Why am I so intereted in the subject of experience design?
I am currently writing an academic paper on the topic of experience design.
Significantly yesterday I finished delivering a team development day I had designed for a great organisation here in Hong Kong. Our theme was something different for these (very) environmentally aware people: it was based on tribes in the Amazonian Rainforest. We had face paints, tribal dress, dancing and story telling, tribal mergers, animal shrines, the honing of hunting skills (recycled wooden x-bows that fire ping pong balls made by a company set up by young people in Sheffield), visual acuity testing, solving problems, river rafting skills, cryptic clues, lots of collaboration and some competition all built into our day. It was great fun designing the day, underpinned by a lot of research. The design was informed by several books: The Tribe That Hides from Man; The Wizard of the Upper Amazon; Red Gold; Tree of Rivers and other great material. I feel a great sadness that all of the rainforest where I lived in a hammock forty years ago north of Manaus has now been completely detroyed.
Now that brings me on to some other aspects of experience design by big organisations. In a text about the Disney Experience, Loeffler & Church (2015) illustrate the use of scientific knowledge, and in particular neuro-psychology, for the benefit of the Disney Corporation. The proactive human behaviour manipulation through experience design is evident by the remarks of these two authors: ‘Disney’s theme parks have emotion trickling through their every turn of the value proposition’. Loeffler & Church suggest that Disney works with four cognitive drivers to release the natural drugs of positive emotion that stimulate the human brain in reaction to an experience. The four natural drugs they say hook children into the experience are: Serotin, Oxytocin, Dopamine and Endorphin. Research into human behavioural psychology is now being extensively used in the corporate world.
Play, experience, and learn are the three stated components of a new Kidzania concept offering a real, scaled down shopping mall style of outlets, in a mini town where your kids can spend time and money on play and leisure, and they can even earn money by doing work at sponsored outlets. ‘Through each job activity, kids learn about how society functions, financial literacy, adult professions, teamwork, independence, self-esteem and real-life skills’. Here experiential learning educational principles appear at the heart of the Kidzania mission, combined however with a business philosophy seemingly concerned with the appropriation of childhood for investment and marketing interests! I do wonder where all this will lead the human race to! Much of the psychology used by companies to get people ‘hooked’ (the title of a new book by Eval, 2014) is based on an understanding of the unconscious mind, and in particular the basic human oppositional emotional states: notably pleasure seeking and pain avoidance, social acceptance or rejection (affiliation/belonging), and seeking hope or avoiding fear (Gross, 2001; Russell & Barchard, 2002). Damasio (2004) argues these oppositional states represent a continual human struggle for balance between flourishing and distress.
So for a rest from writing I went and sat ‘people watching’ over a coffee in the nearby shopping mall here….and the triggers set up to develop the habit of regularly checking our phones are evident all around, as is the addiction to spending hard earned money on shopping and eating! Zoologist Desmond Morris must have had fun writing his book ‘People Watching’……something which is quite cheap to do – it only cost me a coffee!