Five Voices at Once

Lee Rainie, Director of Pew Research centre’s Internet and American Life Project, gave an intriguing talk on their research into the current use of the Internet in the US at our USASBE conference this past week. 

The trends they are finding on the use of wireless, social networking, the types of technology we are using to access information, and the types of information we are seeking is really eye-opening.  Anyone who is working on ventures related to the Internet or that rely on it for marketing (I guess that pretty much includes almost every business today) should read their reports. 

One of the interesting conversations that came out of their data was about the changing norms and social expectations that are developing due to technology and the Internet.

Most of us have experienced a situation where we are talking to a young adult who in the middle of the conversation begins to answer a text message.  Those of us who are Baby Boomers find this behaviour to be socially rude.  But to younger people, this is absolutely socially acceptable.

An extension of this is the need to compete with our marketing to an increasing amount of “noise” out there.  People receive multiple messages, often simultaneously. 

Such multiple, simultaneous flows of information are becoming the norm in our culture.

If you try to fight it, you will likely lose.  When culture shifts this way it is impossible to reverse or even slow down the changes.

The conversation reminded me of an interview I heard with Brad Faxon, who is a professional golfer.  Faxon had tried his hand at television broadcasting with NBC sports this past year.  He is getting to the age where he is not very competitive on the PGA tour, but not quite old enough for the senior tour.

He said that his contract was not renewed with NBC.  He shared that one of the most difficult things about the job was being able to listen to five different voices at once coming through his head phones offering information about what was happening in the golf tournament.  He had to discern which of the voices were relevant for his commentary, while at the same time carrying on a conversation with other announcers or making comments about what was going on in the tournament.

I think all of us may soon experience something similar in our daily lives.  More and more information is coming to us through more and more media and sources.  And it is coming to us faster and faster.  It is not slowing down and it is not going to let up. 

We will all need to learn to adapt to this new social/cultural reality of “five voices at once” both as consumers of information and producers of information to the marketplace.

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