Design as Experience Placebo

Randy Dotinga’s article, Why Sugar Pills Cure Some Ills, made me wonder if design could be used as an experience placebo?

That is, could a person’s perception that a product, service, object or system has been “designed” have a positive affect on the person’s experience with the product, service, object or system?

This also brings up the question of whether or not design processes will become part of a product’s marketing collateral? Will certain design methodologies or even user-centered (or any other philosophical approaches to) design ever become mainstream enough to be advertised?

Personal shout-out: David Spiegel, who is quoted in the article, runs the Stanford Emotional Coding Lab, at which I volunteer occasionally.

Daniel Kahneman – Intuition: Between Perception and Reasoning

Several weeks ago, I saw Daniel Kahneman speak at Stanford. Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics, and is currently the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology at Princeton University.

He gave a fascinating talk entitled, “Intuition: Between Perception and Reasoning.” Here are some of my notes from the talk:

A thought I had during the talk: Intuitive interfaces are those that can be used without computation (time to think).

If you keep the mind busy with cognitive tasks (what Kahneman calls System 2 tasks), you can’t simultaneously evaluate your experience.

One rather interesting thing Kahneman suggested was that episodes are recalled (experienced) as an average of the most predominant emotion, not a sum of all emotions. For example, he described a study where patients rated their experience while undergoing a colonoscopy (Redelmeiner and Kahneman, 1996). The results suggested that the episodes were recalled as an average of the pain, not a sum.

Phenomenological Foundations of Cognition, Language, and Computation

CS378: Phenomenological Foundations of Cognition, Language, and Computation

I guess you could say I’m not so much auditing this class as I am reading along. I’m only about 20 pages into the book, but I can’t imagine not recommending it when I’m done – sheer brilliance. It blows me away that Flores and Winograd were thinking about this stuff in 1985!

Emotional about design

I’m always skeptical about articles with no attributed author. Emotional about design is one such article. I imagine the entire thing was written by some grunt at NNG, or perhaps by Don himself.

None-the-less, the article discusses the premise of Don Norman’s book, Emotional Design in a nice little package. I suppose I’ll review it when I get around to reading it. Right now, I’m more into Husserl and Heidegger.

Erik Davis on Experience Design

Erik Davis’ Experience Design And the Design of Experience is the single best piece I’ve read on the subject.

Not only does he offer a sublime definition of experience:

“…let’s just think of human experience as the phenomenal unfolding of awareness in real time”

…but he also touches on some powerful, related topics such as recreational drug use, spirituality and also scary shit like the manipulation of desire for the purpose of advertising.

Additionally, much of what he writes suggests an increasing need for Design Ethicists—a topic in which I’m surprised to find myself very interested.

Nathan Shedroff: the v-2 interview

From back in 2002, Adam Greenfield interviews Nathan Shedroff [part 1, part 2].

I had high hopes that this interview would address the problem that there exists no general theory of or approach to Experience Design. Shedroff gets close to discussing it a couple times during the interview, but Greenfield keeps pulling him away with his Information Architecture obsession. Arrgh!

The extent of what Shedroff says about an approach to Experience Design is (imagine a lot of hand waving here), “You just consider the experience.” Utterly unsatisfying.

Even if they had discussed it directly, I suspect it wouldn’t have been very meaningful, simply because both Greenfield and Shedroff seemed much more concerned with other topics during the interview.

Notes on Kant and Locke

Some notes on Kant and Locke from the book, Understanding Emerson : “The American Scholar” and His Struggle for Self-Reliance. I think these are all from page 8.

John Lock introduced the idea of the mind as tabula rasa, a blank tablet, and held that consciousness is shaped largely by external experience.

Immanuel Kant:

  • Critique of Pure Reason (1781)
  • Observed that metaphysicians (Locke) were unable to show how external objects shape human perception
  • “if the material world appears knowable, it is because the human mind makes it so”
  • The categories of understanding that are intuitive to us all determine the way we perceive what we call reality

…and a bonus quote from James Freeman Clarke: “until Coleridge showed me from Kant that though knowledge begins with experience, it does not come from experience

Nature of Experience Model

I created this last year, before I read anything about linguistics, cognition or human experience. That’s my way of saying this is probably very wrong, but it’s at least a good tool for thinking about the relationship between the three.

(click for a larger image)


Brian Knutson

I also saw Brian Knutson speak at Stanford recently.

Brian is interested in the neural basis of emotion and runs the Symbiotic Project on Affective Neuroscience. (Psychologists use the word “affect” to describe mood states and personality traits characterized both by high arousal and either positive or negative valence.)

Brian is also interested in the convergence of disciplines brought about by his research. I’m going to see if I can speak with him about design.