Field Guide to Phenomenal Creation (Learn Do Share #4)

The following is one of my two contributions to this year’s “Learn Do Share” project—a booksprint designed to document the incredible diy days, using a process of open collaboration, and distill the lessons learned to serve as a resource for anyone interested in applying design thinking, social innovation, storytelling, and collaborative creativity. For more, visit the Learn Do Share and diy days websites, and download Learn Do Share #4 (available as a free PDF). Special thanks to all those who participated, and most of all to Ele Jansen and Jasmine Lyman for directing the booksprint and Lance Weiler for masterminding diy days itself.

Field Guide to Phenomenal Creation

The following is a list of things to keep in mind in creating phenomenal work. Not phenomenal as in “great”—though we, of course, should aspire to that as well—but work guided by the ideals of phenomenology, of creating experiences focused more on audience than object.

Brian Clark talked at length about how, as creators, we must approach our work from the perspective of subjective experience, not simply creating things but creating things for people, to be experienced and processed by conscious individuals. When we direct our creative forces with precision and care, and focus on channeling meaning effectively, we can use “things” and “objects” to guide experience—or eschew objects altogether and create experiences directly.

Axioms (preliminary principles):

  • Use universal design principles to put the audience at the center of your work
  • Design for experience first (other purposes can come later)
  • Let your audience create meaning—make your work a conversation and process of co-creation
  • Provoke emotional response, deep sensory experience, and a sense of wonder
  • Create work that’s constantly alive, ever-changing and renewable (as people change, so does the work)
  • Have clear intentionality as a driving force behind all you create
  • Craft objects only when necessary, and when you do, capture their experience
  • Make things online—this space allows for infinite distribution possibilities, interactivity, and community-building

Theorems (suggested practices for phenomenal creation):

  • Create networks of value around your work; build communities and foster a sense of shared responsibility
  • Design microworlds that your audience can inhabit—spaces in which they can explore, test, and discover
  • Practice indwelling—share tacit knowledge and awareness, adaptive and embodied practices; our collective diversity is a critical component in learning to build digital communities and nurture the emergence of a networked imagination
  • Embrace complexity; make things that are robust and resilient, that can adapt to many sets of circumstances—experiences molded to fit different contexts
  • Create constraints—learning best occurs within a bounded environment, the constraints of which create important tension that moves us forward and provides a context for meaning
  • Learn from field configuring events—bounded interactions (dimensions: embedded in space, located in time, and connected by networks of relationships) that can be temporary arenas for innovation and learning and can exert outsize effect on the fields in which the events are embedded (from local environments to global industries)
  • Think about creating digital intimacy—seeding emotional experiences or relationships using technology, whether between your work and its audience, or as a mechanism for connecting many people together
  • Consider the idea of emplotment—making sense of something through a process of contextualization and editing, connecting information in narrative structure to explain not the “what” but the “why” behind your work
  • Embed intelligence in what you create…make it generative, responsive, and built around systems that are able to adapt and learn