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Ukraine, a Funeral, and The Why of the Digital Experience
This issue of The Digital Experience Report is going out a little late for a few reasons that, on the surface, seem disconnected. The first reason is that my wife's grandmother passed away, and we've been traveling this weekend to attend her funeral.
The second reason is that with everything going on in Ukraine, I was unsure if or how I should address it. So, I decided to take some time and let it all settle in my mind.
As I did, I realized that they both had the same effect on my perspective on what I do. On the one hand, both of these occurrences made a focus on the “digital experience” feel meaningless.
As my wife and her family grieved, worrying about a user interface or how well a conversational AI agent performed seemed a bit pointless. Likewise, as I watched horrific scenes of Russian aggression play out and female Ukrainian school teachers take up arms to protect their homes, I had trouble focusing on producing this report.
It all seemed so inconsequential in these literal life-and-death circumstances.
But as I thought about these situations some more, I realized something else: the focus on the digital experience matters precisely because these much more serious situations deserve our unfettered attention and emotional response.
The Fight to Pursue Dreams
As I’ve read about Ukrainians living in the UK packing up and traveling back to their homeland to fight or about an 80-year-old man summoning the fortitude to take up arms against Russian invaders, I realized that they are fighting for the very things most of us take for granted.
Most of you reading this enjoy the right to vote for your democratic leadership and the ability to worry about how we can use technology to create better, more enjoyable experiences.
That normalcy, that ability to NOT worry about mere survival, is precisely what Ukrainians are fighting to protect. In its simplest form, they want a daily experience free from strife and oppression. It is only once that is secured that the rest of it matters, but then it matters a whole lot.
In many ways, the efforts around creating a delightful digital experience are the forward progression of this fight for fundamental freedoms.
As John Adams once famously wrote to his wife Abigail, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy…in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, [and] music.”
Our forefathers (and mothers) paid the price for most of us. They fought for freedom and earned for us the right to study the arts — and, therefore, the art of the digital experience.
We should, therefore, neither take it for granted nor discount the work we do as a result. And we should cast our hopes, prayers, and resources with our friends in Ukraine who are fighting for their freedom and the right to pursue their own dreams free of oppression and in control of their own destiny.
Invisible Technology At Its Best
As I sat with my wife and her family this weekend, I was struck by how at this moment of grief and sadness, what we all sought was connection. We wanted to feel as though we were not alone, and for those we loved to know that we were there for them too.
Technology was all around us. It helped people find the mortuary, it organized pictures, and helped craft the eulogy. And on and on.
But the technology was never the focus. In its best moments, it became completely invisible, allowing us to simply be in the moment, connect, and be together.
It is easy to lose sight of the fact that when it comes to the emotionally powerful experiences that matter the most in life, technology is at its best and most potent when it is invisible, when it become ambient.
It was a busy week in the ExTech market, with solid earnings performance, new funding announcements, new product launches, and new success stories. I hope you scroll down and read up on this week's news.
But amid these admittedly important milestones, what’s most important is that you remember the why of all of these efforts. We focus our energy on the digital experience because by doing so, we can help humans connect with one another, live in the moment, and enjoy shared unencumbered experiences.
And that entire process starts with the freedom to live and celebrate our lives however we see fit — and we must fight to earn and protect that freedom at all costs.
Feature image credit: Matthias Berg