We need better mirrors

In Standing Rock a group of protesters huddle up. They are carrying large mirrored shields put together by Cannupa Hanska Luger.

All shields should be mirrors.

Technology has an uncanny ability to help us create better mirrors of ourselves and our behaviour. It also adds a historical dimension to an otherwise momentary experience. The new mirrors we are looking at have history and as such help us build identity. This makes them powerful tools, no longer the simple object or metaphor we hang on a wall.

What user data can your product mirror? What can you reflect back to your users? Products that have a good ‘mirror index’ will always fare better than those that don’t. Boots pharmacy loyalty cards have an amazing mirror index potential, they know more about individuals’ health in the UK than the National Health Service.

Imagine when they start mirroring some of this data as opposed to simply using it for marketing purposes. The quantified self movement went through a rebirth but it only took off when the mirrored data became more social. The phone itself has partly become a social selfie-machine. At first selfies were enough, very soon an industry was born to prettify them, to augment the (wo)man in the mirror.

Gary Wolf’s talk “A Quantified Self” at TED@Cannes, 2010

Take Facebook’s “On This Day” — a feature that surfaces posts and photo albums that were posted on the same date one year ago. One year after it launched, On This Day was getting 60 million daily visitors, and now you see replayed memories almost every time you sit to scroll your Facebook feed. If a simple feature like this can trigger reflection, rewire relationships and incentivise self-discovery, imagine how we could benefit from more complex historical data, mirrored back at us.

At the moment, most of customer data is treated as a resource, to market products in a more targeted way, or to deliver a product with more added value to the user (think Google Now sifting through your inbox and calendar to display personalised agenda for a day). Mirroring the history of our behaviour is a whole other thing, since it doesn’t view our device fingerprint as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. Reflected back, this organised data leads to deeper self-awareness and self-knowledge, inviting us to review our behaviours and make informed decisions about our lifestyle.

We want transparent products that reflect ourselves. It sounds like a contradiction. It’s not.

Transparency means we do away with planned obsolescence and extreme inequality.

Reflection means we assign meaning to the user’s presence. As consusers (conscious users) we want to know what our impact is in order to be able to change it. We can only create consusers when we start treating products like mirrors.

Read more on better mirrors in the Chapter #2 of our Book of Possibilities.

If you are curious to know more about Book of Possibilities, read “Book of Possibilities: Your Guide to Creating the Future