The New Next: More Choice, Less Richness?

Humans are innately social beings. Since the beginning of time, it has been in our DNA to seek connections with others, always looking for more ways to communicate. It began with the formation of spoken languages tens of thousands of years ago. Then, languages became written, from markings on cave walls to alphabetical systems. To add another dimension, a portable medium was invented: papyrus. Soon people began to communicate over long distances, building infrastructure for a postal system. The state of economics and relationships between countries came to depend on the efficiency of these systems.

This timeline of innovation is ongoing: The printing press and the telephone followed, and in both cases technology spiraled, making the exchange of information easier and easier for us all. Today the Internet and wireless technologies allow us to communicate with whomever we want, whenever and wherever we want. Geography is completely irrelevant at this point - companies can exist in entire regions, with people working as mobile pods on their computers. Client meetings can be held via video chat.

But what is all this change doing to personal relationships? Here at Naked Communications we have been talking a lot about the hierarchy of richness in communication options. Technology advances create a paradox: While they provide us with more options and ways to communicate, richness is sometimes lost. Face-to-face interaction at someone's house or a party is high on the scale of richness and intimacy, while having a mobile phone conversation falls lower on this scale, and text messaging lower still.

We have to consider how this affects the business we're in. The challenge now is to identify the most appropriate forms of communication. The exciting part is that we have an increased ability to speak to people now, and the moods associated with each channel are so varied. But the level of richness has to be taken into consideration, as well. For example, Second Life is gaining momentum in the marketing world lately; several brands are buying space in this virtual lifescape and approaching players in the name of market research to get consumer information. The same thing is happening on Web communities such as MySpace and YouTube.

But why do marketers choose these platforms? Is it just because they're the hot new things, and marketers think more people will hear the message? Your message might be wonderful, but it has to be delivered in the best context for your audience. It's not just what you say, it's how you say it that is important.

Like me, others are starting to notice what seems like an inverse relationship between technology progression and richness in communication. In the past year or so, I've seen a trend toward bringing these online communities into real life. This extension of our industry's online presence evolves into meet-ups at coffee shops, in places like London, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. Though the Internet allows us to communicate efficiently and quickly with many people at once, we all still desire face-to-face contact. In short, we are reclaiming and reinforcing the richness in communication.

Written by Johanna Beyenbach, associate strategist, and curated by Paul Woolmington, Naked Communications. ( and

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