Interestingly the paper draws together strands of thought from theatre, marketing, economics and a number of other areas. Mclellan talks about how "we" are moving from a service economy to an experience economy as exemplified by organizations such as Disney. Although given the recent economic downtown I start to wonder whether much of economics is illusory :-) I think Mclellan's point is about the importance of companies focusing on the all round experience they create for their customers, but it sits oddly against opinion pieces I have read about how Disney's concept of flying people round the world to experience theme-parks is something we need to move away from given current environmental pressures. Of course that shouldn't really undermine the general point about how important customer experience is, but when Mclellan quotes Wolf (1999) as saying:
that all businesses (even banks and supermarkets) will increasingly need to be entertaining to thriveI can't help but feel that in banks the focus on customer experience in the last few years may have been at the expense on focusing on making sure the core business is sound. Anyhow, I am being tough on a paper written in 2000 that also points out that customer experience is no substitute for underlying quality.
I am often tempted to be skeptical of papers talking about design concepts but the experience realms diagram adapted from Pine and Gilmore (1999) made some sense to me (see figure above). I am often struck in the difference between active and passive participation in media - characterized by my nightly decisions between playing computer games and watching internet tv. Not sure about their absorption-immersion dimension, but either way apparently any activity can flit between the four categories created by these two dimensions (Entertainment, Esthetic, Educational, Escapist) and I start to feel that the importance of conceptual frameworks like this is not necessarily their perfect mapping to everyone's experience of reality, but the extent to which they help you step outside your usual flow to consider alternate options.
Talking of flow, there is apparently a link between Pine and Gilmore's model and Csikszentmihalyi's (1991, 1997) concept of flow; that strange almost loss of self that one can achieve when really involved in doing something. I connect that with the suspension of belief in novels and stories (see my previous post) and interestingly Mclellan goes on to describe the importance of stories in designing experiences. Apparently AI expert Roger Schank (1991, 1995) theorizes that human thinking depends a great deal on storytelling and story understanding. It makes me start to think about the relationship between stories and memory; and the extent to which information embedded in a knowledge framework gets remembered longer.
From stories Mclellan goes on to talk about drama and theatre and there is a quote from Canadian writer Robertson Davies (1989), who talks about how theatre is an interactive process between actors and audience and can achieve something that tv and movies cannot. I had very similar thoughts when I was involved in the theatre; there was no guarantee that this virtuous cycle of audience reaction stimulating acting prowess and vice versa would necessarily happen, and indeed it seemed to be the exception rather than the norm. However the fact that it could happen was what gave the theatre something solitary use media could never achieve.
A couple of sections of the paper seemed pretty trite to me, i.e. those regarding experience design at the interface, and persuasive technologies; but since those are more my field I guess it is natural that they would seem a little shallow, and I guess in 2000 there might well have been some people who thought that interface design was a doddle - I guess there still are. Anyhow, there were lots of stimulating ideas in this paper; a final example of which was the "third place" concept, of social spaces separate from home and work where individuals could have community interactions.
However I think the interactive drama, passive storytelling dialectic? conflict? paradox? is the key thing here. Why is it so difficult to create an interactive system that is as compelling as some passively-received stories. It is certainly not simple to make engaging stories in passive media (books, tv, film), but the good ones really do grab you and hold you in their world. It is very rare that I can get similarly immersed in an interactive experience - should we be trying for that? Does education only really happen in the interactive mode? Am I learning something about human dynamics from watching Lost? Would I be learning more if I was interacting more with a group of individuals in Second Life? Interactive games generally seem shallow because of the lack of deep human interaction. Most media I find engaging involves stories with deep human interaction. Is the expectation of being interactive versus being passive key? In the 'choose your own adventure' books the suspension of disbelief was often broken by being forced from one mode to another ... can we really sculpt a genuinely satisfying, entertaining educational experience in Second Life? Makes me think about the learning benefits of observing others negotiating meaning (Newton, 1995). I wonder if anyone is putting on theatrical performances in Second Life? Makes me think of the Arthurian quests run by the British Council in teen Second Life.
A good story grabs you through suspension of disbelief which then gives it power to make you think rather than focus on the inconsistencies that break the suspension. One can imagine creating a computer game like experience in Second Life, such as an Arthurian quest, with scripted agents to play roles of different characters, but the human interaction would be rather shallow. I guess that what a virtual world like second life may offer is the ability to create an experience somewhat like that of the actor troupe in Neal Stephenson's the Diamond Age. A couple of teaching assistants could play multiple different roles. I guess I'm imagining a bounded area within which to have a quest that multiple 'learners' would participate in. Except that people could assume different characters so maybe one wouldn't be sure who was who. Maybe that's not so important. I guess the roleplay aspect of it might be the most interesting. We saw some of that in an online language learning class. I guess the trick is to structure the space appropriately, work out the pedagogical goals. Something like the ecological detective stories I saw at AIED would be really interesting in Second Life given that different characters could easily be played by real people .... Can't find the reference to the detective story thing, but other examples of role play from that field are Johnson (2007) and work at North Carolina State. Challenge in Second Life is that there is not much in the way of facial animation - these last two examples are focused on interaction and emotion. Might more easily create detective story environments in SL - populating them with real interesting people perhaps more of a resource challenge ... (could be paying people to be SL actors?)
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