Design for experience

Design for presence needs to include the complex notion of design for experience. We make choices for our own behaviour, for the performance of our presence, not only out of habit of previous behaviour. Such choices are more complex and include outcomes of reflection on our previous action and outcomes, understanding of contexts, imagination and anticipation of possibilities. Different levels of consciousness (proto, core and extended) influence performance of presence (Damasio 2004).

In the English language the word experience reflects different kinds of experience in one word only. In the German language the word ‘erfahrung’ is distinct from ‘erlebnis’. A distinction is made between ‘erlebnis’, referring to sensations and happenings, which are foundational to behaviour, and ‘erfahrung’ which refers to experience, as being the reflexive context in which we, as human beings, reflect upon our own actions and understand our own situation to inform new actions. Design for presence not only includes design for sensations and behaviour (‘erlebnis’) as discussed above. Design for presence is distinct because it necessarily includes design for experience (‘erfahrung’) in which a larger context allows for individual reflection and choices. Performance of presence emerges from experience.
Experience design is a relatively young discipline in certain design schools in Europe, USA and India. Its theoretical foundation is diverse including media and cultural studies, marketing and business, philosophy and interaction design.
Not often used today, but very clear in their intention, is the work of the Frankfurter Schule on experience design in the previous century (Habermas 1983, Negt & Kluge 1972). This group of German philosophers and social scientists posed the question of design for experience, as the ground for human’s autonomous choice, in the early 1960s. Confronted with the fact that millions of people had followed Hitler in the 1930s and into WOII, they were determined to understand how individual people could keep their autonomy and independent perception in mass media and propaganda contexts. As result the Frankfurter Schule introduced a specific idea about experience design in which sensations and happenings need to be historically contextualized in both personal and collective ways to nurture reflection and inspire people to steer towards their own, and others, well-being and survival. Artists and artistic research play a role of significance in this approach. In the era of ubiquitous computing and all pervasive media the thinking of the Frankfurter Schule is acquiring new attention.

CN , Frances Brazier