Mental Models for Human Experience
Understanding Human Values, Perceptions, and Behaviours
In User Experience (UX) design, a common approach to empathy research involves the persona as a design artefact to define the archetype for the end user of a product design. The problem with this form of generalization is that such stereotypes and abstractions distance designers from reality, perpetuating the problem at the core of the design industry. The categorization of people is based on statistical averages derived from a reductionist approach to understanding human behaviour. The media environment is a social construction that has been manufactured by a dominant elite to form relationships between corporations, governments, and other social institutions with large populations of citizens, markets, consumers, and users. Categories are founded upon racist, patriarchal, and hierarchical conceptions of human civilization that places each individual on a scale of value, based on race, gender, creed, class, status, and power. Ultimately, personas reinforce a colonial, capitalist perspective that dehumanizes people as little more than users of products for corporate profit.
How, then, can we begin to map the human experience? How we can design mental habits, social systems, and physical environments for resilience and symbiosis with the living processes and ecology that are the foundation of our biological support systems?
To better understand our materials as experience designers, we need more holistic mental models of the human experience, as a way to understand what we are designing for.
The design profession is currently facing a reckoning, similar to the revolutions in our understanding of class, race, gender, and religion. The 1700-year-old project of cultural imperialism that originated with the Roman Emperor Constantine and the integration of church and state finds its realization in the social, political, and economic institutions that have created monolithic monopolies of global power.
The unintended consequences of the tools that we have designed to shape our environment are the weaponizing of those tools as the means for controlling and manipulating populations, protecting access to scarce resources, and eliminating threats to religious, national, and corporate prosperity and security.
Story 1: Collaboration
What we have learned from microbiological evolution, from scientists such as Lynn Margulis, and from the practices of Indigenous peoples, is that collaboration and cooperation are foundational to the successful adaptation and survival of networks of complex and diverse forms of life.
Story 2: Competition
The primitive limbic systems in our brains are designed to trigger the fight or flight response as a matter of survival in a world of physical threats. Senses are attuned to dangers in the environment and events perceived as threats will automatically trigger a physical and biological response of increased heart rate, a release of adrenalin, and a heightened state of awareness, along with emotions of anxiety, fear, and panic.
When this intellectual, emotional, and physical state of anxiety is prolonged, we call this stress. People who live in this constant state of fear and scarcity will tend to engage in behaviours that are focused on survival and self-preservation. This interpretation of constant threat leads to isolation and aggression, as members of a group engage in a competition for scarce resources and demonstrations of strength and dominance to control the group, protect resources, and destroy enemies. However, such isolation and aggression has a tendency to undermine the survival of the group.
A condensed version of the original concept to explore and validate assumptions regarding an understanding of human values, perceptions, and behaviours.
During the Design Science Salon: Dissolve & Bloom, Stephen Bau hosted a workshop exploring a speculative design for a tool to understand perceptions, motivations, and behaviours. The workshop builds on concepts explored in two articles published to Medium in December 2019.
This Miro board was created as a virtual museum for the Agora during the Design Science Studio salons in December 2020 and March 2021. It was conceived as a Neo Bauhaus, a vision for a design movement that draws inspiration from the Bauhaus school that launched in April 1919 in Weimar, Germany in response to the challenge of creating a pedagogy and a design process for building the modern world through creative experimentation in the midst of multiple systemic crises from the personal to the biological, social, economic, political, and ecological. The school was moved to Dessau, where the Bauhaus building designed by Walter Gropius became a prototype of the International Style of architecture. When the Dessau school was closed by the Nazis, the school moved to Berlin, but was again closed by the Nazis in 1933.
Now, just over 100 years after the initial experiments of the Bauhaus, we again find ourselves in multiple systemic crises. Design has evolved from a focus on physical artefacts to a digitally networked technological environment that has shifted our attention to building the dominant global social, economic, and political system, where democracies are being threatened by the authoritarian power of governments and corporations. Design has evolved from physical artefacts to living systems.
This is a shift from physical design to metaphysical design, the qualitative experience of being human that transcends the limits of scientific reductionism and industrial production. Humans are becoming more aware and mindful of the world of experience that transcends quantitative analysis and empirical data. Humans are realizing a shift toward the integration of the quantitative and the qualitative, the objective and the subjective, the rational and the emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual.
The Mental Models for Human Experience help us to understand values, perceptions, and behaviours as social systems that extend human agency in the form of technologies as the digital and physical infrastructures and architectures of human civilization. Depending on the core values and metanarratives of the social system, we can drive human behaviour toward entropy or syntropy. In the story of competition, the core values are based on fear, scarcity, and dominance as human beings increase and accelerate entropy: division, death, decay, and disintegration. In the story of collaboration, the core values are love, abundance, and creativity as human beings nurture and steward syntropy: unity, life, reproduction, and integration.
In this video, I walk through a model of cosmological, physical, chemical, biological, cultural, and metaphysical evolution that conceives of the universe as a holobiont that connects quantum physics to transcendent metaphysics. Time, energy, and matter are the medium for an iterative process of creative innovation as living beings explore how we imagine, design, and build the future together, in a search for belonging, purpose, and meaning that is realized through faith, hope, and love.
I've read, and understood the problem, and train of thought describing causal structure, however, I had found no explicit method here prescribed how to use the thought described to resolve this problem. Where is the "how?" of this idea?
So, after some investigation into it, I am starting to realize that you are trying to model human mind, inner motives and their structure.
So, ok. This is fine to consider this an idea. It might best fit among the kind of ideas that describe novel categorization structures for understanding (e.g., like supercategories for public intelligence idea, or transdisciplinary lingua franca). However, it would be good if you could explicitly describe, how that structure solves the problem of UX design, or allows to overcome its pitfalls.
How would one use it to create a more inclusive, value-aligned, holistically better design?
Or maybe, it is not about design? Maybe it is a structure as a philosophy of life? Ideas on "oo" are supposed to be methods, and it's most helpful when you describe, how ultimately they could work as leverage to change the world.
In the same way that the design artefact of a persona in a user experience design process is a method for engaging in empathy, these mental models are intended as a method for engaging in a process of bottom-up systems change involving what James Gien Wong refers to as Human Inner Transformation (HIT) and Social Outer Transformation (SOT) as the vision for his project, Stop Reset Go. The models were developed as part of a participatory design workshop at an arts education collective, Bez Arts Hub in Langley, British Columbia: Understanding Human Experience.
I wonder. If the title says "Mental Models for Human Experience", and in the comments [bauhouse] you mention Lynn Margulis theory of evolution driven by cooperation, so perhaps the idea we want to see unravelling would answer this puzzle - What Mental Models would help humans live by the values of Living Systems?