Why the Word “Experience” Came to be So Abused
There are some words in the English language that just don’t deserve the treatment they get. Like “that/then/than”, “their/there/they’re”, “irregardless”, the word “So” at the beginning of a response, the sudden misappropriation of the word “meme” by the Youtube generation, the beleaguered apostrophe, the hyphen, and of course words that the rest of the English speaking world persist in Frenchifying (yes, it’s actually a word, which in the spirit of abusing language, I take to mean the addition of unnecessary vowels) of honoUr, laboUr, patroniSe, unioniSe, and so on. (Ok, who’s gonna be the first to point out that S is not a vowel?) Of course this is all tongue in cheek. Where would we be without the diversification of spelling conventions? And with the French finally finding that they do have a pair of pants in that closet hidden behind the skirts, stepping up to the plate in Mali, it’s hard to criticiSe them much today.
Not that I’m a model citizen in this respect. I am after all an engineer more comfortable with numbers than letters, numbers not falling victim to misspelling, translation, or misinterpretation. I do my fair share of making up stuff, more out of laziness or ignorance than necessity. You can judge my level of language skills from my favorite quote in the entire English language, which of course comes from Austin Powers, that Anglicized American playing an Americanized Anglo, who once said “You may be a master debater, but I’m a cunning linguist“, which takes on an entirely different meaning when said by an oversexed international man of mystery. Of course my second favorite quote came from Michael Caine in the same movie, “There’s (sic) only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and the Dutch.” Might as well not let anyone feel left out.
Which brings me to why I’ve called all of you here today.
What I’m concerned with today is a different class of professional linguistic felon that has evolved over the last century or two. The rise of middle class buying power, and the corporate greed machine have produced a brand of idiomatic criminal called the “marketer”. “Marketing“, or at least one branch of it as I understand the practice, is a means to convince people through the use of some form of media and psychological contrivance to buy a certain product. If selling is face to face, marketing is more considered, but aimed at the masses.
As an engineer, I believe that the product itself should be all the marketing you need, i.e., the product should sell itself. Unfortunately, most business people don’t seem to believe this. Regardless of the qualities of the product, marketers aim to create the perception for you. This is what happens at the intersection of “business” and technical reality. I saw this when I worked in software sales for 8 years or so. The business people don’t understand and can’t control the technical reality, so they invent a reality than can control, and it is called marketing. It has little or nothing to do with the real product. When you are selling a technical product to technical people, I want to believe that “marketing” done by business people is all counter productive. This may or may not be true, but it is what I choose to believe.
As a person who buys things, it is your job to try to decipher the reality of the situation, and separate it from the marketing dream land. Sometimes this is hard because salesmen actively try to steer you away from the actual product, and back to the marketing vision. I know this is true. As a technical guy, the salesman I was assigned to would very frequently withhold technical information that the customer felt he needed to make a good decision. Salesmen don’t want a good decision, they want the “right” decision. Marketing and sales are more than anything about manipulation.
Part of the invention that marketing people use to undermine real products is a word to describe not just the hardware, software, user interface, or purchase/support process, but the whole ball of wax. If you can’t be objective about any one aspect, then there is a lot more left to your imagination. The more imagination, the better. Marketing is generally opposed to specific technical details. They want you to imagine owning the product. “Marketers are responsible for a 360-degree experience.” They are selling the “experience” because it is easier to manipulate.
The unfortunate part about this is that the “experience” that they are selling is a fictional thing that often has little if anything to do with the actual product. The “experience” is much like going to a 3D movie, or a day at Disney World where everything is contrived and fictionalized. Like the scene in Minority Report where the hacker sells “experiences” implanted in your brain.
So, what’s a 3DEXPERIENCE?
The term 3DEXPERIENCE is not descriptive of Dassault Systemes software—it’s suggestive of what users may be able create using Dassault Systemes software.
- Evan Yares
The first use of the word “experience” in this way that I’m aware of was the “Jimi Hendrix Experience“, which of course was the name of the band, and the “experience” part was arguably primarily about drugs. Not to take anything away from Hendrix, he is a permanent icon of the psychedelic rock ‘n roll era, but drugs were certainly part of the “experience”.
I’m sure I’ve missed something, but the next place I see this pop up, it’s not just the singular inventive use of a word, but a systematic abuse within the cell phone industry. But it’s not just marketers using the word in that way, suddenly bloggers and even blog commenting civilians are using phrases like “I prefer the pure Google experience” with a straight face. If you read Android fanboy blogs, you hear this drivel regularly. It’s like a pubescent J0n B@nquer, who can only speak in phrases regurgitated from marketing slicks.
Of course now Dassault Systemmes, always the innovator, has copied the co-opters and looks to monopolize the word EXPERIENCE (yes, it has to be all caps). CAD is no longer CAD, it is PLM. And PLM is no longer PLM, it is 3DEXPERIENCE. In this previous link, Yares hypothesizes that the 3DEXPERIENCE is what users create, but I don’t think that’s the intention of Dassault Systemmes. I think the 3DEXPERIENCE is for the users. Dassault seems to be pushing a retail “experience” of technical tools on professional users.
A couple of decades ago, the word “solution” was the business word du jour. But now we have something new, which is an “experience”. In both cases, marketing people ignored the actual context of the words, and just invented new meanings. “Solution” in most cases never meant that anyone had solved any problems, just that they had software to sell which allegedly allows you to perform certain tasks. In the new paradigm, engineers are supposed to be interested in having an “experience” with their CAD tools. And then, as if on cue, Dassault comes out with a press release that uses both buzzwords right next to one another in the same headline:
This is not about content, context, or actual meaning. It’s entirely about manipulated perception. Dassault is careful not to allow any actual information about products into press releases. This is why we have gone so long without any actual information about the next gen solidworks. The only thing we are given is what Dassault thinks our perception of it should be.