Feeling a Good Presentation

design thinking, HCI/d, Human-Computer Interaction, learning, philosophy, writing

I can feel a good presentation, and I can feel a crumby one.

I’ve been ginning up a presentation of a segment of a paper co-authored with my advisor, and there are some choice sections (of the presentation) where I’ve been able to pull in a few personal anecdotes to illustrate the points made in the paper. It feels great when I’m telling those stories. In a way, I’m reminded of why those stories mean so much to me when I tell them. In a way, I (re)experience the wonderment, self-satisfaction, or whatever my personal zeitgeist was when the story was under construction. Allow me to illustrate…

Part of this paper attempts to arrive at moral standards regulating right and wrong conduct as it pertains to a particular type of interaction design. The standard, or, perhaps more accurately, the imperative, is to enrich life. I’m paraphrasing, but bear with me. Our imperative is–in part–a reaction against the quantified self movement. We don’t deny the value of numbers when people are trying to change their attitudes or behaviors (heck, if I’m trying to be more productive, it’d sure be helpful to know how much time I spend scrolling around on the huffington post when I should be writing or brainstorming or daydreaming…) BUT, by and large, numbers are the dominant way we seem to be motivating change (e.g., look how few steps you took today! take more tomorrow … or … look how much time you spent trolling random blogs yesterday! cut that down by 10% tomorrow!) And the whole of experience is a complex mixture of numbers and everything else!

When I received a Fitbit Zip as a gift over the summer, it definitely got me out of the house, for a few weeks anyway, walking and jogging around the neighborhood. But it also got me to focus obsessively on my numbers (e.g., number of steps, calories burned, ounces of water quaffed) at the cost of other experiential qualities that–quite frankly–when it comes down to it are much more effective attitudinal/behavioral drivers. (Limited) personal experience tells me that there is–so far–no meaningful, effective way to motivate change by focusing on experiential qualities. I’m not suggesting here–nor do we suggest in our forthcoming paper–that we should focus exclusively on experiential qualities rather than numbers. Each informs the other. Here’s a cherry of a sentence to make that point:

Numbers enhance the appreciation of an experience enhances the appreciation of numbers.

To get back to my original purpose in writing this post, ahem, when I talk about my experience jogging around my neighborhood while wearing a Fitbit, I am transported to that moment. I see the sky. I feel–from a distance–the runner’s high. I remember when the cadence of my run matched the rhythm of the music in my headphones. It was bliss. Remembering it is less so, but still meaningful. And it makes me want to (re)experience those sensations. I know that this is going to be the best part of the presentation. Right now, the rest of it feels like I’m just presenting a paper and grasping at straws to make it interesting..

I’m lucky to have such problems.