Case Study & Concept
While watching Man Vs Food struggle to ingest the “hottest wings in the world” I found myself wanting to taste the heat he so eloquently described. I realized a vast disconnect between food based television shows and their viewers. Television as a medium is ill equipped for culinary shows; it does not target the proper senses. As a result, the industry has developed work arounds including beautifully shot close-ups of food and articulate yet verbose hosts describing the nuanced flavors and textures. Yet, no matter how well the host describes the mouth watering, tongue tickling burger with the creamy, spicy ranch sauce and the crunch of fried onions, the viewer can only imagine how it might taste.
How might we bridge the sensorial
disconnect between the food featured in culinary shows and the viewing experience of the audience?
Through a survey and a handful of user interviews, I found the primary reason for watching culinary TV shows was to learn either about new recipies and techniques, or to learn about different cuisines and cultures. I decided to focus on travelogue type shows, such as No Reservations, which center around the culinary experiences of the host and have the largest sensorial disconnect between viewer and host.
Initial ideation led to different possibilities including fresh food delivery during episode premieres, DIY kits with prepackaged food and frozen meals. Feedback on these ideas unearthed an
interesting contridiction; viewers wanted food on demand (to match their DVR viewing habits) but were turned off by any suggestion of additional preservation. Processes such as freezing or even shrink wrapping affected the perceived quality of the food and increases
the metaphorical distance between the food on the television and the one on the viewers plate. Trying to reason around this
"catch 22" of ubiquitous on demand freshness led me to re-frame the problem of bridging the sensory gap by focusing on areas that celebrate the preservation processes.
The reframe of celebrating preservation quickly led to fermentation and subsequently wine. In hindsight it seems obvious, a delicious, stable product with a strong culture built around learning subtle differences. To learn more about users I went on a shop along to a liquor store with a few participants. Most of the which had a simple like or dislike response when asked about their different beverage preferances. Speaking only of the brand, color and occasionally the varietal when pressed, their limited vocabulary in the space suggested an opportunity for informative entertainment.
Sensorial work in Montessori schools is used to help children develop their senses into tools of perception. The core concept is that, by having structured play for each of the senses, the students will study their enviornment in a richer manner and develop a deeper understanding that is directly linked to their experiences. Building from this pedagogy, we can use sensory enhanced television as a platform for amateur vinos to develop their sense of taste and smell.
As a prototype I asked a dozen strangers to watch a short clip of a sommelier discussung the characteristics of a few wines as they tasted along. The responses were overwhelmingly positive. One particular moment when the sommolier mentioned the acidity tingling the side of her cheeks recieved affermitive nods from nearly every participant. The abstract idea of acidity in the wine was tied to a sensorial experience that each participant now understands in a much richer way than simply watching the clip. Upon walking out one participant quipped "Huh, I guess I like white wine now." After successful testing confirmed it's appeal, I began to finalize the idea of Dionysus & Enology.
Dionysus & Enology, or d&e, is a concept for a beverage delivery service paired with a travelogue style TV show highlighting different wine producing regions. Each week the drinks featured on the episode would arrive easily storable for later viewing. During the show, the host focuses on the details of the growing process and how they affect the final profile of the wine tying facts to sensory experiences.
There is a significant amount of tacit information taken in through our sense of taste and smell that cannot be conveyed through words. By creating a unique form of entertainment that harnesses our users' sense of taste and smell, we can provide concrete experiences for them to anchor to their learnings.This not onlyincreases their factual knowledge and expands their sensory pallette and changes their awareness while tasting wine in the future thus allowing for subtle nuances they otherwise would have missed.