Since the economy shifted from an object-basis to a knowledge-basis in the late 20th century, a constantly growing proportion of global industrial production is of so called ‘intangibles’: non-object products like information, knowledge, intellectual property or such like. Not only do intangibles not comply with the traditional notion of the necessarily immanent physicality of a product, they potentially immerse so completely with everyday life that they become un-recognizable as products. For example, a roller coaster ride is an intangible that takes place over time, is entertaining and valuable; after all we are prepared to pay money for it. A whole day at Disneyland expands this intangible to become an all-encompassing reality.
Similar mechanisms are at work – at different scales and in varying intensity – at your local fast-food branch, the downtown shopping mall, the weekend football-match, the world-class museum, the family tourist resort, or even in health care. All of these products are based on the concept of a ‘special experience’ for the customer/client, a specific audience or simply the ‘public’.
An indicator of the increasing relevancy of ‘experience’ as a product is the marketing sectorʼs deepening appreciation of the consumersʼ preference for experience over more traditional commodities, like price or quality. On the opposite end of the scale, in the realm of high culture the ‘dematerialization of the art object’ (Lippard & Chandler, 1968) as represented in the conceptualization of many artistic practices also points in a direction in which audience engagement by the means of an abstract experience is prioritized over the concrete master-ship of skilful object-making.
These samples are reason enough to ask what new angle an experience-oriented culture can bring to the traditional concepts of disciplines like art, craft and design. One immediate response could be the advocacy of ‘a convergence experience’ where multiple disciplines simply join into hybrid experiences. Disciplines such as architecture, theatre or dance – all of which are based on multi-sensoric experiences unfolding over time – could provide the conceptual blueprints for such endeavours, yet Experience Design as discipline in its own right would still need to articulate its position in relation to these and other academic and professional fields.
“Experience Design as a discipline is so new that its very definition is in flux”, wrote Nathan Shedroff in his introduction to Experience Design 1 (Shedroff, 2001). In the foreword of the 2011 edition of their book The Experience Economy – the original publication of which in 1999 had initially started off the Experience Design-discourse – Joseph Pine and James Gilmore lament their very similar observation: “Although the book [Experience Economy, 1999] has since been published in fifteen languages and purchased by more than three hundred thousand people worldwide, the book’s thesis has not sufficiently penetrated the minds of enough business leaders (and policy makers) to give bloom to a truly new – and desperately needed – economic order.” (Pine & Gilmore, 2011).
The MVA (Experience Design) takes on the challenge to develop its own hybrid studio practices and interdisciplinary research methodologies, looking beyond the traditional boundaries of art and design, into technology development, philosophical systems, economic theory, simple everyday life and more to relate the theory and practice of designing experiences to a coherent framework. The MVA (Experience Design) of AVA thus is at the forefront of academically and professionally developing a new, exciting and meaningful new Experience Design.
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