OK, how may of you have ever even heard of Shintaido? None of you? Yup, that seems about normal. If you want to find out more about it, google is obviously your friend – or if not your friend, at least your tolerated acquaintance who you can’t not invite to events of importance. You can find out about Shintaido by reading up on shintaido,co,uk or even shintaido.org.
Why I am mentioning a little-known, barely practised non-martial art on what is supposed to be a blog about user experience? Well, I went to the fortieth birthday celebrations of Shintaido in Great Britain this weekend, and realised that I hadn’t written much about experience.
We talk about experience as if it was all the same thing. There is the sensory experience – visual response, haptic feedback, aural stimulation etc. etc. but we don’t really use experience in the old way, in the sense of getting of wisdom. We don’t talk about the experienced user as the concomitant of user experience. Someone with experience might be someone who knows better than to pursue a path to the end. The experienced user might now when it is best not to bother. When we talk about dealing with the elderly, we are willing to consider their motor skills, their eyesight, or their cultural background, but we don’t value the experience that may help them make the decision not to do what we are asking of them.
Shintaido is about changing your experience of life. It’s not an easy thing today, you don’t particularly get transferable skills from it; although there are moments of pleasure, they are embedded in moments of severe embarrassment and occasional pain. You may make friends, but you may also meet people who you like and then never see again. In other words, it is like life, compressed into a weekend. You hope it has a purpose, but there isn’t an obvious one. In that, it is unlike most other pastimes.
If we are offering users experience, is it something they want to have? Often what we are offering is to make the drive to the supermarket or pleasurable, or faster. We talk about peak experiences as things that you can guarantee, without giving due consideration to the fact that people might arrive at the waterfall in tears, or with cancer, or too busy kissing to look at the view.
I honour the fact that most user experience professionals want to help people live their life. After a weekend of struggling with Shintaido, I would like to occasionally find a way of helping people make sure their life is worth living.