Gaming the system

Back in the summer (can you remember the summer ?) Campaign shared some of my holiday reading.

 

As it happened the weather in Devon was ok and the waves were suitable (not too gnarly, not too tiny).  Therefore I didn’t get to my book about the end of civilisation in the Bronze Age yet, but I did read Evgeny Morozov’s “To save everything click here“.

 

Morozov is peeved about a lot of stuff, specifically innovation for the sake of it and broadly the internet at large.  This book is a harsh critique of “solutionism”, the idea that we now have the potential to solve most of society’s ills through clever  digitally designed solutions.

 

The current craze for wearable tech including the Quantified Self initiatives comes under Morozov’s scrutiny.  He describes the four factors behind the rise of self-tracking : small sensors, their ubiquity in smart phones, social media normalising sharing and cloud computing so that you can offload your data and merge it with other people’s to generate norms and targets.  The urge to improve which is normally given as a reason for self tracking doesn’t wash.  Morozov says :”Self tracking – especially when done in public – is often just a by-product of attempts to show off….”

 

The author is gloomy about solutionism.  He thinks it will limit mankind.  We will have no moral framework, as the solutionists will limit our choices to the good ones.  He quotes scientist Ursula Franklin “Imagine what would have happened if Adam and Eve had not lived in a garden but in a smart building.  The divine designer would probably have arranged it so that they never saw apples.”  Not a good thing. No apples, no sin, no free will.

 

He’s overly pessimistic and is underestimating the human inventiveness.  Only the other day I unintentionally “gamed” a website.  Signing up for a gym online I couldn’t find the answer to a question, so I came out of the payment page twice to look for an answer.  By the time I went to pay for the third time the website had dropped the joining fee.  It won’t be long before everyone catches on to this kind of thing and in some way finds a way to exploit it.

 

Eve would have found a way to the apples in the smart building and Adam would have followed her.  I back the human capacity for breaking the rules over tech based internet solutionism.

 

So media planners need to stay alert. We might think we’re the planning experts but a decade ago we knew more about the purchase journey than we do now.  Then, there was a purchase funnel for most categories and we knew how to shove people down it.  Now, the consumer has a powerful computer in her pocket and that changes everything.  The funnel has become a loop (think spaghetti junction), and just as we set new rules for a category the consumer breaks those too.

 

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