So here’s something everyone has an opinion on: the pros and cons of constant connection. To be honest, I was worried heading into this panel discussion that we would be preached at, that there would be a consistent narrative of “be present, be mindful” etc. But thankfully it was more nuanced than that, largely due to the presence of the incredibly insightful, Christine Batcho. Ms. Batcho is a psychologist and a professor in the Psychology Department at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Her research has ranged from early work in human-computer interaction to the impact of higher education on how society is evolving as a result of the influx of opportunities to interact with social data.
The panel discussion which also featureed Paul Tyma from Refresh.io and Jenny Stoltenow from 3M marketing, was divvied up into observations about the constant connection which either contributes to, or detracts from, each stage of Maslow’s hierecahy of needs. A useful framework to pump through sixty minutes of commentary.
When considering physiological drivers, the point was made that many of todays interactive or social experiences (eg. Fitbit) attempt to create motivations rather than address them. This is interesting because I think the best emerging experiences today convert you to care more about the intrinsic movitation (eg. getting fit, dieting, meeting people) rather than the gamified elements added after the fact. Apps and interactivity that can’t pass your attention onto, or back to, the intended core motivator, eventually come across as gimicks and novelty.
There was also plenty of chat about the delegation of control within interactive experiences. When the app demands too much of you without a reasonable exchange of value, people can feel like they’re at the wrong end of the “Who’s the Boss?” equation. It needs to be a balance of reward and demand. Seems obvious, but perhaps if we put all of our branded websites and experiences through this filter we wouldn’t ask users for so much in exchange for so little.
Overall, Ms. Batchco summed up the ultimate paradox that exists when thinking about the value connectivity and socialisisation has brought to many people. The internet allows people to be connected., but.. the more time people spend on social media websites, the worse they feel. Some people are helped, but a lot of people feel disconnected. Its social but at a distance – it’s great until you hang up the phone.
The great hope is that we can continue to learn from what’s come before us and that we can enrich peoples’ lives in the softer emotions: empathy and compassion, and learn how to understand identity in new ways. All the emphasis used to be on ego and the “I”, in Freudian terms. This doesn’t work anymore. Our work should serve people, not just use them.