Experience-scapes

Hird & Kvistgaard wrote “Oplevelsesrum. Turisme, kulturarv og oplevelser – et krydsfelt” in 2010. Sadly, this book has never been translated into English but with permission from the authors, I will share a few of the main ideas from this excellent book with you.

Based on a phenomenological approach, Hird and Kvistgaard present their tool “Experience Matrices”, which combine Heritage, Tourism and Experiences into an Experience-scape. Heritage, the authors explain, provides the content,  experiences the means through which the intersecting experience-scape is sold in the marketplace: tourism.

As a method, Experience Matrices involve stakeholders in a process of rediscovering a particular area, destination or attraction with the intention of creating a set of values, characteristics and understandings for which these stakeholders have a high sense of ownership, so that those elements from the process are selected for which participants feel motivated and enthused.

The process starts with facilitators identifying the stakeholders to invite. This is based on a preconception of the site. Next, participants are given an understanding of the method, before they are invited to experience and interpret the area with brand new eyes, even in the case of a site which is very familiar to them. The observations collected are sorted and analysed by the facilitators, who end up with one or more sets of values, syntheses or representations of participants’ evaluation of sensory strengths of the site. These results are then fed back to stakeholders, while remaining very open to how these results are received. Questions are asked and answered, and ownership and enthusiasm are very important goals. Context and meaning,  part and the whole are constantly compared and adjusted, until alignment is reached, which ensures quality. Based on these final definitions, socially constructed and hermeneutically tested, the site is then strengthened through changes in content, focus, logistics and structure to best bring to life the identified values.

Experience Matrices use 5 categories to investigate the Experience-Scape in question. The 5th category has two different versions. Let us look at them.

Characteristics try to describe the physical space. Is it a modern or old place? Tidy or disorderly? What feelings and thoughts come to mind? What is unique.

You might have heard of the 4 Es of the experience realms by Pine and Gilmore. Or you might not. But this looks at the types of experience you can have here. Aesthetic, Escapist, Educational, Entertainment; and Excitement or Action. And included then the 5th E of Excitement or Action.

The 3rd area is your senses. What can you smell? Salt water or diesel oil? What can you feel? Wooden interpretation panels, concrete walls, the cold air of a wine cellar? And how is your gut feeling about the place? Eerie? Calm? Curious?

The 4th area looks at what stories are there: Why is this important to me? What stories are NOT told but could be? What connects people to this place? This is about the emotional connection to the location and about ways to make it relevant to other people, as well.

The first version of the 5th area is about music. Both the music that is composed, such as ‘This is a folk music place’ or ‘Arabic music comes out of all the shops here’. But it’s also about the music of the seagulls and the sea, or the sound of birds and waterfalls and the musical qualities of places – the rhythm of people, cars, movement – you get the idea?

The second version of the 5th area is about the economic potential. Is there a chance in this area of giving visitors more than they expected, to give them added value and, you know, those things which make them leave wonderful reviews on TripAdvisor etc. Also, is this a place where you could attract investors, and how would you do that? Who might see the opportunities here? How could we sell the area to them? And can this area cope with tourists? Are the experiences likely to be sustainable over time?

Something that might be negative at a first glance could perhaps be turned into something positive or distinctive about the place. Old disused factories have been turned into culture houses, and now new buildings are being built to fit in with the raw, naked, and possibly beautiful industrial heritage in some areas. A multi-cultural market is disorderly, sometimes a little scary for some – but that is part of the experience – the smells, the sounds, the chaos, the rhythm of people bargaining, moving, gesticulating.

The collected data to create a picture of the place to guide your development, your choice of marketing, your messages, your audiences – in close connection with the stakeholders who will be the driving forces long after facilitators, project managers and tourism planners have moved on to other jobs, other challenges and other destinations.

Trying to formulate a framework for Natural and Cultural Heritage Management

It’s not my job of course and I’m not even sure it’s possible for a student to do it, but it seems we are often uncertain what is the core elements of our programme, probably because it is multidisciplinary and also rather new. I had a few discussions with other students recently and some have been a little bewildered.

As I am at the same time trying to prepare myself for my Bachelor’s thesis, which I have to write in the spring, and this would involve a lot of thinking about our field, the philosophy of science, the methods and theories we use and the world view they represent.

I hope that these things might prove useful also to some of my fellow students.

Sprout

Testing Geotourism

For 4 months now, I have been working as a project secretary with the preparations for a Geopark as part of a team of volunteers and professionals, assisting with fundraising, publicity and dissemination, and after speaking to many Geopark administrations and explaining geotourism to many other people, I thought it was about time I ventured out into the world and did a bit of my own testing.

Geotourism is about the uniqueness of a place – its landscape, culture, nature, people and about exchange between hosts and guests, sustainability and respect.

I am going to stay with locals, walk a lot, visit the sites of geological and historical interest, sample the local food, visit small galleries and archives and I just can’t wait.

At the same time, I am going to try to get some good pictures of dissemination methods, see how their nature interpreters do their job, and hopefully, I will have a chance to speak to them about their thoughts as well. I am also interested in figuring out how much the locals are aware of the Geopark I am visiting (possibly I will visit two) and how they feel about it.

In the Geopark we are creating, volunteers play a great role and the Geopark has a good deal of local support, but I have been told this isn’t the case everywhere, so I am curious…

Now just have a few bits of work to get sorted before I can go – some translations and consultancy stuff to pay the bills. Interesting stuff as well, but that’s for another time

The Relief

First day today at U-CrAc and it’s quite a challenge because we are so many different professions involved. Some are very used to design processes and doing very abstract work in the beginning of the process, others are more used to having to provide feasible solutions within budget and closely relating to existing problems.

It seems our case deals with voids. Or maybe rather a relief – things that stand out on a background which can seem like a blur. We need to carve away the bits that are not essential and deal with many influencing forces – groups and their interests, conflicting levels of engagement and maybe there is an irony in the task – that to the untrained eye, the area we are going to promote is barely noticable, and the biodiversity of the area is very low – but very distinct – if you know what you are looking for. Which no one seems to do, so we have to make them some glasses, provide a filter.

We have been asked to do an app but it seems the main communication need is to create this relief function as well as provide a medium which is flexible enough to buffer around changes in the business landscape that we need to somehow promote on the background of this nature area.

Maybe the idea of a relief will last for a few hours – it’s helping me think about the problem anyway. See what the rest of my group say tomorrow. It’s certainly an interesting project.

I need to see if I can get them to explain how they think abstract thoughts, though, as they seem to think I am too concrete thinking. I’d like to understand where they stand – if they can verbalise it.

U-CrAc

Copyright U-CrAc – Maybe we get one that says 2014?

From next week, I will be doing a 3 week workshop on User-Driven Innovation together with other degrees. We will be working to provide solutions to problems presented to us by companies through cases, and we will be meeting with them to model something that they can use.

Fieldwork – documenting customer journeys, interviewing and observing, before moving onto ideation, bouncing ideas off the company representative and each other across several fields, and developing concepts which will be presented to the company and 300 people on the final day.

I think it will be great. And a little bit daunting. But I think it should be.

U-CrAc Concepts – Videos

Creating Unique Experiences

Not too many years ago, it was a struggle for most people to get their basic needs met. My dad, for instance, started working on the neighbouring farm when he was 6, in return for 2 meals a day – oatmeal, potatoes – simple things to fill your stomach. His parents did not have the money, nor the forethought, to care for him among many other siblings. His children, however, have had all that they needed, and we, like most of our generation are not concerned with the basic needs, or the simple foods. No, we have had access to it all just like most people in our generation in this part of the world.  

Thus, when we want to do something special, we look for things which are different, unique, things which have an air of exclusivity. We look for experiences shared, not with everyone else, but with a select group based on our interests and our identity. Maybe we keep it to ourselves until after the fact and then post pictures on social media as support for our persona, the face we show the world. In the Western world, goods and services are commoditised at an ever increasing rate and at the same time, we wish to stand out from the crowd, we want to feel special. 

Indeed, as Pine and Gilmore have explained, we have gone from commodities and goods (the economy of things) over services (the economy of actions) to now experiences and transformation (the economy of meaning). That means that for the most part, the steps up until the economy of meaning are taken for granted. 

Model of Experience Economy

From Commodity to Transformation

In order for experiences to appeal to people in this situation, when designing experiences it should be considered what can make this experience unique. In most cases, it won’t be possible to make a brand new category of experience. Most fall into categories such as meals, travel, music, culture, nature and so forth and probably that is how it will largely stay, so if you as a business want to make money by creating something exclusive, something unique, you have to identify some areas which could make your product stand out from the rest of them. 

An obvious example often used as an example is the location: You offer people a coffee, not only served hot in a beautiful cup, by pleasant staff, but you offer it in the Eiffel tower and as such, you’re offering something which people can only buy from you. The experience of eating an Italian pizza in Italy is more unique than eating it in London, probably. A potter around where I live, incorporates local seaweed and other plant material into his work – you can’t get that anywhere else. 

Another aspect could be time – your event only takes place once a year, or once ever. Miss it and well, you’ve missed it. The experience of fishing mackerel around where I am from is unique as well. Under certain circumstances, mackerel will come very close to the coast. When they do, you can catch them very easily and it’s a right mayhem of people landing mackerel by the bucket load and it’s quite strange to witness (or take part in). But if the weather is not right, there will be no such event, regardless what we might have had in mind. 

But there are other aspects to consider when you wish to make your product unique, such as the social setting it occurs in, whether it can keep providing new experiences for people visiting more than once, and whether to allow co-creation. And much more. 

What makes the things you work with unique?

Effect Monitoring in the Experience Economy

I’ve just read a book about effect monitoring in the experience economy – it was quite interesting and provided some good models for estimating the effects, not only economical effects but also cultural effects in the short, medium and long term on a participant and societal level.

I don’t have any doubt that cultural and experience projects work. I think we all know they do. The problem comes when we try to talk about it in a causal way – there are too many confounding variables and we simply can’t guesstimate exactly, nor can we compare apples to pears, quantitative and qualitative values. What’s worth more – meaning or better conditions in a field? Hard to tell, huh.

Of course, just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. At the same time though, if we want ROI for things to be worth it, then we certainly do need to have a greater range of returns, more ways to succeed. Because we probably will not make the cash investment back in most areas here.

If we expect that, then we have a problem. If we expect to make societies where people experience meaning, relate, where businesses are creative, innovative, networking – yeah, then maybe it adds up.

I would like such a society. I believe I already live in one but you can never have too much happy!

It’s just when we start trying to measure it, we expect a bottonline. And even for me, who is all about psychology and sociology and aesthetics, it’s difficult to accept the limiting idea of ‘measurements’ and then also not have the result of ‘facts’. I would personally prefer to do things along the lines of ‘Do the right thing and let go of the result’.

Some things, like nature, love, friendships, favours, faith – which all matter to most of us – actually lose value when we try to capture them in words. In a sense, maybe we should just enjoy and get on with it. Definitions by definition limit perspectives.

Hmm. Just pondering.