Technology

Welcome to the Human Experience: Redefining User Experience

October 18, 2021  • Kristine Gloria

Language is a powerful instrument. Combined with today’s technologies, we are seeing an incredible array of discovery and reflection on what it means to be human and how we connect with one another (or not). This line of inquiry continues to be one of the most exciting yet challenging pursuits for our team at Aspen Digital. It is becoming clearer that how we talk about, engage with, and design technology must better align with our needs as humans, not just as end users. Yet, it has been my hypothesis that we lack the language to describe our modern relationship with technology fully—often falling back on differentiating between online and offline experiences. 

This lack of language propagates into critiques of how we can effectively identify, describe, measure, and design technologies that intersect with a variety of vectors of the human condition, from well-being, to digital citizenship, to social connection. Over the past year, we have convened a diverse group of leaders from across disciplines and sectors to grapple with this deficit in language and its second-order effects. Efforts include our Virtually Human Working Group, which is helping to inform and inspire the ways societies develop, deploy, and monitor the positive impacts of human-machine touch points. Moving the ball forward can and will require a variety of stakeholders, including activists, leaders, and entrepreneurs, to push for a collective relationship with technology that is inclusive and equitable. 

I’m excited to share a new milestone in this work: please welcome into your vocabulary “HX,” short for “human experience.” HX is an emerging field that sits at the intersection of many work areas, including ethics, well-being, user experience (UX), and responsible tech. It is informed by the lived experience of the next generation of humans who are eager to steward a better relationship with technology for all. I’m particularly inspired by projects like Youth Connections for Wellbeing and Headstream’s Youth 2 Innovator. Another exciting effort is All Tech is Human’s Responsible Tech Job Board, lists open positions that aim to reduce the negative impacts of technology and ensure that technology is aligned with the public interest.

Just like UX helps us better engage with apps and sites as users, HX helps us better engage with tech as humans. The goal is for HX to serve as that linguistic connector that helps galvanize the powerful work already happening in this space to spur further innovation and collaboration. 

Our program certainly is not the first to identify opportunities for improving HX, but we what we can uniquely contribute is a convening and convergence expertise to facilitate productive conversation and foster action-oriented collaboration (see this excellent post from the Collected Learning Alliance).  In this spirit, if you’re interested in learning more about and/or in participating in the HX project, please drop me a line. Feel welcome to [email protected] or to check sign-up on the HX website.