Geek Cred in an “Economy of Meanings” Universe
I recently emailed a coworker and got a reply. Nothing new there, yes? The response was short and started with the explanation that they were in transit and currently flying half way across the continent.
Again, nothing truly new there. Only third and fourth world countries are lacking in such easily accessible mass transit.
But at the bottom of their email was “Sent from my iPad”. I laughed when I read it and emailed back
You have an iPad?
I’m so jealous…not!
My coworker responded that I had seriously lost Geek Cred by not having an iPad.
That really gave me a chuckle. Me? Geek Cred?
People’s email signatures have been a study of mine since I started emailing. This means “since the early 1970s” because that’s when I got my first email account at Lincoln Labs. Early on I started including quotes in my email signatures. Later on I started including contact information and eventually marketing info.
At one point I started getting emails with signatures that included “sent from my …” and some one or another mobile device was named. I use to respond with
sent from my backporch, watching my fields and forest, listening to wildlife, sipping some wine.
Wish you were here?
or something similar. It got chuckles.
My favorite signature (and it’s become a quote) is
Sent from my iphone while sitting in a Starbucks writing my novel on a Macbook
(thanks to John “Skoles” Scullin for this)
I sometimes go mobile hunting. Recently a NextStage Senior Researcher had to get a new mobile and I went along to learn. The researcher’s opening statement was “I don’t want to get email, I don’t want to TXT, I don’t want to take pictures. I want to make calls, get calls and have voicemail.” The salesperson directed us to an older sales associate.
The last time I had to get a new mobile was a little similar. I was shown a model that allowed people to contact me anywhere on the planet.
“Why would I want that?”
Had you been there, you could have seen the salesperson’s face lose color. I could browse the web if I wanted.
“I’d do that because…?”
Their left eyelid started a subtle twitch. This model has a GPS and can help you get where you’re going.
This time Susan (wife, partner, all things bright and beautiful, …) chimed in, “He never gets lost. He can remember how to get to places he’s only been to once when he was a kid.”
Uncontrolled convulsing of the diaphragm started. I could download apps.
“So this isn’t complete as is? It’s kind of like a razor or printer? It’s real function is to sell razor blades and ink cartridges?”
We had defibrillator paddles at the ready by this point. I could take pictures and capture video of people doing silly things!
I took the mobile, aimed the lens at the salesperson and clicked.
We left as the medics walked in.
And what has this to do with An Economy of Meanings Universe, Joseph?
Back in the day, information was difficult to obtain. It had what economists call “an opportunity cost” associated with it because (usually) you had to research by going to a library of some sort, study, discuss. find an expert, … and it took recognizable time. Education minded families had encyclopedia and dictionaries in the home. You could determine how much a given family valued education by the number of books, book shelves and book cases they had in their home. Another metric — metric??? — was the diversity of subject matter covered by the books. Sure, there were popular reads. You had to have those so you’d have something to talk about at the watercooler. They were the equivalent of last night’s Seinfeld episode (in its day), the latest YouTube, …
Now-a-days and as the purloined salesperson above would no doubt offer as a selling point, you can find out anything you want to know via your mobile.
I remember going to a bar with a client exec after a day of meetings with other execs in their organization. This client was in the sports industry and the fellow I was sipping Scotch with oversaw US Baseball web content. A few seats away a discussion broke out over some piece of baseball trivia and one fellow pulled out his mobile, clicked a few times and held it up, screen out so the other people in his group could read it. “See?” he proudly proclaimed.
“Excuse me, what site are you looking at?”
It was the one my Scotch drinking friend oversaw.
“What did you look up?”
We were told the obscure fact.
I turned to my comrade and asked, “Wasn’t that one of the things we just talked about today? How when you can’t verify something you post whatever the office consensus is?”
He bought me another Scotch.
But note one of the lesson’s here; the web-based consensus on a fact has greater information value — economy of meaning value — than an individual’s knowledge of a fact.
Information has gotten incredibly inexpensive and it’s a challenge (for me) to think of it as a commodity any more. Recently (as I write this) Egypt has made a move towards a new form of government. I was in a client’s office and watched a few workers keep live feeds of events open on their screens and mobiles. This kind of “in the moment” information isn’t new. I’ve been told and can’t verify that word of Kennedy’s assassination made it around the globe in seven seconds and that was with “ancient” satellite technology. If accurate, the technologic speed of communication hasn’t radically changed in fifty or so years. What’s changed is the speed of information dispersal and that change is largely due to the different information distribution platforms currently available.
A senior US official, asked where the government was getting its information regarding Egypt, said “From the media, pretty much, same as everybody else.”
So you don’t know more than the public does?
“In most cases we don’t but that’s not the problem. The problem isn’t knowing what’s going on, the problem is knowing what to do about it.”
A world of difference, that.
Specifically, a difference in the economy of meanings.
Information is cheap. Knowing which information has real meaning is expensive. Knowing what meaning to act on?
Closing the Geek Cred Loop
One of the changes brought about by the lowered cost of information is that the information itself isn’t as valued as the speed with which one can access it.
Long ago a favorite aunt I was visiting asked me about a made-for-tv movie she’d watched. “Could the moon really break apart and collide with the earth the way they showed it?” she asked.
She was asking me because everybody in my family knew I buried myself in science books and knew that I’d know the answer. I was Wikipedia, the Web, the Encyclopedia Britannica, etc., to them.
I was also the quickest source of information at the time. It really didn’t matter if I was accurate because I was accurate by default; I was the fastest access point to information in that time and place and therefore was accurate.
The coworker mentioned at the start of this post emailed me regarding a question about how people pay attention during webinars. I responded with a few paragraphs explaining different scenarios. My coworker wrote back “God, I love knowing you”.
Why did my coworker seek me out over a web based query? Because, much like my aunt, he knew I was the quickest source of accurate information available to him. He could’ve used the web but then there would have been several hundreds of thousands of answers and he’d have to refine his question half a dozen times…
Or he could just ask me.
And the fact that he asked me such a question?
Yeah…Geek Cred…I got’s it.
I mean, look at all those books!
If you get my meaning.
- I’ll be part of a panel on new marketing paradigms and another panel on neuromarketing at the March 2011 AMA Boston
- Reading Customer’s Minds (presentation, booksigning, etc) at the 11-13 Apr 2011 Ad:Tech San Francisco
- NeuroAnalytics and NeuroMarketing at the 1-3 May 2011 IIR Chicago Conference
- NeuroAnalytics and NeuroMarketing as it applies to other analytics at the 17-18 May 2011 Text Analytics Conference, Boston, MA
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