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Actors & Actions of Flow

The agents involved in the experience, what they do and what is done to them
and so-called test takers for hire from
who study and describe direct and indirect aspects of competing technologies.

Action research

Action research is simply a form of self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which the practices are carried out (Carr and Kemmis 1986: 162).

Archetypal Profiling and Retrieval

An archetype is 'retrieved' when a new technology is applied to something we are familiar with. The first motorcars were called 'horseless carriages' for this reason. The method of archetype retrieval helps us reach beyond what is an obvious application for new technology and discover surprising, innovative, and truly meaningful applications which result in creating something both new and familiar, which resonates deeply because it is rooted in the natural behaviour and desires of people. This method reveals a broader range of possible applications, as the designer identifies how existing archetypes were inspired, what they parallel in function, and which human desires they fulfill. By understanding how and why our archetypes exist, the designer is able to incorporate the new technology as a meaningful augmentation of human capacity.


The symbolic image of an object, function or concept. Archetypes are the categories and parameters that we recognize as familiar in both the appearance and function of existing objects and their relationship to us. They are the very nature of the item, its quintessential features. Consider the archetype of a cup, and what distinguishes it from a bowl, vase, or bucket.


"The subsystem which carries out the first stage of the learning process forming enduring associations among items of information in the system." (Miller) The Associator is the model builder of the system and the most active player in the Spoze model.

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Channel and Net

"The subsystem composed of a single route in physical space, or multiple interconnected routes, by which markers bearing information are transmitted to all parts of the system." (Miller)

Competitive Auditing

Examination of direct and indirect competing technologies, an understanding of the market landscape and the context in which the product(s) exist, and how contributions can or will disrupt and influence existing structures and systems.

Data Space

These are the intangible environments made possible by the proliferation of smart tags. When smart tags and chip-scale readers are implemented in a broad spectrum, every object, space and person will have the capacity to generate and store data. By enabling the objects and places to transmit and receive data, the people who use them become enabled to communicate their own data. The presence of an Enabled Person in a Data Space is more than a physical presence, it is a communication presence. This presence is expressed by the nature of the data they bring to the space.

Data Space Ecology

Within the Datasphere, enabled people carry their message to the spaces; they are the Links: People link Places and Objects into DataSpace Ecologies. The observation, collection and management of these Enabled Data transfers will generate an invisible landscape of message flow. These Data Space topologies reflect the very flow of the people who travel through them. Data Space Ecology is the study of this flow; the study of how these Data Spaces will shape and be shaped by human experience.


The Datasphere is made up of the complete collection of Data Spaces. As the Ecosphere is a complex, interdependent network of organic elements, so too is the Datasphere determined by and dependent upon its members; a community of parts functioning symbiotically.

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"The executive subsystem which receives information inputs from all other subsystems and transmits to them information outputs that control the entire system." (Miller)


"The subsystem which alters the code of information input to it through the input transducer or internal transducer into a private code that can be used internally by the system." (Miller)

Design Attributes

Referring to attributes in a neutral, inventory sense, not necessarily the positive or contributory aspects of the design. What makes the design attributes specific to, or necessary for, the Flow experience?

Design for Error

Identify the learning path involved in mastery and identify potential means of misusing, modifying or breaking the system. Creation of prompts, safeguards and 'undo' functions to accommodate potential outcomes.

Dynamic Movement

The ongoing and constantly changing relationships that occur in a Flow experience between all the agents involved. How does each element react and interact with the other elements involved in the experience, and how will disruption of those movements and interactions affect the process of Flow?

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Ecology of Networks

Like any ecosystem, no network exists in isolation; each aspect of the network makes up its own system and interrelates with other networks and the greater system. The ecology reveals how energy flows through the network itself and between networks.

Ecosystem of Ideas

A set of signals, most of which are weak signals, which autocatalyze each other to create entirely new industries, products, processes. The relationship between the invention of the automobile, and the provision of roads, gas stations, and the like is an example of the emergence of an ecosystem of ideas.

Enabling Sense

This is the strategic decision to take on the role of making sense of raw data. In the awakening data-permeated environment the challenge will be first to realize the scope of opportunity made possible.


"The subsystem which alters the code of information input to it form other information processing subsystems, from a private code used internally by the system into a public code which can be interpreted by other systems in its environment." (Miller)


Information is a measure of the amount of entropy or uncertainty in what a receiver anticipates from a transmitter. The higher the entropy, the more the information inherent in the potential information event.

"The entropy of communication theory, measured in bits per symbol or bits per second, is equal to the average number of binary digits per symbol or per second which are needed in order to transmit messages produced by the source. In communication theory, entropy is interpreted as average uncertainty or choice, e.g., the average uncertainty as to what symbol the source will produce next or the average choice the source has as to what symbol it will produce next. The entropy of statistical mechanics measures the uncertainty as to which of many possible states a physical system is actually in." (Pierce)

Envisioning & Evaluation

Part of the design solution is the evaluative model which the designer must construct to assess the solution's validity. Considerations when evaluating a Flow experience design include: individual goals, Flow needs, effectiveness, and how the Flow solution fits within its ecology on a broader scale

Expectations Appraisal

Identifying pre-conceptions and expectations of the experience from the perspectives of all the different agents involved.

Experience Sampling Method

Telling the story of Flow as it exists in a certain frame.

Experiential Testing

Set up and run the Flow or a representative model.

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The activity of a system that sends messages back to itself in order to adjust its behaviour to keep it in homeostasis, or to propel it purposefully out of homeostasis in order to adapt.


One way of detecting a signal in a noisy channel. If the frequencies of the noise are different from the dominant frequencies of the signal, then a filter may be constructed that eliminates the frequencies in the noise. The resulting signal will be clean. Notice that the power of the signal does not have to be boosted. We refer to this phenomenon as "knowing your noise".

You must either know the type of noise (Wiener/Cybernetics) so you can extract a signal from it, or know the type of signal (Shannon/Communication Theory-efficient encoding) to obtain an accurate transmission over a noisy channel. Alternately, you can reduce noise from the channel or boost the signal, both of which are very expensive propositions.

Flow Identification Methodologies

Methods of identifying Flows, by observing and analyzing how people experience Flow.

Flow Medium

As all people/places/objects involved are mediums for the Flow experience, the designer must consider their characteristics, preconditions and responses, and how they influence each other during the Flow experience.

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Forecasting Methodologies

Strategies and processes with which to analyze current data and trends in order to recognize and project future possibilities.


A state of balance in a living system which must be maintained for continued viability. An example is core body temperature.

Human Action in Flow

Human action encompasses cognition, motivation and attraction as well as physiological and ergonomic aspects.

Ideal Experience Mapping

Mapping of ideal experiences during a Flow situation and working backwards from that point to determine design outcomes.

Imagination Gap

The gap between current capability and present possibility.


A message to which value and meaning has been applied. A measure of the order inherent in a system (Wiener). A measure of the uncertainty or surprise in the total communication event (Shannon).

In the colloquial use of the word "information", we really mean "message". If someone tells you they have some information concerning an event, they're referring to a message concerning the status of the behaviour of a system. If they tell you they have information concerning a subject, they're referring to stored messages that have been cataloged or categorized in some repository.

Wiener considers information after the signaling event, and says that it represents something "transmitted as a single decision between equally probable alternatives." (Wiener) He sees information expressed as the result of a decision.

Shannon sees information at the front end of the signaling event. At that point, the more uncertainty there is in what the receiver expects for the next message component, the more information is contained in the event. These two approaches are good ways to think about information and how systems use it.For the purposes of this series of papers, I prefer to call the "information" contained in a signal, the "message". I call information the measure of the uncertainty or surprise at the front end of the communication event. At the back end of the communication event is a message that the receiver has assigned some value to, and this is what I call information. If the value is high, the message is compelling information or "compelling input" and forces the receiving system to make a decision concerning the state of the system.

Input Transducer

"The sensory subsystem which brings markers bearing information into the system, changing them to other matter-energy forms suitable for transmission within it." (Miller)

Intensification of Use Mapping

Considering the repercussions and ripple effects of proliferation of use, both in terms of increasing numbers of users and frequency of use by individuals, from differing perspectives. How will this impact the user, the technology itself, peripheral technologies, resources, and supply economies. What will it replace, augment or obsolesce? Cultural diffusion and amplification as the transition is made from early adoption to mainstream saturation (intensification threshold).

Internal Transducer

"The sensory subsystem which receives, from subsystems or components within the system, markers bearing information about significant alterations in those subsystems or components, changing them to other matter-energy forms of a sort which can be transmitted within it." (Miller)

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Knowledge Enabled

This is the concept of developing a new standard of expected intelligence within objects and spaces.

Knowledge Ready

Every person place and object should be ready to learn; each of these elements should have the capacity to communicate this knowledge when called upon to do so.

Link Spaces

If every element within the new landscape has the ability to store retrievable data then the lines between the real and virtual world can be blurred to allow a flow of information between. The data storage space itself becomes virtual rewriteable real estate.

Living Environments

How environments shape and are shaped by our experiences.

Making Everything Make Sense

This is the resolution to meet the challenge of making the world intuitive to all. This demands complete clarity of all user experience. It is the refusal to accept environments and objects that do not recognize and communicate their purpose and meaning within the user's context.

Matter of Flow

The tangible elements involved in the Flow experience.


The value that a receiver attaches to the content of a message in a signal. The value is expressed in how the system uses the message to model and adjust its current state: the state change that the controller of the system effects upon the system as a result of the message having been received.


"The subsystem which carries out the second stage of the learning process, storing various sorts of information in the system for different periods of time." (Miller)


The content of a signal. In a sense, the signal and its message are inseparable. However, we may also add that a signal becomes a message when a system has successfully decoded it. "A string of symbols; an electric signal." (Pierce)

Metaphors as Tools

Employing a reference to something familiar in order to communicate the new or unfamiliar succinctly and compellingly.

Motivational Analysis

What people are inclined to do, what they want and feel, regardless of their technological means, is revealed in how people retrofit existing technology to execute those desires and behaviours. Motivational psychology factors into this analysis, but we can also read the same inclinations from existing behavioural patterns.

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"Any undesired disturbance in a signaling system, such as, random electric currents in a telephone system. Noise is observed as static or hissing in radio receivers and as 'snow' in TV." (Pierce) Valuable weak signals are frequently treated as noise by systems and thus overlooked. Hence the value of "knowing our noise" as a technique for ferreting out these valuable items.

Observation and Immersion

Observation of behaviour, actions, and Flow from an external and objective perspective. Immersion within the experience provides an equally valuable insight, but must be distinguished from observation in research analysis. The means of data collection dictates the results.

Opportunity Definition

Understanding and defining the significance and parameters of the opportunity that exists; using research methods which enable the designer to identify those opportunities. Possibility is no longer limited by technology so much as by our ability to imagine what could be possible.

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Output Transducer

The subsystem which puts out markers bearing information from the system, changing markers within the system into other matter-energy forms which can be transmitted over channels in the system's environment.

Perception and Patterns of Perception

Considering from individual, multiple and general perspectives the rhythms of attention and engagement according to priorities and motivations, cognitive and physical capabilities, familiarity and exposure.

Physiological Research

Physiology in this sense is distinct from ergonomics in that ergonomics refers to the measurement of a human in relation to objects, whereas physiology refers to humans independently, and incorporates cognition and biological processes, emphasizing that design needs to have a deeper awareness of the human participant beyond the lengths of their fingers.

Planning Theory

Identification of a goal and assembly of process and method with which to precipitate the desired outcome.

Precedent Analysis

Approaching an opportunity with knowledge of and perspective on the preceding archetypes, the technology available, and what your user is accustomed to in terms of behaviour, habits, and fulfillment of desires.

Principles of Dynamic Movement

The ongoing and constantly changing relationships that occur in a Flow experience between all the agents involved. How does each element react and interact with the other elements involved in the experience, and how will disruption of those movements and interactions affect the process of Flow?

Product Charting & Product Knowledge

Knowledge of the product, technical details and functions, physical attributes, lifespan and archetypal role. Understanding of the arc of a product's lifespan as a conceptual entity within its context, its role with respect to human behavioural patterns, and archetype revisions, generations and mutations.

Progressive Definition

As the investigation of the elements of the opportunity unfolds, a deeper and more meaningful picture (and often unforeseen opportunity) is revealed.

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Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methodologies

Qualitative: consideration of the intangible elements; psychographics, social barometers, human motivations, attractors, responses, emotions, instincts.Quantitative: consideration of the tangible and quantifiable; numbers, statistics, demographics, measurements.

Qualitative Parameters

Consideration and investigation of the intangible elements; psychographics, social barometers, human motivations, attractors, responses, emotions, instincts. Identification of the potential areas for investigation and analysis.

Quality of Experience Modules

Examining aspects of each experience element and it's role within and contribution to the overall experience.

Quantitative Multiple Concept Screening

Comparative auditing of concepts, their impacts and effectiveness.


A system or subsystem employed to transduce signals bearing messages from a Channel and Net into the system of which it is a component.

Research Validation

Support for concepts based on research analyzed from only one perspective. Justification and validation must come from more than one source of information, incorporating multiple sources of data, methods, investigators or theories.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)And Smart Tags

A method of storing, transmitting and receiving data wirelessly over a short distance, using short-range radio-frequency transmissions. An RFID Tag is a small object that can be attached to or incorporated into devices, people or objects; it contains antennas that can receive and respond to queries from an RFID Reader.

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Scenario Building

Scenarios are tools that help engage the imagination of others in a compelling way, bridging the cognitive gap between the present and the possible. Methods of scenario building are creative models, a sort of intangible prototype which enables the designer to both explore a variety of potential aspects and to then compellingly communicate this. Examples are first-person narrative scenarios, dialogue-style interviews and magazine article-styles.

Service Flows

The dynamically changing elements of a service, in accordance with the conditions and preferences of the medium(s) involved.

Setting Research Controls

Defining benchmarks for comparative and repetitive evaluation.


An event in which some living system or other element in the environment transmits a message in the course or as a result of its actions or behaviour. A transmission of analog or digital patterns through some medium from a transmitter to a receiver. The particular receiver may or may not be intended. "A variable electric current deliberately transmitted by a communication system." (Pierce)

Space of Flows

Situating the Flow experience.

Strategic Creativity

A string of activities that have as an outcome the development of new conceptual models which reshape or create organizational strategy. Using either a hypothesis or a line of inquiry as a starting point, the aim is to discover, define and refine imaginative possibilities for pre competitive business platforms, products, services, communications or environments. As a result of Strategic Creativity, new opportunities arise: the prototyping of new services, products and businesses; creating systems of innovation; visualizing alternative futures, and linking imagination and innovation to organizational strategy.

Strategic Innovation

Strategic Innovation is innovation that insures a pre-competitive position and informs a new strategic direction.

Study of People

Trend watching and investigation of emergent behaviour, anthropology and sociology, expectations, and physiology.

Study of Tools & Technology

Awareness of what's possible, what it costs, and what it affects - understanding the broader repercussions of using and amplifying these capabilities.

Subject of Flow

The Big Idea behind the Flow experience.

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Task and Task Analysis

Quantitative finite experience mapping with outcomes.

The Study of Methods / Research Methodology

Encouraging individual development of original methodologies, according to what is most effective for the project and the individual, with the understanding and exploration of tools and concepts introduced through this course.


A system or subsystem employed to transduce signals bearing messages from the system of which it is a component into a Channel and Net.

Understanding of User

Assessing the user's self-concept, attractors and behavioural impulses.

Validation of Concept

Conceptual justification based on research and analysis.

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Weak Signal

A half-hidden idea or trend that will affect how we do business, what business we do, and the environment in which we will work; a new and surprising signal from the receiver's vantage point; sometimes difficult to track down amid other noise and signals; a threat or opportunity to your organization.

In general, any information that is difficult to detect or distinguish because of the noise in the system. There are three varieties of weak signals.

Weak Signal Discovery and Amplification

Identifying opportunities based on awareness of emerging or nascent technologies and behaviour in the context of past patterns of development and behaviour.

Weak Signal® Research

Refers to those organizational traits and organic components that enable the enterprise to detect weak signals as a matter of course, build models and stories that illustrate the possible effects of whole sets of signals over time, and redesign itself efficiently to take advantage of these possibilities.

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