Special topicFeatures

XXII.1 January + February 2015
Page: 44
Digital Citation

Designing a ‘real experience’ for CHI 2015

Bo Begole, Jinwoo Kim

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Since the first CHI conference more than 30 years ago, the CHI community has aspired to be truly international. Following a number of successful conferences held outside North America, the first CHI conference in Asia will take place in Seoul, Korea, from April 18 to 23, 2015. During our work to design the conference experience over the past two years, we have often asked ourselves why CHI has not been held in Asia before. Although at first glance it might seem that the geographic distance alone would answer this question, in fact the cost and distance between North America and Europe is similar to the cost and distance between those continents and Asia. But perhaps there is a psychological distance even greater than the physical distance between Asia and the rest of the world. To address this concern, we have included elements in the experience design for CHI 2015 that we hope will lessen the psychological distance for visitors to Seoul this year.

We turned to design methods to help us create a highly memorable and meaningful event and reduce potential negative effects by providing a superb interactive experience. In this case, however, rather than focusing on user experience (UX) for IT devices, we shifted the domain and interaction elements slightly and are focusing on attendee experience (AX).

Our aim for a good AX is to provide an experience that leaves attendees with a strong sense of authenticity and meaning from what they encounter at CHI 2015. To guide us, we draw from both Asian and Western philosophies for characterizations of authenticity and meaningfulness. American philosopher John Dewey defined real experience as a distinctive experience, with a clear start and end, meant to accomplish a certain goal [1]. William James defined what some would call a real experience as one that flourishes in our lives through intimate relations with the environment and that lasts in our memories for a long time [2]. Martin Heidegger's encounter with absolute and holy existence also corresponds to notions of a "real experience" [3]. Similarly, Confucius emphasized the importance of a balanced experience, with ideas closely related to those of a "real experience" [4]. Combining these concepts, a real experience may be seen as a process that fulfills and develops our lives through the discovery of uncommon moments and filling those moments with special meaning [7]. If we succeed in providing this kind of experience to the attendees of CHI 2015, the psychological distance will diminish, opening a whole new chapter in their lives.


Prior studies in human experience often show that they contain various tangled elements that are difficult to separate or analyze individually [1,2]. Nevertheless, past work in design methods has found success by considering experience design in terms of three threads: sensorial, judgmental, and compositional [5].

The sensorial thread of experience is the superficial sensation obtained through sensory receptors of hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and tasting. Since it evokes direct reaction of the stimuli, it is actually very specific and real. While such information obtained through the senses may seem primitive, this is where experience starts. For an authentically sensorial experience, the stimuli we react to should be realistic, containing a high sense of presence in the moment. If the stimuli are not sufficiently realistic—as in the case of fragmented experience, where you see but do not hear, or you hear but cannot feel—people will not experience a sensation of reality.

Judgmental experience relates to the assessment of whether an experience is actually meeting our goals and needs. People continuously face a variety of options. Some may lead to satisfactory outcomes; others may lead to less fortunate results. Our internal emotional states affect our process of understanding the situation [6]. People want their life's experiences to match their ultimate goals. Satisfying the requirements of judgmental experience is therefore critical to creating a meaningful experience.


Finally, the compositional thread deals with the relation between elements within an experience: the temporal, spatial, and social contexts of complexly intertwined people and objects. To create a wholly fulfilling experience, the composition of all these relationships must be considered. The ultimate state of compositional experience is the harmonious state explained in Confucianism: optimally stabilized equilibrium between numerous experience elements [4].

To achieve an AX that is real and meaningful, the conference needs to provide sensorially present, usefully judged, and compositionally harmonious elements. These goals should extend outside the conference hall, as experience is not evaluated solely in the moment but rather across all of the elements before and after the conference. Here, we describe what CHI 2015 will offer attendees along these three experience threads.

To achieve an AX that is real and meaningful, the conference needs to provide sensorially present, usefully judged, and compositionally harmonious elements.

A key means of creating a compositional experience is to establish a theme that sub-elements of the conference can weave into their own sub-experiences: We chose Crossings. The theme highlights the CHI community's ongoing practice of crossing new barriers. The idea for the theme began with the announcement that the CHI conference would take place in Asia for the first time, opening up the opportunity to make new friends and connections across borders and continents. Due to the limitations of physical distance and cost in the past, Western researchers have not had many chances to encounter Asian researchers. CHI 2015 is a step toward bridging that gap. Although it will be hosted In Seoul, Korea, CHI 2015's Asian connections will not be limited to that one nation; it will be a great place for all Asian HCI communities to mingle with other HCI experts worldwide. The conference will have a special symposium for each of the other major language regions of Asia (Japan, China, and ASEAN), creating more opportunities to see CHI advances from these vast parts of the world.

Fostering relationships with Asian companies is as important as establishing connections with researchers. Seoul is an ideal location for CHI's Asian debut since it is the heart of Korea's economy and culture: The headquarters of most Korean enterprises, as well as central branches of other Asian companies, are located in Seoul.

Attendees' experience with the compositional thread will start in Incheon International Airport with quick and smooth customs/immigration service, averaging 19 minutes for exit and 11 minutes for entry, which is surprisingly short compared with the international averages of 60 and 45 minutes, respectively. This innovative speed is possible since the airport service is systematically and intimately connected to passengers' needs. The service has won first place for nine years in ACI rankings among 1,800 international airports. From the very moment that CHI attendees enter Korea for CHI 2015, they will begin a compositionally harmonious experience.

To expand the compositional thread of experience, we recommend a visit to the dynamic traditional markets near the conference venue. Rooted in long traditions and history, markets in Korea are systematically organized. Dondaemun, for instance, is a popular all-night shopping mecca. Namdaemun is where people find everything from Korean traditional goods to Western products all under one roof. The markets operate all night, so attendees can shop after the conference for as long as they have the passion and energy to do so.

Regarding the judgmental thread of experience, surveys of past CHI attendees emphasized that the most valuable and useful aspect of the conference was "obtaining new and innovative insights." To meet or exceed that goal, Seoul provides several opportunities for attendees to meet and see unfamiliar domains. For example, Korea's public service provides award-winning, well-coordinated electronic services. Call service Dasan 120 provides 24-hour assistance with an actual person assisting and guiding you through any kind of problem or inquiry. As an example, this service guided me (Kim) when I forgot to apply for an international driver's license on a Saturday morning prior to departing to Canada for CHI 2014. My flight time was in the early afternoon; Dasan 120 informed me of an issuing office on the way to the airport. Although we hope no attendees have emergencies, should they lose a passport or have other problems, we predict they will have a good experience with this and other Korean public services. Another system Korea is proud of is its healthcare system, which President Obama recently praised. Hopefully no attendee gets sick, but perhaps intellectual curiosity will drive people to see the advanced medical practices at two of the best general hospitals in Korea, Samsung Hospital and Hyundai Asan hospital, both located within a short distance of the conference venue.

Last but not least, various conference programs, such as an interactive exhibit on the history of video game software, encouraging visitors to reflect on their own physicality, will delight attendees. Members of Korea's Game Society will be joining CHI 2015 for interactions with international researchers to share insights on the design and impact of such experiences.

Another highly recommended activity in Korea is the singing rooms (aka karaoke), which are designed to provide a bright and friendly environment where groups of friends and family can have fun. A singing room provides high-quality accompaniment with stages, lights, surround sound, and high-definition visual presentations. Cast off cynicism and take advantage of these electronic augmentations to experience the elation of song.

Finally, we strive to identify the most impactful and meaningful keynote speaker for CHI 2015. What would it be like if Samsung's or LG's top executives visited the conference and illuminated attendees about the development process of future-generation computing devices such as the Galaxy S Infinity and the G Millenium? Furthermore, let's imagine PSY giving a talk about the role of information technology in writing his songs and making choreography that crossed the world, and his usage of social media to interact with two billion fans worldwide. Crossing media, crossing cultures, crossing the world.

Our goal is to provide each attendee with a real, meaningful experience from the very moment they enter Korea. Technology today makes it easy to cross geographies, but the only way to cross psychologies is through a sensorially vivid, judgmentally useful, and compositionally harmonious experience. Of course, we have an interest in the outcome: Attendees leaving CHI 2015 with deeply memorable and unique experiences will give the two of us, as well as the whole HCI community, a real experience to remember forever.

back to top  Acknowledgment

This article was supported by CHI 2015 chairs' assistant, Yoojin Lee.

back to top  References

1. Dewey, J. Art as Experience. Perigee Trade, 1932.

2. James, W. The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (1902). 1985.

3. Heidegger, M. Sein und Zeit (1927). Max Niemayer Verlag, Tübingen, 1963, 167–170.

4. Li, C. The Confucian ideal of harmony. Philosophy East & West 56 (2006), 583–603.

5. McCarthy, J. and Wright, P. Technology as Experience. MIT Press, 2004.

6. Csikszentmihalyi, M. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Vol. 41). HarperPerennial, New York, 1991.

7. Kim, J. Design for Experience: Where Design Meets Strategy and Technology. Springer, in press.

back to top  Authors

Bo Begole is head of Huawei Technologies' Media Lab, which develops future networked media experiences that surpass human perception. Previously, he was a senior director at Samsung Research and a principal scientist at Xerox PARC. He received a Ph.D. in computer science from Virginia Tech in 1998.

Jinwoo Kim is a professor at Yonsei University and head of HCI Lab, which has been running since 1994. Previously, he was a chairman of the board of directors at Daum Communication and a technology advisor for Samsung Electronics. He received a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University in 1993.

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