Here are five places where anyone could have observed a Selfie being taken or viewed in any major US city this week: Waiting in line at the DMV, driving a car, checking out at the supermarket, picking up tickets for a film, crossing a busy street. These were the more interesting answers given at a party Saturday night. Interesting in the sense that a sane person once might have asked: ‘isn’t that dangerous? Or silly?’ but today that same person would not ask, as posing the query would draw more of a stare than a Neanderthal on the East Green in Central Park.
Statistics that claim to tally channel usage by consumers are laughable. Dig into them and they are either focused on an industry, a geographic area, a specific demographic or market segment. The variety, depth, and style of using engagement channels and social media channels around the globe by people of various ages, educational and economic levels, and location make averages useless.
What is important is studying your own circumstance, aware of what is happening out there. What is 100% clear is that when Marshall McLuhan wrote Understanding Media – The extensions of man in 1964, he was onto something profound. This is not the first time his name comes up here. Re-read him. Try this line:
“Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man– the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media.”
We are deeply into the extension of consciousness into social media. Many of us no longer retain information, just a mental bookmark or social link to where the information can be retrieved – we are truly outsourcing our brains. To an extent we are also outsourcing our taste and judgment, preferring to let the crowd comment on an activity, a relationship, an idea, before we firm-up our own thought process. And all of the while we feel comfortable that each of us is in charge and acting entirely on our own. The only highly differentiated ‘me’ left is the me in social ‘me-‘dia.
What do we do with this eerie pattern? As IT professionals we admit that this is outside of our expertise. There are social scientists and evolutionary psychologists and ethnographers who we can tap into. There are universities around the world such as Stanford, MIT, Oxford, and Cambridge where cutting edge research is available. (well, not exactly today in England – another Bank Holiday)
Tapping into the Zeitgeist is harder than we think. Technologies are abundant, while understanding is in short supply. Ask for help, look for allies, and look for the logic and the data to support hypotheses. It is an ultra-exciting time, though by no means a simple time.
Most companies are holding onto more cash than ever before. Rather than pass it into a marketing fog, the CIO needs to be vocal about the need to run small experiments to understand the implications of the media-saturated customer. Just get started. Maybe hold off on taking that Selfie at your next staff meeting, though.
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