People, objects, and context are connected—they exchange information, physical materials, and other matters. Interconnections are the materials that flow between actors in an experience design scene. They can be real, physical flows such as people moving through the turnstiles before a baseball game at Wrigley Field. Many interconnections are flows of information—signals that go to decision points or action points within a system (Meadows, 2008). For example, an approaching severe storm on the horizon (context) can make a family (people) decide to quickly retreat to a storm shelter (object) to wait out the storm. In this example, both information and people flowed. The information gained from observing the storm triggered a decision to be made and caused the family to move to safety. Actors in experience design scenes are not isolated. When designers examine interconnections between actors, they have a clearer idea of how actors work together and how conditions cause actions.
Wi-fi at a Library: Data flows through the air, emitted from a wi-fi base station. Wi-fi bandwidth and signal strength affect the experience. If the wi-fi goes down or the signal is lost, trust in the library’s service may suffer.
Researching interconnections gives designers a clearer understanding of the interplay between actors in experience design scenes. This research reveals dependencies. For example, people who work in offices located on the west side of a building in summer depend on the flow of air-conditioned air to stay comfortable. When designers study interrelationships, they can create products, services, and systems that account for ways information or physical materials flow in different contexts. These interplays between actors in experience design scenes can sometimes be diverted and controlled using design outcomes, and sometimes they are beyond control, and reducing their effects is the only achievable goal. Through research, designers can identify interconnections that can drastically shape how and what to design.
Questions to Ask About Interconnections
- In what ways are actors in this setting connected to one another?
- What slows from one actor to another?
- How does one actor depend on another in this scene?
- If the flow between these actors were halted, what would happen?
Look for These When Researching Interconnections
- Cause and effect
- When one actor does not function because its interconnection does not flow properly