How might applications of information and interaction design make personal repositories of data more meaningful to us in our daily lives?

A pre-experience is an ephemeral and situated information experience that offers actionable knowledge to help users make better decisions in a larger, transactional experience. A pre-experience is preparatory in nature, supporting the “reframing” of a personal experience to make it more responsive to ever-changing human contexts.

What is a pre-experience? 

Each day, the world produces 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, most of which has been supposedly created in past two years. We each have a quantifiable digital self that grows as we generate and consume vast amounts of data. Without a guiding context, the data remains an invisible repository, waiting to be explored and transformed into something more useful. How might we do that?

Pre-experiences are a theoretical model for presenting actionable knowledge in a timely and contextual manner derived from a user’s data. Using this model, designers can identify meaningful touchpoints in mundane scenarios in which users must process complex information from the real world to make decisions towards self-defined goals, for instance, staying within budget at the grocery store.

A dedicated pre-experience can assist users in navigating complex information experiences that typically overlay daily experiences without forfeiting agency and control in decision-making.

What makes a pre-experience unique and different from a notification or alert?

Conceptually, pre-experiences extend the understanding continuum to include action and feedback, thereby including data-derived learning.

Pre-experiences present an optimum amount of information needed by a user to make multiple decisions in a complex experience while keeping course towards a larger goal. Generated in real-time, the information delivered in a pre-experience is highly personalized to the user and their context for the sole purpose of aiding decision-making in the immediate future. A scenario in which a user can benefit from a pre-experience would typically meet the following four criteria:


& Variation

The scenario is a repeating event that is influenced by the user’s daily life and context, with different results at each instance of it. Such scenarios are often connected to other life events.
Each pre-experience is tailored to individual users and resources available to them at that point in time. Content is updated with detected change in the user’s personal, social and environmental contexts.
The message of a pre-experience is minimal, clear, and digestible-at-a-glance. Responsive and optimized content speaks neutrally to the user’s value system, so they feel the ownership to their decisions and the benefits they experience.
Scenario: Grocery Shopping

Sources of variation in grocery shopping can come from the products that users need to purchase per visit, or a visit to an alternate store with different prices. Other factors that influence such a scenario could range from available cash to a hosting a dinner on thanksgiving. Despite these variations, users must routinely go grocery shopping.

A financial pre-experience would change each time based on the shopping list or the location at which users are shopping.


Decisive Action
& Continuous Improvement

The scenario involves users repeatedly making a similar set of decisions and act upon them at their own discretion. These decisions and actions cannot be automated and users can continuously improve or optimize their decisions in response to changing contexts without any external regulation.
Pre-experiences are timed to precede experiences so users can utilize actionable knowledge from their own data in decision making. PEs enable affordances of an experience that work with the user’s motivations. Users focus on engaging with the experience, independently making decisions while being aware of critical information that affect the output of the experience. The assimilation of actionable knowledge in an experience provides grounds for hands-on learning.
Scenario: Grocery Shopping

While the end goal (purchase all items on the shopping list) is fixed, a user could be optimizing for healthier food choices or increased savings, each time they decide between competing products.

If the user were optimizing for savings, then a pre-experience would constitute a budget customized to that specific grocery run; this number could then assist users in approximating the total cost when deciding optimal products to purchase.


& Influence

The result of the scenario impacts on the user’s daily life. Each time a user makes decisions in aligment with their goals, they have made a set of trade-offs that create cycles of positive feedback. This affects the overall “system state” of the user, to which the next instance of the scenario recursively responds to.
Pre-experiences encourage users to discover and try new behaviors in repeating events, that respond to the immediate context without upsetting the larger picture. This builds resilient behaviors in a variable experience. As an affinity for a particular iteration of behavior grows, self-incentivized habits biased towards positive deviance are formed.
Scenario: Grocery Shopping

A example of trade-offs a user makes when shopping for groceries is money spent vs quality vs quantity. Each of these have a direct impact on the user’s life, and can influence the decisions they make the next time they go grocery shopping.


Data Streams
& Information Environments

The environment in which the scenario occurs should involve streams of multi-dimensional data that can be mapped to useful signals. In order to be truly connected and useful, data should be relationally networked to a centralized, contextualizing actor; the user by way of a platform.
To derive good and healthy actionable knowledge from personal data, the algorithm that creates a pre-experience must rely on multiple signals. Actionable knowledge or knowledge that can be ‘acted upon’, is created from the convergence of multiple streams of data, enabled by the internet of things and a personal family of devices that have permissions and features that support tasks related to the premise for the pre-experience.
Scenario: Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping creates a variety of digital artefacts, some that are incredibly private and must be treated accordingly. For a pre-experience that focuses on savings or maintaining budgets, tasks and shopping lists and prior reciepts from grocery stores are digital artefacts of importance. Personal and protected information streams in this case would include budgeting apps, location tracking services, and spending data.

Explore Monitor, an intelligent financial and budgeting application that demonstrates the use of pre-experiences.

This thesis was submitted to Northeastern University, Boston, MA in May 2016 towards the Master in Fine Arts in Information Design & Visualization program. Read the complete thesis as a PDF or a poster.

Mahima Pushkarna