Friday, March 12, 2010

The medium is not the message

There's an inherent danger to working online. I don't mean stalkers or trojans or ill-advised pics/comments on Facebook (that modern equivalent of the office party/photocopier/alcohol interface). I mean the danger of forgetting that the medium is not the message.

Watchfulness applies to people like me especially. More and more of what I write is specifically, if not exclusively, for online use. I'm surrounded by people who are in the same position. Journalists, media commentators, broadcasters, advertisers, marketers and entrepreneurs. Companies too. The net result is one constant information flow, a lovely jubbly Dow Jones ticker tape that never stops, and access to it is universal. We all rush to investigate the latest applications in social media. The local news rumours and stories fly quickly, get verified or scotched within minutes and it's all quite chummy, even when arguments break out. As they frequently do

It has its own heady and self-satisfying effect, I find. But like Gollum, you fondle the shiny things for too long at your peril. The marketing mantra remains the same: the medium is not the message.
I'm convinced that it's an age thing. I clearly remember when a fax machine was the absolute razor's edge of tech empowerment for the office. It's not really surprising, is it, that the wow factor of Chatroulette (or insert your own recent online thing discovery here), how it can start and what it ends up being used for, will never be lost on a guy of my vintage.

For an entire generation of kids however, the shiny toys were always there. They never didn't know mobile phones. If Foursquare (or insert your own recent online thing discovery here) is to have any relevance for them, the marketing department needs to allow it to continue the conversation they're having around it, without the tool itself being a distraction. It reminds me of something Martin Scorsese said years ago. Once you've drawn the viewer's attention to what you just did as the director, you've ruined the magic.

Paul Dervan recently wrote about a book that analyses the teen market and how it operates online. One of the subcategories the authors break it down to is Geeking. But as Paul says,
'Geeking' should not be confused with 'geeks'. The authors explain that these are not 'geeks' as we might know the term - but rather kids very enthusiastic about a particular hobby. For example, they could even be sports nuts. And this is not really about digital for the sake of it. It just happens to be their way to get into their hobby and the online communities around it.
I keep a few geeks, real geeks, in view at all times. I can tell that they are because nineteen tweets out of twenty I have no earthly idea what they're talking about. But they move through this online medium with the ease of talcum-powdered ferrets because it's what they've always done. They produce online games, platforms and applications and they're younger than me. Much. I keep them close to remind myself of the mantra. Medium not message. They have loads to teach an old dino like me. They don't care about Facebook per se. It's just allowing them to pass notes to each other.

Meanwhile, because it's ultra-multi-media and great fun, there's this from Heineken Iddly.

Heineken ─░taly Activation from Kreatif360 on Vimeo.

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