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Mapping Experience

Everybody is talking about user experience design, but what experience actually means? And how can we as designers address and work with it? This presentation will bring together the theories that study the nature of human experience along with the techniques and technologies that could be used by designers to address experience in their design processes and products.

Experience is what we do and what we feel, together in a flow. It corresponds to the relational domain between, for example, taking a bath in the sea and the thoughts, sensations and emotions that are triggered when we do it.

We propose a specific implementation called: Mapping Experiences. This system generates a rich descriptive visual map of what we do and what we feel by matching user’s movement in space, user’s physiological measurements, and users ‘introspective and reflexive descriptions. This system can be used by designers to analyze, shape/play and evaluate the material and content of human experience.


  1. This session will explain human experience from a biological and philosophical perspective in order to have a strong theoretical ground for a pragmatic application in design. In specific, I will describe human experience from Neurophenomenology that bridges embodied neuroscience, phenomenology and Buddhist traditions.
  2. This session will discuss the relationships between behavior, physiological change and phenomena. Behavior corresponds to the actions (movements, bodily postures and gestures). Physiological change corresponds to modification of biochemical functions of the body and the nervous system (skin conductance, temperature, neural activity, heart and breathe rate). Phenomena correspond to what is going on in the person from within (thoughts, sensations and emotions).
  3. This session will show the techniques to access, examine, express and validate the content of experience. These techniques are called First-person Methods and they combine introspection and Buddhist meditation with a social structure to be able to express, share and compare the observations. I claim these techniques can be used by designers to address human experience explicitly in their creative processes and products.
  4. This session will demonstrate how experience can be included during the different phases of the design, including analysis, conception and development. I have developed a system called Mapping Experiences which can be used by designers to study experiences as context, to play with experiences during their creative process, and to evaluate the users’ experience of their final products.
  5. This session will discuss the ethical implications of addressing human experience in design. The objective of Mapping Experience is to empower designers, extending their traditional techniques (ethnography studies, brainstorming, sketching, and prototyping) to the domain of experience. However, this objective has ethical implications for designers as professionals that should design products for the wellbeing of the users, ultimately contributing to culture and society.



Daniel Rosenberg, designer, MIT

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