The ‘Experience People’ movement has arisen out of a social network app developed by New York-based startup Dooble. Its driving aim is to promote the concept of ‘digital enlightenment’ and help wean modern society off its addiction to all things digital.

‘Digital Enlightenment’ through an App and a Road-Trip

Serial entrepreneur Brian M. Hiss is taking a road trip across the United States in his van, with the aim of promoting what he calls the Digital Enlightenment Movement. Key to this, he believes, is (re-)learning how to get away from our digital tools and ‘experience people’. Along the way, Hiss is talking to lots of people about how we can stop digital having a negative effect on our social lives and humanity. This is not about banning modern information and communication technology, but we do need to avoid getting addicted, argues Hiss. Regarding the Dooble app, he explains: “I set up Dooble because there was no social network in existence that allowed you to switch from online to offline.” The app, designed to provide New Yorkers with curated content on experiences in their city they should go out and try – embodying the Hiss philosophy of using digital to enhance real-world experiences – is due to launch in other US cities soon. He sees Dooble as a way for hyper-connected people – ‘digital natives’ – to revive their interest in having real-life encounters.

Meeting the startup community

As Hiss pursues his evangelical mission across the US, he is accompanied by a team making a documentary intended to spread the word about Digital Enlightenment – using a lot of electronic equipment. If this seems like a paradox it is not the only one, since Hiss is himself a tech buff.  He is nevertheless determined to point out the negative social consequences that ICTs can have if not used sensibly and with moderation. He encourages digital natives to put their phones down, get out and experience the real world. For those who currently spend 40 minutes a day on Facebook – the average in the United States – Hiss suggests people wean themselves off their ‘addiction’ little by little, cutting the time spent on posts, comments and ‘likes’ to 20 minutes, which would free up a total of hundreds of hours a year for other activities. During his 20+ city trip, he is meeting people from the tech sector, startup founders and venture capitalists. From his native NYC he has so far travelled via Detroit, Toronto, Nashville and many other tech hubs and will finish this month with a run down through Silicon Valley via San Francisco and San Jose, ending in San Diego.

Easing the ‘addictions’ of US digital natives

The Digital Enlightenment movement and its Experience People tour is, inter alia, an opportunity for Brian Hiss to forge local agreements and get Dooble better known. Hiss is in fact very well-known in the New York startup world. He was Chief Operating Officer of the restaurant guide, which was later acquired by online ordering website, before launching Dooble, already his eighth entrepreneurial adventure. His prominence in the tech world gives him considerable credibility in his mission to help people disengage somewhat from digital technology.  What the tech pioneer is taking issue with is US Americans’ voracious use of technology and social networks, which he reckons swallow up too much time and commitment. “We’re over-consuming technology right now. Technology should aid the experience, not be the experience,” he stresses.  And although very few people would nowadays dispute the fact that digital technology has benefitted our well-being, often in surprising ways, Hiss still argues that “technology will always lack human values.”

By Simon Guigue