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 so users make better decisions in a larger, transactional experience. A pre-experience is preparatory. They “reframe” personal experiences to be 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, product 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 messages sent to users. The difference is that rather than an update, a pre-experience gives users the optimal amount of information needed to make a series of decisions. These decisions are made in larger, complex experiences, rather than a product surface or device. 

The content of a pre-experience is tailored and personalized to the “IRL” context of the user to encourage them towards a pre-determined goal or aspiration they have set - such as saving money, managing a chronic condition, etc.

The “IRL” context or event in which a user  benefits from a pre-experience typically meets the 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

A fairly routine event, such as grocery shopping, which is influenced by natural variations in the user’s daily life.

Each occurence of the event usually has different constraints and outcomes. These events are susceptible to impact from other events in the day, and conversely, can impact other events and contexts.

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

An event in which users must repeatedly make a set of decisions and act upon them.

These decision-action pairs cannot be automated – they require making value judgements. However, each decision offers an opportunity to continuously improve or optimize towards a goal, 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 outcome(s) from an event affect the circumstances of users.

Cycles of feedback between users, events and pre-experiences are created each time users act on decisions. Actions in the real world affect the overall “system state” of the user and the platform, which tune pre-experiences for the next such 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

The environment of the event must be connected and produce rich, useful data.

Events should generate multi-dimensional data which can then be mapped to useful signals used to tune and deliver pre-experiences.

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