Lostness


When you do not know what you are doing and what you are doing is the best– that is inspiration.
Robert Bresson

I dropped by the Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design Design Research Conference for the last few days.  There was plenty to engage me, but the thought that appears to be most sticky was a presentation by an Israeli User Experience Researcher working at Google — Tomer Sharon.

Unlike Bresson’s perspective, Lostness is fairly new metric characterizing a behavior, that unlike inspiration, is objectively not a positive state.  Lostness apparently is an algorithm; and subsequently a new approach to quantifying interaction. If you want to know what the specifics are you can find a nice one page summary here:
http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/users/spence/CASCON%20QNP.pdf

The contrast to Bresson’s point of view is precisely what made the topic sticky for me.  The notion that when the series of steps we take does not lead us to which we seek, we must be lost. Much of the early joy for me of the web was just how many different worlds were within a keystroke or two.

The maturity and evolution to the point of measuring lostness for the purpose of determining the efficacy of ad placement amused me. How much of our daily lives are continuously disrupted?  The  power and value that emanates from distractions, serendipitous ones at that, is part of the game on the web.  Isn’t it?  In those moments in which I’ve been diverted, or my  intended actions delayed if not completely thwarted, I wouldn’t categorize my behavior or even consider that I was necessarily lost.  My mistaken path is always someone else’s gain.  Another advertiser benefits from my eyeballs landing irrespective of how I arrived there, and if I was intentionally diverted, am I really lost?

Is lost a behavior, state of being or merely a place lacking definition or resolution?

When street traffic has greatly impeded my ability to reach my destination in a timely manner using the route I had planned, I don’t necessarily get lost.  I might exhibit some characteristic emotions or actions that are closely correlated with a sense of being lost…anger, frustration, powerlessness. My plan to arrive on time? Well,  now thwarted, one could determine is certainly lost.  Personally, a couple of other variables are necessary to determine if I am lost.

Rather than go on with a series of examples, I think it better to merely caution the measurement centric among us that proxies are merely that, not solid robust data.

Is the absence of lostness the speed at which we recover? For now, I’ll settle for the reminder that lostness is such a wonderfully rich metaphor for delay. Rather than load it with negativity, I propose we follow Bresson’s lead. Let’s celebrate that delay for it can be advantageous, beneficial, restorative…if we let it.

For those continually seeking the resolution that Tomer’s team was after, ROI for the application in question?  I’d suggest including other proxies and see if directionally they support the lostness metric.

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