About Alibis

… Alibis for Interaction?

The paradigm has already shifted. In contemporary art, local democracy, destination management, game design, the theatre, music festivals, theme parks, the conference industry, in marketing, in faith communities, in group facilitation and in creative consultancies we all know that audiences are turning into participants and consumers into co-creators.

We who work in these fields are faced with a challenge: people may want participation and engaging experiences, but individually they’re still human, and shy about trying new things. Allowing for participation is clearly not enough. We need to encourage it, enable it, create social spaces for new behaviours – whether talking to strangers, brainstorming in groups, dancing in public, reacting with emotion, exploring a space, or a product, or a story. 

Designing for participation is giving the participants alibis for interaction. Designing for participation is designing experiences that take into account that humans have bodies, senses, fears, motivations; social hierarchies, prior knowledge, expectations, curiosity, and an innate urge to find out how the story ends. That we need to understand what we’re expected to do, to feel safe trying, to trust in the reward for braving something new.

 An alibi might be a role, a rule, a narrative, a game, a mask, an instruction, an introduction. It’s the excuse you give yourself or others for why the behaviour you’d like to try is OK to explore. It creates an affordance. We could have called this conference Affordances for Interaction but that just doesn’t carry the same exciting connotations of derring-do, nor of the bearing of witness to each others’ lives.

Some affordance-makers aren’t social at all. Sometimes it’s about building environments that people will want to linger in, situations that tickle our curiosity but don’t stress us out. Quite often it is about stories, about narratives we have to see through to the end, because we care about someone in the story and that person may be us.

We feel that experience design should be an industry, with shared tools and terminologies. We understand that “interaction alibi” will be a core concept in this new field. But it’s all work in progress. That’s why we’d like to hear from you, to be in a conversation. One great place to start is our masterclass in Sweden in October, now in its third year. A faster way is to like us on Facebook or comment on the blog. An introduction to the very fundamentals of our thinking is in the video below.

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