7 Experiences Summit giving birth to multidisciplinary experience research as a field

The conference brought together experience researchers from different fields for the first time worldwide. New Experience Research Society will support networking and information sharing.
nainen ja kaksi miestä seisovat studiossa kuvan etualalla, taaempana mies odottaa kameran käynnistymistä virtuaalikonferenssissa
7 Expriences Summit online webinar was broadcasted 1-2 September from Otaniemi. In picture waiting for the camera to go on (from the left): Markus Ahola, Virpi Roto, Teemu Leinonen and Kristian Kiili. Photo: Eero Tiainen

Organizing a global 7 Experiences Summit early September established Aalto University a pioneer in multidisciplinary experience research. The purpose of the conference was to bring together researchers to share knowledge on experiences as well as unite experience research that is currently scattered across disciplines. More than 460 experience researchers and experts, representing a total of 50 different nationalities, registered for the two-day event. The event was organized by the Aalto Experience Platform, which facilitates collaboration between experience researchers.

To respond to the enthusiasm of the research community, Aalto Experience Platform establishes an international Experience Research Society association to support the networking of the research community, the sharing of research information and the emergence of multidisciplinary experience research in the field.

‘Although thousands of scientific publications with experience or experiential as keywords are coming out each year, they remain as scattered knowledge in different disciplines. Our literature review gives us an intriguing opportunity to bring together researchers and their knowledge across disciplines and thus accelerate the development of experience research’, says Virpi Roto, Professor of Practice at the Department of Design.

The seven keynote speakers highlighted experience research from the perspectives of learning, marketing, design, autoethnography, psychiatry, anthropology and tourism.

Keynote speeches in brief:


Professor Kristian Kiili from the University of Tampere (Finland) specializes in learning games. In his keynote presentation, Kiili stated that instead of solely providing knowledge, the experiential learning suits for phenomenon-based learning. Regarding the data collecting methods professor Kiili observed that Integration of self-report measures with game mechanics facilitates the collection of process data without disturbing the flow of the game. The use of well-designed and instructionally meaningful game elements can increase emotional processing and the quality of learning experience, Kiili summarized.


"Customer experience occurs during many interactions – touchpoints – between companies and customers”, stated the professor of marketing Antonella Carù from the Bocconi University (Italy). Professor Carù emphasised the pivotal role of emotions and social aspects in the consumption experience. According to Carù, the three key concepts for the design of impactful brand-related experiences are “Immersion, Escape and Extraordinary”. She also mentioned that technologies are facilitators of the visitors’ immersion in artistic contexts.

kuvakollaasi psykologisista tarpeista desmetin ja fokkingan mukaan
Fundamental psychological needs according to Desmet and Fokkinga (2020).


As the professor of Design for Experience at Delft University (Netherlands), Pieter Desmet has noted an on-going evolution from design for experience to design for wellbeing. Desmet emphasised that product users are humans and humans care more about activities than about products. When the fundamental psychological needs are taken into account, it is possible for a design to increase the happiness of the user. Desmet presented his model of 13 basic needs and stated that the fundamental needs are like vitamins: “all of them need to be fulfilled in order to flourish. We cannot compensate one need with another."


The final keynote for the first day of the Summit was given by professor Carolyn Ellis from the University of South-Florida (USA). In her affective presentation about lived experiences, professor Ellis exemplified the power of stories by reading a sample of her autoethnography. Ellis described "thinking with a story” as plunging in feeling the story’s tensions and dilemmas. For Ellis, autoethnography is one way for exposing the relationship of self and other in culture. Professor Ellis suggested that autoethnography offers a holistic method for making research about lived experiences: “We as social scientists should study the emotional part of life, and do it emotionally and vulnerably, entering fully rather than holding ourselves apart."


Professor of Contextual Psychiatry at KU Leuven (Belgium), Inez Myin-Germeys exposed her research on psychotic experiences. According to Myin-Germeys, qualitative research is needed to understand the psychotic experiences phenomenologically and to give a voice to the people experiencing the psychopathological mental states. Qualitative research also informs quantitative research about what questions to ask and how to measure the experiences. Myin-Germeys shared her experiences of using Experience Sampling Methodology that allows capturing self-reports of experiences in real-time and in the real world. This is important since the psychopathological experiences “are radically situated, they arise when a person with a certain body is interacting with a certain context.”


Professor David Howes from Concordia University, Montreal (Canada) explored senses and perception from the perspective of cultural anthropology. According to professor Howes, we should not defer to psychologists and neurobiologists when it comes to studying sense perception. Components of social and cultural contingencies affect our ability to sense - we either “use them or lose them”. Professor Howes described a methodology of sensory ethnography for studying experiences in anthropology. Instead of conventional participant observation, sensory ethnography uses participant sensation - making sense along with others. Finally, Howes showcased a few performative sensory environments created by multimedia artists as examples of creating rearrangements of senses and new kinds of sensory entanglements.


The last keynote in the conference was held by Professor Xinran Lehto from Purdue University (USA). Her research on tourist experiences closes to the study areas of aesthetics, peak experiences, transformative experiences, restorative experiences and wellbeing. According to Lehto, the strongest components affecting the tourist experiences are communitus, localness, serendipity and personalization. Professor Lehto has conceptualized convivial tourism, in which practicing mutual hospitality can benefit the wellbeing for both the guest and the host.She is now studying the impacts of modern traveller-facing technologies for tourism, namely the possibilities and limitations they induce regarding the experience of tourist’s spontaneity.

New openings as workshop outcomes

The aim of the brief workshops at the Summit was to bring together researchers from different backgrounds and to open a discussion on the fundamentals of multidisciplinary experience research. The workshop themes were theories of experience, creating experiences, evaluating experiences, mapping experience research, research publishing, societal impact, and developing experience research agenda.

The workshops confirmed experience a term with many meanings. A need arose to define experience as a phenomenon its attributes in order to make the concept of experience approachable from the perspective of different fields. The sharing of research methods across disciplines was seen as particularly valuable in order to evaluate experience.

Many of the researchers had faced difficulties in publishing multidisciplinary experience research, which gave rise to the idea of ​​creating a new scientific publication for experience research. In terms of social impact, it was recognized that experience research can play a role in studying and addressing grand societal challenges. However, this requires bridges to be created between disciplines, cultures, and experience researchers and professionals.

7 Experiences Summit was held 1-2 September 2020. More information and videos of the event can be found at:

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