To Everything There is a Season

April 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Later today I’m going write a thing about research aimed at moving targets. It is weird, I will write, and has the tendency to give one an ulcer. It is also very interesting — you can’t get too comfortable with anything you do, at any moment something might come along that threatens to smash your precious conceptual framework to bits, so you’d better take a page out of CalTrans‘ playbook and retrofit the shit out of that shit. This is especially true now, given the changes that are just beginning to twinkle on the horizon. Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic discusses some of these changes (and/or the potential for change, the dust isn’t just still settling but hasn’t all been flung into the atmosphere quite yet), particularly in relation to social media. Excerpt below:

Decades ago, the answer was, “Build the Internet.” Fifteen years ago, it was, “Build the Web.” Five years ago, the answers were probably, “Build the social network” or “Build the mobile web.” And it was in around that time in 2007 that Facebook emerged as the social networking leader, Twitter got known at SXSW, and we saw the release of the first Kindle and the first iPhone. There are a lot of new phones that look like the iPhone, plenty of e-readers that look like the Kindle, and countless social networks that look like Facebook and Twitter. In other words, we can cross that task off the list. It happened.

What we’ve seen since have been evolutionary improvements on the patterns established five years ago. The platforms that have seemed hot in the last couple of years — Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest — add a bit of design or mobile intelligence to the established ways of thinking. The most exciting thing to come along in the consumer space between then and now is the iPad. But despite its glorious screen and extended battery life, it really is a scaled up iPhone that offers developers more space and speed to do roughly the same things they were doing before. The top apps for the iPad look startlingly similar the top apps for the iPhone: casual games, social networking, light productivity software.

For at least five years, we’ve been working with the same operating logic in the consumer technology game. This is what it looks like:

There will be ratings and photos and a network of friends imported, borrowed, or stolen from one of the big social networks. There will be an emphasis on connections between people, things, and places. That is to say, the software you run on your phone will try to get you to help it understand what and who you care about out there in the world. Because all that stuff can be transmuted into valuable information for advertisers.

That paradigm has run its course. It’s not quite over yet, but I think we’re into the mobile social fin de siècle.

Full article here.

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