Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Why the "information Society" is bogus.

Well, not bogus per se. But its not happening. People don't care about "information" in the abstract sense. They will not build the "information society". Rather they will take your "information technology" and turn it into their "social networking technology".

While people may like being able to have all their information on portable devices, be able to do their bills and such from their cell phone, etc. That's not the primary thrust of what people actually use communication devices for. We use them for social networking. Remember how the PC was supposed to be a word-processor and spreadsheet system? Remember how it was supposed to be a fad? Note to gadget makers: People do not want "your" gadget. They want "their" gadget, which you just so happen to make. Observe the social status signaling derived from custom accessories and individualization of cell-phones and ipods.

People want to build, maintain, and customize their social-networks with communication and co-ordination devices. They really don't give a flying fuck about the informational capacity, or that their pocketbook can run excell. Granted these are pluses, and they will want them as features. But what people actually want is something like this:

Take 1 Video I pod, 1 cell phone camera, 1 Play Station Portable, and 1 pocket P.C. smash them all together until you have something that'll fit in your pocket, give it full wireless fidelity, and give it an easy an intuitive OS that's also secure and robust. And when I say easy, I mean exactly that. They'll want to be able to customize it just by manuevering a few icons around, or making a few gestures, or respond by voice. They'll want to be able to literally go "Find me a thai resturant within 10 minutes from where I'm at now." And be able to instantly tell all their friends that they're going to be at the thai resturant. They'll want to be able to make movies, draw on it, manage all of their finances, pay with it, watch movies, play video games, chat with friends, co-ordiante activities etc.

But this is the kicker, which applies especially to you gadget makers: They don't want you to have any control over any of their information. They do not want to play in your "information society". They want their social network to be easy to manage and as expandable and contractable as they like, and they want to be fully able to control every feature they do or do not use on this little mega-gizmo. And they don't want you to know anything about them. I.e., they don't want your database compiling econometric information on their buying habits, they don't want to have to worry about their identity being stolen, either by losing the device, or having your data-base raided.

It has to be secure, so secure that no one else could get their info, but at the same time not asking them for a password every few seconds, or bothering them everytime they link to a wireless network. They want a tool, you want to offer them your technocratic vision of the future, they want what people have allways wanted, their social life.

Ergo, I cannot stress this enough: They don't want "Your" gadget. They don't care how convienent it is, its not even that they care loads about privacy, its about control. They'll gladly tell you much about themselves and share demographic information, so long as its opt-in, rather than a standard feature. Otherwise it turns your wonder-gizmo into a creepy paper-weight.


Which brings me to two more points: PSP vs. Ipod. Ipod has done alot to encourage both personal customization and buying aftermarket products from 3rd party vendors, etc. They've done extremely well this way. PSP has purposely crippled their OS so that you can't run your own programs on it. Which is a stupid stupid mistake. Because people want their PSP to be theirs, not Sony's. They don't want sony to decide what it can and cannot run. It's not as if they'd stop buying sony products, rather they're going to buy stuff that sony doesn't sell, or doesn't sell or package well, and use it. It's a network benefit for the PSP that they completely shot out of the water. Which is why I predict the PSP will become a dead-paperweight system pretty shortly.

Second point relates to the conflict I've been trying to illustrate. Technology is moving in two directions, from one perspective the suppliers of various communication technologies are trying to create an ordered technocratic informational supra-structure where all data can be cataloged and acessed on anyone at any time, down to their dna signature. Granted, they don't want say the average person being able to access it, but they want the technocratic buerocracy to have this information. At least in aggregate. Though likely overtime it will become in specific too. Governments and corporations both fall into this category as they both want it for slightly different, but essentially the same reason: It makes their lives easier. They know more about their customers, or citizens, they know what they want, what they're doing, and how to manipulate them. One wants this ability for the good of the bottom line, the other for the good of the state.

Now the side of the equation is that people want this technology too, they want fluid movement, fluid social networking, ease of use and communication, etc. But they don't want people easedropping, compiling them into biometric data, and regurgitating specifically designed ads or knowing where they're at all the time. People want the ability to be left alone and not to be watched or cataloged as much as they want fluid networks. In other words, people want a reliable and accurate information supra-structure.....and they want no one to control it. They want all their communications to go through essentially a PGP system that doesn't require as much technical knowledge. A global free-net that's easy to use and fast. They'll still gladly shell out demographic information...so long as its their choice to do so.

So again: they don't want your information society. They want their mobile commons, their personal city on the hill. In otherwords: their human, their going to use this in human ways, not in technocratic ways.

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