Lately there has been an increased interest in the area of magic and its applicability in various fields. In HCI, it has been argued that the practice of magic is filled with knowledge that is applicable to user experience design.
We wanted to delve into, explore and expand this possibility, in order to create a set of useful design parameters, that can inspire UX designers in developing designs that focus on hedonic qualities (i.e. assisting users in achieving be-goals, such as “being competent”, “stimulated”, “special” etc. as this “human wish” has been described as a key driver for the experience of products).
Based on conjuring theory, a conceptual framework comprised of a distinction between internal and external magical experiences is suggested as a potential design parameter in user experience design. The framework is evaluated through an exploratory study identifying what constitutes the experiences. We find that the magical experiences have different qualities in the following constituents: control, communication, interaction, timeframe, timing and decryption interest.
Excerpts from the paper:
“Magic is a 5000-year-old tradition that is based on evoking experiences within the spectator. This evocation of experiences, whether it pertain to “being stimulated”, “entertained” or the achievement of other be-goals, makes it an interesting area of study for UX. Furthermore, what constitutes today’s magic is filled with knowledge, within e.g. psychology and cognition, which is directly applicable to addressing the user experience.”
“The common definition of the experience of magic is that it produces “a sense of wonder in the spectator” (, p. 350). This wonder comes from the trick, or the effect, which is the correct professional term. This is the spectator’s actual experience of magic .
There are many methods that can be used to produce the same effect: E.g. to make something vanish (effect), the spectator’s attention may be misdirected (method), while the conjurer performs one of numerous sleights of hand (method) (, p. 874). Based on the book Sleights of mind , which reveals the methods of several magic effects, and the underlying cognitive principles that make the effects possible, we define magic as being constructed of three layers.”
“All magic methods and effects are based on at least two basic principles, which produce the “sense of wonder”. (1) Expectation violation – that something happens, which violates your expectations (, p. 159), and (2) Perceived correlation – that two events, which have no proven connection to each other, are perceived to have a connection ( p. 193). This deals with cause-effect relationships, and an everyday example could be that if you touch your computer and it shuts down, you think you caused it even though you did not (, p. 11). “
“Based on the two principles, we propose that magical experiences can occur in two ways, thus creating two definitions:
(1) The external magical experience (EME), which originates in the environment, and stems from a violation of your expectations of what will/can happen, and the (2) internal magical experience (IME), which originates from yourself, and stems from experiencing a perceived correlation between your action and the response of the environment.“
Nina Kirstine Busk, Søren Gerluf Sørensen & Jette Stampe Forstholm.