Participation is the future of everything on the Internet
01 Mar 2012 12:01 AM
We people want to be involved in everything today - we want our say, we want our opinions to be heard and shared, and we want to be able to express ourselves artistically through clever parodies, skits and remixes of popular social media.
There’s a brilliant, brief TED talk (below) by YouTube’s Trends Manager - Kevin Allocca - where he tries to identify how out of millions of hours of video - phenomena ’Nyan Cats’, ’Double Rainbow’ and ’Rebecca Black’s Friday’ managed to stand out. Of course there are a myriad of causal factors there, but the obvious one is that of a shared experience and the ease of interaction and parody. Universally, we now live in the age of parody - as best exemplified by long-running animated shows ’The Simpsons’ and ’South Park’ where nothing is holy any more - everyhing is deconstructed, ridiculed and parodied - and the people love it!
A great part of the success of the aforementioned trio is the ease with which people could relate to them and parody them. Pretty much every decent pop song gets ’covered’ in a million different ways within weeks of hitting the tops of the charts - punk versions, skiffle band folk versions, multi-tracked-acapellas, 2Cellos version, the ubiquitous dubstep remix etc. etc.
Twitter and Facebook’s ubiquity in the ease of commenting, liking, re-tweeting and sharing is what makes them work, and what looks like a sound basis for new site Pinterest. Yet there are still forces out there that think that they can totally ’tailor’ a user’s experience - limit the amount of input, interaction and participation, and still create a successful marketplace - I’m not so sure any more.
By nature we humans are usually highly suspicious, increasingly cynical and often lonely and lacking in confidence in various aspects of our lives - we need regular interaction, recognition, support and approval - much as Abrahm Maslow identified all the way back in 1943. Much has been written about key influencers in human motivations, and one thing is for sure - and that is that complex communities of personal interactions are what best influence behaviour. Everything has to happen within a context and within the subjectivity of a person’s activities, interests and tastes - yet the undeniable truth is that we are all best influnenced by the people who surround us in our daily lives.
One opinion is rarely enough, not even a second opinion suffices for me, I use the term ’Triangulation’ in relation to how I make many of my key decisions. Triangulation really means relying on 3 or more opposably viewpoints - for instance if you are trying to discern the truth in a story, you would need to read the left wing, right wing, liberal and independent press to be able to eliminate bias. In the same way I compare film reviews on IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, Empire and Digital Spy before I read between the lines to decide if the film holds any appeal for me - there are of course other factors such as mood, opportunity and occasion - but typically you need at least 3 perspectives to filter out the noise - of course too many perspectives can be bad too.
There’s also the aspect of ’Likemindedness’ i.e. how similar a person’s tastes or lifestyle or life-outlook is to your own - we are far more likely to pay heed to people and taste-makers we believe have similar tastes and motivations in life. Some recent research by the Gallup Group finds that friends are becoming increasingly impervious to peer pressure and thus increasingly less likely to react to soical likes or recommendations from friends - unless they hit an appropriate target within context. For on the other side of the need to be loved and accepted is often the need to be different, unique and to stand out - this has seen a huge rise in Special and Limited Editions of late. Just look how many different custom iPhone cases are available - almost limitless. This though still falls within the influence of participation, as this is how we participate in daily life - by customising our favourite gadgets, clothing and accessories and even media - in terms of the ’Nyan Cats’ - why just yesterday I saw 2 japanese girls on Oxford street wearing their own customised ’Nyan Cat’ t-shirts - unique and yet ubiquitous at the same time - just like today’s social media and social retail - the influence of participation really is everywhere ...