Memories, experience, knowledge. Each of these linger in our minds. They are also what you and I look for on Facebook, to find out what our friends have been up too, to witness what will become their memories.
But we live in a world that is more than just memories, experience and knowledge. We live in a world full of stuff. And stuff sometimes gets in the way.
Too much stuff
Have you ever had a moment when you know you own a specific item but cannot find it amongst the clutter in your house or on your desk. Or despite having a wardrobe full of clothing, you find you have nothing to wear?
James Wallman, journalist and trend forecaster, has written a book entitled Stuffocation – Living More with Less. He relates how materialism and conspicuous consumption emerged during the latter part of the 20th century and how now, in the early 21st century, some of us have reached saturation point, where having too many possessions is proving to be stressful. His book is about what can be done to address this in order to live a happier, more fulfilled life.
He believes that people should focus on having ‘experiences’. This is not experience in the sense of a long list for your LinkedIn profile. In this context, an experience is one that “engages in an emotional, physical, intellectual or even spiritual level.” (Pine and Gilmore ‘The Experience Economy’).
He is calling for ‘the rise of the experientialists’. He is not alone in this. Kevin Kelly, a founder of ‘Wired’ magazine and another trend forecaster, has also identified having experiences as the way forward. In Kelly’s case, he points out that in the future, machines will be using artificial intelligence (AI), offering the opportunity for people to focus on the things that AI cannot do, that is, to have experiences.
Wallman predicts that in the future whenever we have a choice, we will choose experiences over material goods. This is because experiences provide us with memories that we carry with us.
The flow of knowledge
Wallman cites businesses that have moved into the experiential market. Apple is a good example, with its products and stores. In the entertainment field, Secret Cinema offers an immersive experience in addition to seeing a movie. (For more examples like this, see the video clips at Experience Design in practice).
On a more immediate level, Wallman sees us as individuals establishing better connections with more people and creating better communities.
As the Knowledge Maverick, I’ve written about how I used the experiential approach in the workplace (see Experience Design for Knowledge-Sharing).
Wallman writes about the day his grandfather died. That day he had lunch with his father and grandfather, and on parting his grandfather handed him a note on which was written
‘memories live longer than dreams‘.
Wallman has wondered ever since, did his grandfather know he was going to die that day? His passing, which happened within hours, was unexpected.
While the handwritten message could be interpreted in different ways, Wallman used it to inspire his book and has chosen to believe that while material dreams have their place, life is made up of memories, which come from experiences.
So, are you a materialist or are you an experientialist?