Remember that Joan Jett and the Blackhearts song, Fake Friends? Ok, I’m dating myself here. The refrain went something like this: “You got nothin’ to lose, you don’t lose when you lose fake friends.” Add your punk rock growl and slabs of saturated bar chords for full effect.
I had the pleasure of seeing Joseph Jaffe speak at a MIMA event yesterday evening here in Minneapolis. He talked about how his daughter was better at vetting her friends online than he was; an interesting topic to me – as both a user experience designer and as a parent who has watched his seven-year-old son spend more than his share of time in Webkinz world. Jaffe addressed the question of quantity versus quality when it comes to online relationships. What makes a relationship real? Whether between two people, a group of people, an individual and a product, an individual and a brand?
While this was rattling around in my sleep-deprived brain, my wife sent me this article about the reaction of some young fans to the announcement that the promotional Disney VMK gaming site was going to never-never land. The fans have created their own campaign to save the game, mainly because the friendships that have formed in the game are important to the young players.
Frank Lloyd Wright once said “buildings, too, are children of Earth and Sun.” We have internalized the network medium as a culture, and the experiences we have online are very real in a cognitive sense. This is precisely why as designers we must recognize that we are creating experiences, not products. Or as Peter Merholz said, “the experience IS the product.”