Steve Woods

Social Media and the Age of the Electronic Ape

In What Day is it? on September 24, 2009 at 12:34 pm

nov-el-ty (nŏv’Əl-tē) n., pl. ties. 1. The quality of being novel : newness. 2. Something new or unusual. 3. novelties. Small inexpensively produced items, as souvenirs or toys.           – Websters

novelty – the state of being new or novel; newness; a new product; an innovation; a small mass-produced trinket; in novelty theory, newness, density of complexification, and dynamic change as opposed to static habituation.        – Wikipedia (once considered a novelty)

We still love these...

We still love these...

Andrew Brown, a writer for The Guardian newspaper in the UK, stated in an article just seven months ago that when a friend of his asked what Twitter was useful for, his reply to her was “it was wonderful for people without offices to go to or wives to bore.”

In his defense, Mr. Brown has never stated himself to be a social media seer, so Twitterphiles should not fault him for this somewhat limiting statement. In fact, many would likely agree with him. In the past year, I doubted Twitter’s usefulness a few times, until I took the time to participate fully.  Many of my friends still share the sentiment embodied in Mr. Brown’s statement, simply refusing to even sneak a peek at Twitter’s steady stream of information, emotions, and media.  It’s disheartening to see it, and I look forward to their turn-around. I’ll keep trying…

What is a Novelty?

“Happiness ain’t a thing in itself. It’s only a contrast with something that ain’t pleasant. And so, as soon as the novelty is over and the force of the contrast dulled, it ain’t happiness any longer, and you have to get something fresh.” – Mark Twain

Novelty is best defined through the perception of each and every individual, based on the sum of their experiences, and their evolving personal tastes. What is new (and desirable) to you may be old-news (or even worthy of a trashcan) to another. We are besieged by novelty today. I would gather a guess that on your desk at home or in the office, if you swept your neck to and fro, you would find nestled among the books and crockery a number of novelties. We drive past shops teeming with new-to-us products, each one shouting at us with sexy neon print and indestructible packaging. Purveyors of food, clothing and electronica crawl over inventions and suppliers, always on the prowl for that which we are unaware of, in the hope they’ll catch a novelty that will someday become to us a need.  God bless ‘em.

Why Do We Love Novelties So?

“Novelty has charms that our minds can hardly withstand” – William Makepeace Thackeray

We were once a World of novelistic doubters, shaking our heads at the whimsies shoved before us. In 1878 the chief engineer at the Post Office in London said there would be no need for the telephone.  In 1977 the head of Digital Equipment said nobody would ever need a home computer. In 2005 Sir Alan Sugar declared the iPod dead on arrival. We seem to have turned the tide on our nay-saying, haven’t we?

Today our children (and many an adult) gallivant after one novelty or another, positively delighting in a find before others have stumbled upon it. For some, it is the glory of displaying ourselves as equally unique and brilliant as the find, in that we found it. For others, it is simply the joy of sharing new finds with others. Just how many times have I read an article entitled “What’s next after Twitter,” in the hope that someone might (finally) be right… Would-be young coding billionaires tap away in garages, dorm rooms, and back offices, hoping to come up with the answer to that question, yearning to discover a novel way to bring our steady stream of micro-information to advertisers and their marketing dollars. To us. In the search for the next big thing, have we found ourselves shouting through the gleaming, indestructible plastic too?

Is Social Media the Future of Novelty?

BBC News on Twitter

BBC News on Twitter

In his Guardian article, Mr. Brown goes on to say he further believed at the time that Twitter would not be “the future of news, or even marketing.”  He went on to note what he perceived as a dearth of ability to link one’s photos to Twitter, thereby limiting advertisers in their ability to amass loads of personal data about customers, and hampering the ability to target marketing appropriately to them.

Of course, any good Twitter user who witnessed the events unfolding in Iran many months ago knows that quite often the most current information, rich in still photograph and video media, can be found streaming by on their Twitter feed.   Anyone with a Twitter account anticipating watching the movies The Youngest Candidate or Spread has become familiar with Jason Pollock and Ashton Kutcher’s tweets (and subsequent retweets.) Twitter is rapidly becoming the source for information of all kinds. MediaPost News projects Twitter’s news coverage alone to be worth $48 Million (half of what Microsoft spent on advertising their new search engine Bing.)

The Electronic Ape?

“There is an incessant influx of novelty into the world, and yet we tolerate incredible dullness” – Henry David Thoreau

An even more interesting tidbit is found underneath Mr. Brown’s Guardian article, in the responses section. A replier to Mr. Brown states:

“Human evolved sociability is micro-gossiping….The human ape socially grooms by sharing small but many bits of chit-chat…..most of this grooming is not between close friends–our social group is much bigger and causal than that.

Twitter more than any other internet social tool creates the space for this innate human sociability. Brief social grab of attention. Move on to the next social piece of fruit. A different tree, a different person…Twitter enables us be true electronic apes.”

I spoke earlier about how social media has brought us back in time, as we redevelop the tribes we once lost, albeit social ones. Are we going even further back?  Do we find ourselves hunched over computers and smart phones, huddling for emotional closeness against the coming storm?

How long is the walk, in returning home?

How long is the walk, in returning home?

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  1. […] Festival of Latest Novelties « DÕPÕDÕMÅNÌ – view page – cached nov-el-ty (nŏv’Əl-tē) n., pl. –ties. 1. The quality of being novel : newness. 2. Something new or unusual. 3. novelties. Small inexpensively produced items, as souvenirs or toys. – Websters — From the page […]

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