Information and Experience (2)

There is a continuum between information and experience.  You experience when you are immersed in an environment and can use your sensors to feel or experience the environment.  On the other extreme is purely abstract information where you are given a symbol corresponding to the immersive experience.  In between there are many variations in which one could experience partially and gain information.  Thus, a typewritten note to you from your special friend stating that everything is OK is at one extreme, and being with the person is the other extreme.  In between are things like a nice detailed letter, telephone call, a photograph, a video message, and a live video chat.

In information centric environment the emphasis is on capturing essential aspects of situation and use them to communicate.  In several cases, like in information theory, the major emphasis is on minimizing the amount of resources to represent the situation.  On the other end, in an experiential environment, the emphasis is to use appropriate amount of resources to provide a compelling “better than being there” experience to a user.  The emphasis is on providing a high quality experience using appropriate sensory data and presentation mechanisms.  One sees efforts in this direction in some of the three-dimensional and realistic movies like the one presented in Epcot center and such places.  Here they use multiple senses to create a realistic experience.

There is an interesting this in the relationship between information and experience.  There is no conflict between them.  In fact there is strong synergy between them.  Information environments are used when either technology dictates that or the resources dictate that.  A very simple but interesting example of this is the move from black and white photography (and TV) to color.  In the early days, people argued that black and white has all the information so who needs color.  I remember somebody arguing in early days of use of color images in digital image processing that color is useful only for food and sex and digital imaging usually does not concern with either so why bother.  The modern generation of kids consider black and white to be a special limited case of color.  Though black and white provides most of the information, color adds strong experiential component.  

We hear similar arguments in several areas of computing now.  People argue that in most applications, information is what is required – nobody really cares for multimedia (experience).  A few years from now, people will wonder how did we ever live in the world without sensory experience and knowledge.

Information can augment experiential data – sensory data – and create more compelling experiences.  Information has this enormous ability to add a lot to people’s imagination with very few resources.  This is the basis of augmented reality.  A good example of that is the use of special markers – like the first down line marker on American Football field in broadcast TV – in sports and other TV and other environments.

When implementing search, browsing, or exploration environments, one will have to rely more on informational data to get in the “ball park” and then use approaches to deal with experiential data.  Experiential data by nature is more time consuming for people to browse through and hence needs more efficient search and navigation tools.  Also, almost in all cases, one associates informational data with the experiential data.

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