In a world full of answers you start your journey by asking the right questions
In the week that witnessed the demise of America’s most significant contribution to the suburbanization of high culture over the past 50 years (Think Borders), Twitter’s moment of self-awareness (Think The self realisation that it is the world’s first online multi functional real-time find me, find you and let’s exchange platform), the growth in Google + proves that in a So.Me world the network is the new traffic and friends are the new page hits, the end of social and HTML5 being touted as the nextgen UX and engagement platform, Science providing yet more evidence that Google is changing the way we think, The New York Times discovers that Paywalls are the new freemium, the Next Web deliver Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs a wake up call and the level of investment in Social Media in the 2Q of 2011 providing further evidence that VC is a lag indicator of US innovation perhaps the event of most interest to me at least was the celebration of Marshall McLuhan’s legacy in a digitally connected world.
So let’s try and do a McLuhan and drag all these threads together to discover what is the pivot point that will reheat the debate over what is the future of media.
Before the internet the was a saying in the investment industry that if you read about it in the paper it was too late to buy into the deal. These days if you find out the VC’s are making a play in that space then it’s probably already too late to be thinking about buying in.
All which raises the question of how hard is it to pick a “sure-fire” winner in these turbulent times for media and advertising?
Is there a “proof” that can help us to determine which ideas are going to be the long-term winner?
I suspect there is and I also suspect it is a very simple question. It is about asking ourselves how is this idea, this start-up, this app, this online service, this website, this gadget, this technology, this thing I am going to buy into going to change the way I think about and interact with time.
If it helps me to create time then it is a winner. If it is going to eat more of my time then it is just another loser.
Think Eat Time = Freemium. Create Time = Premium.
Creating time delivers to me more free time to do the things I want to do. Eat time just leaves me with something more I have to pack into my already busy life.
I think the create time proof explains why ideas like SMS have proven to be a financial wind fall for the Telcos while Location Based Services (LBS) proven to be so difficult to monetize. LBS deals in matters of space and distance. SMS is quicker than making a phone call. I can achieve more in less time by communicating with SMS than by voice.
Emoticons and abbreviations like LOL, TGIF and are a reflection of how our new relationship with time is reshaping the way we behave and think while using these time manipulation technologies.
Mobile games and apps, eBooks and iPods create new time in spaces that previously consisted of dead time (e.g. The daily commute or waiting for somebody to arrive at a coffee shop).
All of these ideas about time have run as a background theme throughout the MobCon journey. As I have said before in Surfing the edge of Chaos
Your ability to dominate, never mind manage or control, the network is inversely proportional to the size of the network. So as the network grows it become more and more complex and difficult to monitor, manage and maintain. The real challenge you and your competition face is the potential size of the combined online and mobile Networks is infinite.
You cannot manage the infinite so to survive and thrive you need to go looking for the finite variables in the equation that you can control and the only part of the Networked Communication equation that is finite is TIME.
After all there are only 24 hours in a day and, for all the explosion in new media content and channels over the past two decades, the only thing that hasn’t exploded is the amount of time available to each and every one of us to consume this bloated universe of transient information.
The Network is operating, and will continue to operate in the foreseeable future, in parallel with at least four distinct concepts time. There is
- Kronos which we all know to be the beginning middle and end,
- The Cyclical Time of the clock, the calendar, the seasons and the years.
- There is Kairos. That moment of Opportunity and Synchronicity when you time the market we spoke about in It’s the New Plastic and yes, it feels Fantastic. and,
- Then there is Chaos.
The winners of the Agricultural Revolution monitored and managed their world by Kronos.
The winners of the Industrial Revolution monitored and managed their world by Cyclical Time.
The winners of the Information Revolution will dominate the market with their ability to monitor and manage the Kairos moment.
So will the winners in the distant future dominate by monitoring and managing Chaos? Who knows and to be honest it’s not our problem, at least not yet.
As I said the different parts of the network will interoperate using different perceptions of time. Operating on Kronos time are the archaic remnants of the agricultural revolution (i.e. Government, Defence and the Legal System). Operating on Cyclical time will be the survivors of the industrial age (i.e. Schools, Hospitals and Corporations). Operating on Kairos time will be the early adaptors of the MobCon (i.e. Teenagers and the Tech Savvy). Operating on Chaos time will be the natural world and those lucky, gifted few who are capable of surfing on the edge of chaos.
These ideas of course can be traced back to McLuhan’s ideas about time and space.
“For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role.” - Paul Miller Dead Simple: Marshall McLuhan and the Art of the Record
Today the mobile phone is best understood as something akin having access to a “Time Wallet” in your pocket or handbag. Simply by allowing you to communicate with other people on the move this device fundamentally modified our relationship with both time and space. The advent of the smartphone takes this (r)evolution onto a whole new plan of time-space reality.
This I think is an exciting idea and so I went back to the Edge’s big question of 2010 “How is the internet changing the way we think ” to discover what, if anything, any of our leading thinkers had to say about how the internet is changing our relationship with time. Of the 172 personalities who contributed responses to the question only four made any informed consideration of our relationship to time in their response.
We had Emanual Derman‘s thoughts on the fragmentation of time while interacting with the computer. Douglas Coupland‘s “This is an astonishing inversion of time perception that I’ve yet to fully absorb”. Thomas Bass‘s “Time is speeding up. Space contracting. Sentences are getting shorter. Thoughts swifter, dare we say shallower.” and, Marina Abramovich “Since I started to use Internet and all the options it offers in matter of communications, my perception of global time changed radically.”
Now let’s take a look at what Marshall McLuhan was saying about how our technology was radically changing our relationship with time in a Playboy interview from 1969. The interview needs to be read in full to be fully appreciated but here is a sample of what McLuhan was thinking about over half a century ago.
Play boy:What do you mean by “acoustic space”?
MCLUHAN:I mean space that has no center and no margin,unlike strictly visual space,which is an extension and intensification of the eye. Acoustic space is organic and integral,perceived through the simultaneous interplay of all the senses;whereas “rational”or pictorial space is uniform,sequential and continuous and creates a closed world with none of the rich resonance of the tribal echoland. Our own Western time-space concepts derive from the environment created by the discovery of phonetic writing,as does our entire concept of Western civilization…
Perhaps the most interesting thing about living in the MobCon maelstrom. This wholesale change in the way we relate and interact with time and space. Is for all the chat and the vast amount of words and images being generated it is self-evident that we continue to struggle to comprehend its potential simply because we fail to ask the right questions about what is really changing and more importantly what opportunities are up for grabs. This is why McLuhan is still important to us today. His work continues to demonstrate just how important the questions we ask ourselves and of our technology are to the world we create for ourselves.