Closure Experiences Book
The Closure Experiences book will be out in June.
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After researching this issue for over a decade and spending the last couple of years dedicating all my time to it, I felt it was only appropriate to share what I have discovered with you all.
Whats the book about
This book charts the history of endings in our lives and our consuming habits. It looks past the guilt of the consumer or the hungry desires of corporations and argues that a social change in our relationship with endings is responsible for societies biggest problems. It introduces the need of closure experiences in our consumer life. It champions re-engagement in a vocabulary of endings, with increased attention to designing, developing and discussing endings.
The statement ‘Too big to fail’ justified saving the worst of banks in the 2008 crash from their self inflicted end. Instead we borrowed more and propped up the status quo against the logic of established economics.
‘Right to be Forgotten’, is the ambitious law of the European Union that protects a persons rights in a digital world that can’t acknowledge removal of the items we have been encouraged to share.
Nearly 30 years of Climate Change discussion we still fail to accept the implications of cutting down on our carbon production.
As consumers and providers we overlook the importance of healthy, coherent endings. This was once a rich culture of reflection and responsibility, but over recent centuries has been lost. In its place we have a bias customer lifecycle that is limited to the exciting vocabulary of new things.
The Chapters in brief...
This will set out the basic argument that we fail to experience rich and meaningful endings. This in turn creates a bias in the customer lifecycle andparalyses us when attempting to deal with society’s biggest problems.
Chapter 1 The biased customer lifecycle
This chapter introduces the layperson to ideas around consumerism and the customer lifecycle - it is intended to frame the remainder of the book. It highlights the current status quo, that there is a psychological split betweenthe Consumer Self and the Social Self. On the one hand the consumer consumes selfishly without responsibility, and on the other criticises big business, recycles, and worries about the environment. Chapter 1 points out that this situation will continue to fail us in our attempts to deal with some of the biggest problems in society. It builds on establishing the framework which is spelt out in following chapters of On-Boarding, Usage and Off-Boarding, and how Closure Experiences can work with these concepts to improve endings.
Chapter 2 Societal changes to consumption
This chapter provides a wider view of society’s changing relationship with endings, and the connection between death and consumption. It establishes death and different types of funeral as starting points, noting the changes in society from nomadic people who were buried with few possession, to the establishment of towns, the increase in funereal rites and objects owned. It builds on this and moves to medieval times, the incidence of the plague in Europe and the battle between Catholic traditions and emerging Protestant beliefs. From this point we track the rise of the Protestant work ethic, drawing on the work of Max Weber to illustrate the consumerism of the post war years in America. In parallel we consider our emotional reaction to death, from the hysteria of the Victorians to the silence and sobriety of grief in modern times.
Chapter 3 The Distancing and the Quickening
This is a two part chapter which tracks our consumer history from the 15th century through to the present. It points out that two long term changes have moved the consumer from a historical position of actionable and connected endings to the distancing of waste and the quickening of consumption.
The distancing aspect reveals changes in the definition, location and concept of waste, that have slowly been removed from consumers. Starting with the industrial revolution and continuing with the definition of germs, Silent Spring, the moon landing and Earthrise, to climate change, ‘to big to fail’, and the ‘right to be forgotten’.
The quickening aspect to the chapter records the process of speeding up consumption and reducing hurdles to purchase and ownership. This looks at the introduction of department stores, modern advertising, built-in obsolescence, consumer credit, 1-click purchasing and photo sharing.
Chapter 4 The psychology of endings
This chapter looks at aspects of psychology that influence our relationship with endings, closure and death. It establishes the closure experience proposal in the context of emotions and drivers. By outlining the general basics around memory and predictions, it goes on to example key pieces of research around the issues, such as Peek End Rule from Daniel Kaheman, Cognitive Closure by Kruglanski and Webster, the Terror Management Theory of Ernest Becker, and Role Exit by Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh. Alongside this, the chapter describes up-to-date situations that example these pieces of work in the context of closure experiences.
Chapter 5 The narrative of endings
The world of story making and telling holds some interesting analogies for closure experiences in the consumer lifecycle. Chapter 5 looks at changes in media and the impact this has on the telling of a story. It looks at techniques of narration and established ideas around the openings and closings of film. Building on this, and on the change in the function of ‘the viewer’ to ‘the player’ as games and open-ended narrative become more common, it discusses what benefits and limitations this holds for closure experiences. The chapter also includes an interview with Ken Wong, games designer and multi-award winner, who gives his insights into the issue of ending games.
Chapter 6 Services: You won’t get out of here alive
This chapter points out that consumers are tied into the services provided by their nation, and pay taxes toward the running of those services without actionable end. It highlights our feeling that we are trapped in many of thecommercial services we use, where denying consumer endings is considered the ‘norm’. This denial has generated a short term culture, and entrapment of the consumer. The chapter advances arguments based on divorce laws, financial mis-selling, gym membership, train services, the airline industry and credit cards. The chapter also includes an interview with Lawrence Kitson, who designs credit card and loyalty card systems.
Chapter 7 Products: Saying goodbye
The product and manufacturing industry have had a long relationship with the customer lifecycle. This chapter argues that the sales principles established in this industry led to the denial of closure experiences for the consumer early on. It builds this argument based on the background of the industrial revolution and the marketing techniques that generated the endless consumer habit. It examples aspects of how the customer life cycle has been determined by packaging, advertising and the limitations of the circular economy. It champions approaches such as that of Mary Kondo and the maker community, arguing that they embrace an off-boarding culture of awareness that is lost in the short term sales culture of the product industry. Who should be providing information about expected product life spans, not endless routes to re-purchase and up-sell.
The chapter also contains an interview with Janet Gunter and Ugo Vallauri, from the maker charity Restart Project.
Chapter 8 Digital: Unshare the share
Chapter 8 starts with an account of how the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created a bombproof system - the internet - and how this established a culture of ‘can’t un-share’. It goes on to talk about the success of the internet, the quantity of data being produced and the lowering cost of storage. It argues that the ‘Fail Fast’ culture of start-ups is a mirror world for the consumer which are farmed for their content creation, despite the risk to their long term reputation. It goes on to example the proliferation of redundant apps, and the overlooked increase in mental health cases, especially in young women. It argues that industry is lost in its own ego as regards the endless benefits of digital, and suggests that this intense and rapid on-boarding for consumers is horrifyingly unbalanced against a backdrop of no-deletes, un-dos, on a system that can’t forget. It suggests that more needs to be done when consumers are off-boarded, and the ability to un-share should be balanced against the proliferation of ’shares’.
Chapter 9 Business: A new positive vocabulary
This chapter demonstrates how business has wrongly ‘protected' the consumer from negative perceptions of consumption, and argues that business’s current fear of losing customers has paralysed its ability to deliver long term relationships and deal with climate change, mis-selling and privacy in social networks.
Business currently hides responsibility from the consumer in the belief it will harm growth and alert the consumer to justified criticism. In place of consumer responsibility, business has chosen to become the culprit in the crime of consumption. Evidence of this is provided from the physical product industry where changes in the environment are being mimicked in the service industry and the emerging digital industries.
The aim of this chapter is to re-frame business as the fencer of stolen goods, and not as the criminal who stole them. It urges business to embrace closure experiences which should be actionable by the consumer, who should be exposed to the impact of his or her behaviour. It suggests that businesses look at improvements to off-boarding consumers and provide clearer, actionable, connected, timely closure experiences for their customers.
The conclusion reminds us that this is a societal and widespread problem. Born from our distancing relationship to death, our lifestyles increasing in comfort, the church weakening and medicine advancing. Repulsion to the level of denial in death and any form it takes is considered the norm. This has impacted our consumer lives and now embedded in our relationship with consumption and its problems. We are reminded that changes in the way we consume don’t have to be economically damaging, and could benefit far more than the physical environment. Simple techniques and approaches could have profound changes. Empowering us to deal with some of the biggest problems we face.
Whats the latest...
Book cover. Choices
We got some ideas and would love to hear your thoughts.
15th of March
Kicked off the cover design brief today with Alvaro Arregui. An old friend, and colleague from my time at ustwo. He is also one of the best designers its been my pleasure to know.