The metaphors we use online have always borrowed heavily from the offline world, but our online and offline worlds are now converging, and the biggest opportunities for innovative experiences will come from blending them intentionally.
We have existing metaphors online like “entrances and exits,” and “traffic,” and all sorts of other ideas borrowed from our offline environment. And often, as digital strategists, information architects, and user experience designers, we take those metaphors for granted rather than exploring what they suggest about the metaphorical space the user or constituent is occupying.
But as technologies emerge and digital sophistication increases, we will have expanding opportunities to use metaphors that are still novel for digital, like proximity, where a user’s experience changes in response to his or her surroundings and nearby resources, or even sensory cues like temperature and other bodily metrics that may indicate meaningful response.
Place makers in the physical world have long used sensory cues to establish certain associations for customers and visitors. In retail and tourism, these are common: think Whole Foods and their fine control of sensory cues that mean “freshness” in the produce department or Disney theme parks and their masterful multisensory marketing. But now technologies like wearables and 3D printing are rich with possibilities for both physical place makers as well as for the digital design of “place.”
In looking at this convergence, Kate O’Neill also examines the meaning of place and how our understanding of place relates to identity, culture, and intent and how we can influence our audiences and shape their experiences more meaningfully.
Kate O’Neill, founder and CEO of KO Insights, is a tech humanist and cultural strategist focused on meaningfulness in data, technology, business, and life overall. In 2009, Kate launched and grew [meta]marketer, a digital strategy and analytics firm, over a five-year period and significantly shaped the marketing analytics landscape. Prior to [meta]marketer, Kate’s experience included creating the first content management role at Netflix, leading cutting-edge online optimization work at Magazines.com, developing Toshiba America’s first intranet, building the first website at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and holding leadership positions in a variety of digital content and technology startups. Kate has been featured in CNN Money, Time, Forbes, USA Today, and other national media. She is the author of an upcoming book on meaningfulness in marketing. Kate is a vocal and visible advocate for women in technology, entrepreneurship, and leadership—she was featured in Google’s global campaign for women in entrepreneurship.
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