It's been a long, long time since I said anything original in a presentation. I'm mostly fed up with talking about what I actually know about (brands/adverts/all that). And I don't know enough about the things I'm becoming interested in for anyone to want me to talk about them. So I thought I'd try and cook up something newish by knocking the two together and seeing if there's a presentation in there somewhere.
So here's a start, a general blatting out in public of things that might fit together.
The general area I think might be interesting is in the collision between marketing and brands and the information drenched cities we're soon going to be living in. Technologists are busying themselves turning buildings into displays, or at least draping them with informatics (whether physically or via various forms of augmented reality.) It's all really exciting, thoughtful, stuff with tons of thrilling prototypes and sketches, it reminds me of early webiness. Because, unless I'm missing something, there's not a lot of sophisticated thinking about how this intersects with commerce, marketing and advertising. (And I'm very willing to believe I'm missing something, this is why this is a bit of a voyage of discovery. And I just noticed today that Adam Greenfield's talking about it here. ) The city is already festooned with persuasion, screens are already talking to phones and animating transport systems but it's not being done by thoughtful UI experts it's being done by poster contractors at the behest of advertising agencies.
My concern is that we'll end up blundering into cities plastered with the equivalent of flash banners and microsites. Which is bad enough when they're on our screens but will be horrible when they're everywhere we go. What happens when the urban spam geniuses get to augmenting our reality?
Which is, you know, sort of interesting, but not really helpful. Because that just gets you to the cliche sci-fi visions of Minority Report etc and I don't think the future's going to be like that. It makes movie sense but not marketing sense. And I don't think society will tolerate it, and I don't think decent brands are that stupid.Well, half of me doesn't think so, and half of me suspects we're going to end up with Blade Runner directed by the people who brought you Orangina and Cillit Bang.
I'm not quite sure where to go next with that but it seems like there's something useful to be said about how these different streams of information and different forms of persuasion could coexist in the real world. I look at Dan's wonderful vision of a personal well-tempered environment and the evil marketing devil on my left-shoulder instantly wants to know whose logo's going to go next to the big bit of data and how long we can add a roll-over with a message from the gas company. You know what I mean? It's like the way advertising ended up all over the web - it seemed a pain-free option and a way to get things paid for. But if we want to provide people with all this information all over the city do we want to do it the same way? Advertisers will pay for access to that kind of attention, but is that a deal we want to do?
I think there might be an emerging area of practise here. Because it seems like this could be managed so we create good stuff that works for everyone - civil society, business, etc. But there are a million ways it could end up really bad.
Then there seem to be little threads that might connect to the main weft somehow:
Advertising/communications people know some arcane, non-obvious but relatively proven things about capturing and directing attention. Is that a skill-set that could enhance the efforts of the informaticians?
Is there some connection to the (admittedly unformed) notion of pre-experience design? How cool would it be if the data that's draped around the city leaks back into communications, and if those communications helped to explain and contextualise that data.
And, er, actually, that's it. Not a lot yet, but this feels like a thread worth pulling. So I'm going to.