13: From Design to Deployment: Act Into The Future

Eventually, the process of imagining the infinite possibilities must give way to the more difficult and mundane task of making a choice and taking action, taking our own product from the world of imagination to the realm of reality.

The process of exploration should yield a broad array of choices, which can then be evaluated to determine whether they are practicable, financially feasible, at acceptable to the customer whom you expect to pay for them, or which will contribute to the customer's willingness to pay for something else.

Experience Design

The author suggests that experience design is a well-worn path with many ideas and systems by which they can be developed. He mentions a number of authors who have written books on the subject of experience design, and includes a few of his own in the reading list.

He then lists a few principles that should be given particular attention:

Considering these principles is essential to creating an experience customers will value.

Game Design in Learning, Work, and Life

Where digital technology is concerned, one of the greatest driving forces is the gaming industry. While the computer began as a calculator, it did not gain appeal to the masses until it could be used to play games, and the same can be said of most information technology.

The awkward term "gamificaiton" has been widely applied to experience design, implying that a task that is done to achieve a given end can, itself, be made to be an enjoyable experience - and given the choice of getting the same value through a mundane process and an engaging one, customer preference favors the latter.

While gaming is considered a frivolous pursuit, to some a complete waste of time, its basis in strategy lends it to many real-life situations in which a person (player) seeks to achieve a goal (to win) by undertaking a given sequence of actions (gameplay). The author piles on examples to further illustrate this notion.

Games can be used for educational purposes, to model behavior in an artificial situation so the player can experiment and learn in a safe environment: playing a stock-trading game is certainly less damaging than experimenting with a real portfolio - the worst that can happen is that you lose the game and, by trying different strategies, discover things that you can then apply in reality.

But seen that way, there is often the ability to then apply the game interface to a real situation: the same console you use in a game to trade and track imaginary stocks can likely be applied to doing the same tasks "for real." The only difference is that your actions then have an actual impact.

Exploring as Culture

The author considers the potential for "exploring" to become a component of culture. The frustration and failure of real-world strategy is in its attempt to be definite and achieve a very specific set of results, with a binary assessment of success or failure. It also tends to be extremely rigid, defying any attempt to deviate from "the plan" even when circumstances change.

Instead, shift from strategic planning to a mode of exploration: move in a positive direction rather than toward a specific goal. Try out ideas without a great deal of emotional investment, such that you are willing to adapt or even abandon an attempt that doesn't seem to be productive. Be willing to change and try something else if needed.

Exploring focuses on the activities that produce the desired results, with fewer assumptions and less rigid expectations. Failure to get exactly what you want, exactly when you want it, is not a discouraging defeat that leads to the abandonment of a goal, but part of a learning process, discovering what doesn't work as a step toward considering what might work as you continue to attempt to achieve an outcome. And if, in the process of exploring, you discover a goal other than the one you had intended, pursue it.

And finally, exploring is indefinite and ongoing - just as most organizations expect to be indefinite an ongoing. There is likely not a single corporation whose mission statement concludes with "and once we've finished doing this, we will quit and disband."

Being Good

Technology is not always a good thing. Even enthusiasts of technology have legitimate qualms about infusing every aspect of our lives with digital technology, and concerns that technical progress has its downside: whenever we take a step forward, something gets lost and someone gets left behind. With this in mind, the author presents eight issues to consider:

  1. Technology is always on, but people are not. We have a limited amount of time, in which technology is constantly intruding. It may be by our own choice, as we allow ourselves to become "addicted" to Facebook or video games, recognizing it distracts from more important pursuits. It may be forced upon us by an employer, who demands we answer our cell phone and work on a laptop in the middle of the night, while on a family vacation, while attending a funeral, or while recovering from surgery in a hospital.
  2. Technology intrudes into private life by publishing information that should remain private. It may be by personal choice or the mistake of indiscretion that we voluntarily disclose more than we should, or it may be compulsory, such that we must give up personal information to gain something we want or need.
  3. Technology is debilitating the human mind. While technology is a means to doing things of which we are physically and mentally incapable, reliance on technology cripples us - in the way that a student who relies on a calculator can't do simple multiplication without one, or the atrophy of reading comprehension skills in people who watch "too much" television.
  4. Technology makes us lose touch with reality. While it can make experiences simple and entertaining, it gives us unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved by representing everything as a simplistic mathematical puzzle with a built-in solution that is relatively easy to discover.
  5. Social media, in particular, dehumanizes people. Even in situations where we mean to represent our "real" selves, we are reduced to digital data, words and pictures, that are increasingly impersonal, and people view others as disembodied machine intelligence rather than real people.
  6. Technology fragments personal identity and encourages dishonesty. At face value, our participation in a given site enables and encourages us to present to others a selected persona of ourselves - your profile and behavior on LinkedIn is different to what it is on Facebook - which fragments personal identity in a way that gives others a false impression (motivated by vanity or the desire to manipulate others with a false identity) and that may ultimately result in losing our sense of our real, whole selves.
  7. Technology causes alienation. Aside of the fragmentation of personality, technology creates physical distance from other people. Consider the stereotype of a person who seems a social butterfly in an online chat-room, but feels uncomfortable and awkward interacting face-to-face. While technology facilitates interaction by overcoming distance and time, few can deny that the interactions had through technology seem very hollow and impersonal.
  8. Technology requires us to sacrifice the richness of reality. Any technical substitution for a real-life experience lacks detail and authenticity - while the basic task can be accomplished, we lose much of the experience. Some may argue that these are extraneous details, but they are part of the human experience - and learning to do without them makes us less human, more machine.

Into the Future

What we have noticed in the past is that technology is likened to a tool that is used by people to effect changes, but which also creates changes in people. It alters behavior and changes culture.

As a designer of technology, the process of considering ideas is a way of envisioning a possible future, and the action you take in producing your designs and inflicting them on others is the means by which you make your own predictions come true.

The author advises the reader as consumer: "Don't just let these changes wash over you, unthinkingly." This implies also that you should not inflict change upon others until you thoroughly consider the impact upon the individual person, organization, institution, and society

Instead, be active in deciding whether the benefit is worth the cost, whether you are doing more harm than good. The greater damage is done by men of vision who failed to consider the side-effects that arose from what they assumed to be a gift for their fellow men.