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From Experience to Identity--The New Paradigm.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on January 31, 2007

A while back, I posted an item on “identity” as a new paradigm that could replace “experience” in our business culture. Academia, especially linguistics, has been talking about the shift from experience to identity for some time. The idea is that the concept of “experience” is passive. Currently we say you experience something, as in having a great consumer experience or a great hospital experience or a great gambling experience.

But life really isn’t like that. People are not passive—they make their own lives. People interract with their environments to create their distinct identities. Let me repeat that—people interract with their environments to create their own identities. This amounts to co-creating your own products and services.

So the concept of co-creation (thanks C.K. Prahalad) works with the idea of creating your own identity. It’s cool.

At Davos (I’ll stop in a few days when I exhaust the ideas coming out of that meeting, I promise), there was a lot of talk about identity. In YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, Second Life and in the gaming world, you create an identity. Yes, there are avatars and they are the purest form of identity. But for me, it is the identity you build in the real world working with tools provided by companies that is the most interesting. How you configure you iPod or how you organize your cell phone defines you and reflects who you are. TiVo, Nikes, the sessions and workshops you chose and listed at the World Economic Forum, etc. That’s your identity. None of that is passive.

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine has some interesting posts on his thoughts about the discussion around identity at Davos.

Reader Comments

Ralf Beuker

January 31, 2007 8:54 PM

Bruce, that's an interesting shift you describe here! However it's not quite clear to me from which angle you look at identity and experience here?

From my understanding experts (e.g. Nathan Shedroff) agree that an experience can only be created to a certain degree by an external organisation or business while a 'rest' (or the crucial part) remains at the user. In contrast how do you describe/define the process of 'designing identities' (from a business perspective) for end users/consumers where the 'rest' belongs to an even larger degree on the customer's side (I hope I've been able to articulate my point)?

And Finally: How much can we talk about an 'identity' if it is 'created' by an external party?

After all I might be on the wrong path here, but I would clearly love to hear your/the community's perspective on this :-) Thanks!


February 7, 2007 3:08 PM

Pine/Gilmore had similar thoughts a while back in "The Experience Economy", that designing experiences would eventually give way to designing "transformations", helping people transform who they are (through a *series* of experiences).

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