Monday, September 28, 2015

Religion 2.0

There have been a lot of changes in religion lately.  The growth of secular humanistic religions strikes me as a big one. It is not an oxymoron; there are some very spiritual movements that promote a system of morality while remaining mute on the issue of a supreme being.  Whether you choose to refer to it as religion or not, there is certainly a parallel.

But that is not my topic today.  I am more interested in the application of fundamental user experience design to enhance the practice of religion. 

Let me explain.

How about a pop-up store?  You have probably heard about other pop-up stores: retailers, restaurants, salons, and so on.  Why not one focused on religion.  A company called The Kitchen, with a little help from design firm IDEO, created a Jewish themed pop-up with religious products and kosher food for sale.  And a food truck attachment for real time meal service.  And a rabbi on hand to give advice and answer questions.  Convenient, simple, and flexible. Perfect for the millennial generation.

How about religious games that leverage mobile technology and target the digital natives that are straying from organized religion? Are you familiar with geocached scavenger hunts?  A host hides items in the real world and sends out clues by text message.  Whoever finds them all wins.  Another model is that if you find an item you become “it” and have to hide something else and become the host for the next round.  When you add the religious theme on top, you create a fun experience that engages the user in some form of religious practice.

What about a take on the card games that are becoming popular (such as Cards Against Humanity or Metagame)?  Another idea from The Kitchen has two decks. One deck is made of ritual cards that lead a group through a religious ritual. The second are action cards that add some fun and dynamism to the ritual.  Participants play the cards and mix things up a bit.  Perhaps less devout, but a more engaging user experience in the practice of the ritual – and the religion.

In just a few years, we have created millions of apps, available on IOS, Android, and Windows.  Why not focus just a little of this talent on religion (or spirituality if you prefer)?  If we bypass the bureaucratic layer of organized religion that creates most of the downsides (religious wars, conflicts, Inquisitions, scandals, etc), we can create versions that support the good components of religious practice (community, spirituality, philanthropy) without the bad.