.
The Physical/Digital Confluence
People are social animals; the
extent to which online social
tools online are affecting people’s social lives and behaviors
in the physical world comes as
The growing pervasiveness
of smartphones combined with
cheap data plans are changing
this landscape even more: Not
only will we be online wherever
we are, but we will be online