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Sipping from the information firehose

Sipping from the information firehose Jodi Harris
"There's an arms race going on. It's an arms race between advertisers and consumers." So began David Pescovitz's keynote at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit this morning. And while most marketers might not want to think about their jobs as going into battle, or as a quest to "beat" consumers at the media game, it does provide some interesting context to help them think about the forces that will impact the marketing and media business over the next 10 years.

Pescovitz, co-editor of the "geek lifestyle" blog, BoingBoing.net, does double duty, looking at both the trends and how they impact current culture, as well as taking a longer-term view of how these trends will shape the systematic way in which consumers and businesses interact with each other and derive meaning. His additional role as research director for the Institute of the Future also colors his perspective on technology and how it can and should optimally be applied to the art and science of persuasion.

"At the Institute of the Future, the first thing we do is try to look way back. In this case, it's about 40 years back, to when advertising first went to the screen, and we look at how people began to resist advertising and marketing," says Pescovitz.

Now that marketers are starting to mine our social graph in order to predict our behavior and turn us into better target markets, the problem has grown exponentially, even in the face of myriad new opportunities that are simultaneously opening up to marketers. So the question becomes how to overcome the innate resistance to the more invasive -- and pervasive -- strategies enabled by today's always-on, ever-connected media.

"What happens when cyberspace ceases to be a place we go to from desktop display and becomes an overlay? Our digital trails are moving offline into the physical world, blending with reality," he observes, pointing out that attention isn't enough anymore. Today's goal is engagement, but as Pescovitz admits, "If you are looking for engagement among the clutter, you're in for an uphill battle."

Citing a recent study, he pointed out that in one year, we are producing more than 37,000 Libraries of Congress-capacity amounts of information. So how can anyone be expected to deal with that much information, let alone add to it and get attention for your efforts?

With the rest of his presentation, Pescovitz pointed out a few emerging solutions for marketers to keep in mind that might indicate where human culture and digital culture will merge and move forward:

  • Smarter environments, such as a desktop lamp that scours the internet for references to terrorism, natural disasters, and disease outbreaks, gauges their levels and importance, and then offers a color-coded sense of how freaked out you should be.

  • Devices that convert information into signals that can be detected using senses other than the eyes, such as the bacon alarm clock, or a camera that translates images into taste sensations for blind people.

  • Lifehacks – tricks to improve performance and optimize our ability to absorb and apply information. Such as augmented cognition (AugCon) helmets that can block out certain stimuli when a user is stressed, so that he can focus on one vital task at hand. (Which totally reminds me of this. More evidence of Douglas Adams' prescient brilliance.)


Jodi Harris is the Director of Editorial Content & Curation at Content Marketing Institute. As an independent consultant, Jodi develops strategic content programs and projects for brand, media, and agency clients in the marketing, entertainment,...

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