For all our talk about how our targets "consume media" we rarely seem to discuss how people use gadgets. I mean actually use them. I'm not referring to the "frequencies" or "tendencies" that we learn from MRI and Simmons...I'm referring to the idiosyncrasies we see in our everyday experience with people and their gadgets.
We all know that emerging technologies are changing our behaviors significantly (e.g., three times as many people got their news primarily from the Internet in 2008 versus 2001 [source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press]), but we tend to think of these changes in faceless, high-volume terms. As an account planner in a media agency, I can certainly appreciate the momentum of a group's behavioral or attitudinal shifts, but what I'm really after are conspicuous changes in our rituals and dispositions as driven by new technologies.
Consider our use of the telephone and voicemail. These days you're more likely to give blood than to return a phone call, it seems. Listening to voicemail? Am I the only one who often hears them for the first time when the automated system is reminding me that they are about to be erased?
I read an interesting account of our emerging phone behaviors which suggested that in the context of passive message technologies like e-mail and text, the act of calling someone (and expecting them to interact with you then and there) is just downright rude.
Even e-mail, it seems, may be going the way of the telephone call in the face of SMS, wall-posting and IM (I realized while trying to sleep last night that an important e-mail has been sitting in my in-box for weeks, which both kept me up and inspired this post).
We're well aware of what's happening with the phone (and possibly with e-mail), but when we consider rituals around, say, shooting pictures with cameras, some truly curious behaviors seem to emerge… Have you – or someone you've been watching – taken more than 3 seconds to snap a photo recently? Did you take care to get just the right angle; slowly moving side-to-side or up-and-down to capture the moment?
If "yes," may I suggest that you snap 20 frames during the same time period next go-'round and keep the 1 frame that suits your intention? Unless you are a professional photographer, I would guess that you are using a digital camera. Why all the bandying about? It's not like you need to preserve film…
There are countless examples like this; 'ghost rituals' of our analog past, if you will.
It seems that in all our efforts to understand the next big emerging behavior (location-based mobile interactions, for example) we might be missing some rituals that are die-hard, interesting remnants of our analog past. Rituals that can be disrupted, made-fun of, harnessed and accommodated, etc. as we look to connect people with our client's brands.
Ed Castillo, SVP, Director of Account Planning at PHD Media, a Division of Omnicom. You can follow Ed @xandnotx
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