Enacted experiences are hard to distribute

If you want to explain some idea, you can write an essay and share it with a million people. If you want to enable people through non-linear video editing, you don’t need to build a factory: you can distribute software at zero marginal cost. By contrast, we have few general tools for cheaply mass-distributing an Enacted experience.

That’s a shame because I see them as a key element of Enabling environment design: Enacted experiences can bootstrap active participation in enabling environments.

The traditional approach is social. Cultural elders create rites of passage for youth. Y Combinator designs its dinners and events to produce certain experiences for founders through their actions. In socially-distributed enacted experiences, people are the medium. Through their actions, facilitators create and maintain the environment which produces the enacted experience for the participant. That facilitation is expensive and error-prone, so this approach is deployed sparingly.

At least for aesthetic experiences, games routinely manage to distribute enacted experiences through a different medium: software. That’s an important step because software can be cheaply mass-distributed, giving individual authors enormous leverage. Game designers’ techniques have not yet been widely used to distribute non-aesthetic enacted experiences. But maybe they can be: Enacted experiences have incredible potential as a mass medium.