Is my interactive perspective small?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with a large number of talented individuals lately on some new ventures. The projects range from new forms of public transportation, new space economy verticals, new bank models, and more. These things would never have traditionally been on my radar, and even if they were I would have looked at them and tried to solve them with my own interactive perspective. That’s my background and what I know how to do, but using that perspective would have resulted in the wrong strategies and less-than-ideal outcomes.
Why seek more perspectives?
Most interactive developers I know are multi-skilled. I think you have to be used to learning new skills that may be outside your comfort zone just to be able to keep up with new technology developments and techniques. The problem here is that we learn new skills from our direct peers and we learn about technologies that directly influence us. There’s a huge wealth of knowledge, processes, and skills that can be learned from other fields that will heighten your skills and abilities. Here’s a few examples of fields that influenced my perspective in a number of ways.
We take for granted that we can stand right beside our work. It’s such a nice thing! Sometimes we groan that it incurs extra cost to fly out a few people to stand beside it, but the option is always there when we think we need it. The same option is not available for space technology. A satellite or rocket or telescope that gets launched into space needs to work 100% of the time or hundreds of millions of dollars may have just gone to waste.
Think of it this way – when you’re watching a live stream from a rocket launch, and everyone looks a little tense and on the edge of their seat, remember that they’ve actually tested all the parts of that rocket continuously for many months and even years. All that testing and they’re still on edge. That’s a perspective so foreign to most of us.
We generally are told to get it done quick, try it a bit to make sure it works, let it burn in when it’s live, and be ready to remotely login to fix it afterwards. We all know that there are almost no situations where we didn’t have to remotely login to fix something, and remotely logging in sucks. Connections are never as fast as they need, you can’t see the whole output at once, and it’s a bit choppy. We should take on these new perspectives and shift some weight into testing and value reliability at launch.
Futures studies: foresight
Futures studies is the field of study concerned with forecasting possible futures (not a singular future and not predicting!) and figuring out strategies to make them possible through long-term planning. I didn’t know this field existed until a little while ago and there’s so much perspective to be gained here.
You can almost think of foresight as the other side of the same coin as reliability. Whereas reliability focuses on fleshing out the now and all the possible short term variations of the now, foresight looks farther down at the many possibilities that lie 5-20 years ahead.
We’ve all been guilty of installing something as a “permanent” installation knowing it probably won’t last more than a few years before it needs an overhaul. Is that really permanent? Who are we fooling? Is it a product of rapidly changing technology or something we do to slap a larger price tag on installations? These are questions you need to ask yourself.
This foresight perspective can be brought into play when design user experiences. How will users be working with technology in 5 years? Are there some aesthetics that will have more longevity compared to others in permanent installations?
Digital marketing: optimized narrative
I can honestly say before I met a digital marketer that I thought most online marketing was sleazy click bait headlines and sponsored content. The chance to work with one gave me a great insight not only into writing but the goals of writing and narrative online and in media. When push comes to shove, everything a digital marketer writes or designs needs to convert into sales. Elements that don’t convert into sales are replaced with new ones until an optimal path is found. This uninterrupted focus on conversions, leads, and sales in the digital marketing field is a great perspective to take away from.
We’re all too used to working with artistic processes that are riddled with indecision, blind decisions, or lack or direction. We spend months “iterating” when we’re really just trying to find something a little better because we couldn’t make a decision from the start. The focus that digital marketers bring to conversion can be translated into a focused and optimized narrative. What if every single thing that we did with interactive technology and media had to result in a narrative conversion or it was cut? Would we have bland experiences with very little content? Would we have experiences that were more impactful and cheaper to deploy? It could go in any direction but the myriad of options is worth the commitment I think.
I’ve always cringed when I see installations with too many things that go for too long and try to tell too many stories at once. It’s easy to fall into this trap. I’ve been there and done that. This focused and optimized perspective from digital marketing is worth taking on.
These are three examples of fields that are completely different from my regular echo chamber of running startups and working on interactive installations. They’ve really been greatly influential to me and helped me grow in all the things I do. It’s easy to think about expanding your horizon but just learning another programming language or tool in the same field. Go further. I put an open challenge out and would love to hear the results on Twitter (@for_i_in_me) or in the comments here about how far you can get away from your field while still learning things that are directly applicable to your work.