Pre experiences 

How can information and interaction design make our data more meaningful 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. Each of us has a quantifiable digital self, which grows each time we interact with a smart device, platform or interface. Without a meaningful context to use it in, our data remains invisible and unexplored.

How can information design transform it into something more useful to us as individuals?

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 different from a notification or alert?

Like a notification or alert, pre-experiences are triggered in real time. A pre-experience contains an optimal amount of information for a user to make decisions in a complex experience, outside of the interface on which the pre-eperience is served. The content of a pre-experience is tailored and personalized to the “IRL” context of the user, designed to encourage  them towards a larger goal.

The “IRL” context in which a user can benefit from a pre-experience would typically meet the following four criteria:

Above: In theory, pre-experiences expand the DIKW continuum by including action and feedback, paving the way for utilization of data.


Routine & Variation

This is a fairly routine event, that is influenced by naturally occuring variations in the user’s daily life, for instance, grocery shopping. Each occurence of such an event usually has different results. These events are often susceptible to impact from other events in the user’s day, while simultaneously influencing associated 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.
In Context:
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

In these events, users must repeatedly make a similar set of decisions, and act upon them. These decisions and actions cannot be automated, such as making value judgements and acting on them. However, these decisions offer users the opportunity to continuously improve or optimize their decisions, based on their goals and circumstances, without the need for 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.
In Context:
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.


Output & Influence

The end result of an event changes the circumstances of users. Users can create cycles of feedback between them and the platform delivering pre-experiences each time they act out decisions. Actions in the real world affect the overall “system state” of the user and the platform, which helps tune the pre-experience for the next instance of the event.

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.
In Context:
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

To sustain pre-experiences, the environment within which the event takes places must be data-rich - that is, multi-dimensional data is generated from the event, which can then be mapped to useful signals.

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.
In Context:
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, a concept for an intelligent finance management and budgeting application which uses 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