Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Technology is a means not an end (slideshare deck)

Technology isn’t changing consumer behaviour, it is just amplifying different bits of it: technology changes, people don’t. We are still super-social creatures (that’s how we developed language, learned to hunt, out competed rival species) – our evolution has favoured sociability over most other traits, so we still gain most self-esteem from interaction with other people (in the same way as we have evolved to prefer sweet foods, as sugar is the purest form of energy in a food-scarce world.

So we form tribes around shared interests, we change behaviour by copying others, & we rely on other opinions to guide our own. All that has changed is that none of this used to be the domain of mass media. Once the cost of producing media fall away to zero as has happened in the last 15 years, those shared interests and other opinions are no longer limited by geography – they are instant, global and free – and so virtually infinite

This is important for understanding media, as it means that there social networks are not just a trend away from content-centric sites, they are a natural evolution into something that is intrinsically more interesting to human beings – each other. Facebook differs from any media property of the 20th century because people don’t go there first and foremost to consume content – they go there because their friends are there. The fact that content is involved is just something to talk about. Content that spreads through networks does so because of how it connects people, not because of any aesthetic value intrinsic to it as content. Example: if someone tells you a funny joke, you are much more likely to remember who told you the joke than the joke itself – jokes are a form of social currency, where the actual content is less important than the values it conveys on the person who told the joke. If it was funny, you think of them as funny. The subconscious decision-making process that goes on when sending something on to friends is ‘what does this say about me – does it make me look witty, attractive, intelligent?’

So that doesn't help brands think about technology, but I think that it is far more important to think about what is actually changing and how it affects human behaviour. That means we can develop comms products that inspire people to participate, becuase they are grounded in human behaviour. And the technology used is a means, rather than an end.

(No planners were injured in the making of this deck, although several were heavily borrowed from:

Mark Earls
David Cushman
Gareth Kay
Katy Lindemann
Faris Yakob
and probably some more - apologies if I've missed people
If you like my spin on it, then go and check out more of their stuff


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