The Long and Winding Road : ‘Marty McFly and all that…’

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Marty McFly and all that…

According to the story in Back to the Future, we should now be enjoying flying cars and hover boards. Our perceptions of future lifestyles and living conditions often set technical challenges more than they reflect reality however we may not be too far away from these predictions.

If you have the specific metal alloy surfaces you can operate a hover board in 2015 but at this point it is not refined enough to operate outside of laboratory conditions. As for flying cars, we are almost past that as an idea. Drones seem to have captured the zeitgeist  and the prospect of us heading skyward to avoid traffic congestion looks to be consigned to the stories of Flash Gordon and the like. The development in cars seems to be driver-less machines which almost defeats the object in my view!

While we have been living this past 15 years with the surge in data collection and retrieval we may now be seeing a subtle shift in how we use our technology. Ironically we have started to humanise technology to make it more intuitive and less threatening. Perhaps we can sum it up in saying that this is the age of ‘contextualising’ rather than ‘accumulation of data’.

Our own brain function can offer a handy analogy to explain the shift. Our social networks and communication networks are akin to neuronal networks. The more we experience the more complex and efficient the network becomes. Just experiencing new occurrences does not guarantee a complex and efficient network however, we must be able to contextualise the data we receive. Understanding what we experience is dependent upon the things we have experienced before, it is these things which we use to give meaning to the new experience.

Imagine you walk into a restaurant to find everyone gathered round in a circle throwing the plates to the floor and smashing them in a frenzy of passion. Probably you will turn straight around and decide that if the food is that bad then you will go elsewhere! Think again of the same scenario and add in the fact that the restaurant is a Greek ‘taverna’ and your perception of what this all means is flipped 180 degrees… this is putting things and experiences into context.

It is this type of behaviour which we are starting to see our technology use better and predict more efficiently today compared to 10 years ago. Amazon use behavioural markers to present product to us as we surf, many other retailers do the same. When we stop and think about this we should come to a simple conclusion. Volume is no longer the driver in efficient networks, sheer numbers alone do not constitute success…if that were true a Facebook ‘like’ would be a trade-able commodity like a Bitcoin. What we are striving for in our networks is quality and when we do that we realise that we do not need volume, we need refined and targeted networks which understand what we do and why we do things. There is a critical mass in volume which dictates that one loses an element of personalisation and therefore engagement. This need for personalisation today is apparent in products like Coca Cola where they print people’s names on the cans to try to form a deeper bond with the customer. This a very clever and powerful method of turning a massive user base into a collection of more specific groups with an eye to future engagement.

You may have been watching our series of Videotheque interviews recently with Jim Lynn. As a psychologist and watcher of human behaviour relating to buying and selling Jim says many times that ‘people buy you before they buy your product’. Humans need connection and nothing seems to be able to change that .

So while we may not be hover boarding around town , we may yet be able to reach out to our groups more effectively as the trend of contextualising continues.


Depending upon the context you view this video will determine the context in which you understand it…..


see you on the long and winding road….. Patrick


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