Friday, June 23, 2006

CTC Continued: Paying Attention to Linda Stone

To continue on the topic of CTC speakers . . .

Linda Stone: Continuous Partial Attention

Linda Stone gave a compelling talk on the meeting point of social, commercial, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual trends based on where Westerners have put their attention over the last forty years. It was similar to her presentation at GEL but filled out nicely some of the points to which she didn't give a full reading in May.

A Recap and Some Further Detail

As at GEL, Stone focused on what she called the "sweet spot of opportunity" which lies at the "meeting point of human desire and technology." From 1965 to about 1985, we yearned to reach our full potential as individuals. We multi-tasked, putting our full attention nowhere, in an effort to be as productive as possible. Consequently, Stone says, we found ourselves isolated and yearning for connection.

The result was the trend Stone calls continuous partial attention -- the desire to be "a live node on the network" and to live an "anywhere, anytime always on lifestyle." In this mode, from about 1985 to the present, we scan the network for the most valuable connections and people who might show up at any time. Such living creates an artificial sense of crisis, which is exhausting, but we just didn't want to miss anything. It's as though "we expected our human bandwidth to keep up with" that of technology.

In crisis, we get an adrenaline rush -- fight or flight. Stone admits that it's a great system for fighting a tiger, but "how many email are really tigers?" How many are flies? In crisis mode, we're not in a position to tell the difference.

A New Trend Begins

For a little while, we have been creating a new trend. Exhausted from the energy required to be always tuned in and available, if only partially attentive, we are beginning to ask "What can I lose?" rather than "What can I gain?" The sweet spot, says Stone, is moving from connection to protection, trust, and authenticity.

Stone said that there is usually a seven-year bleed between trends and that we never give up entirely our old behavior. Instead, we shift focus to release and find that which was suppressed and for which we had yearned when our attention was elsewhere.

What Next for Marketing?

Stone said that people would increasingly be drawn to marketing messages that offer authenticity and protection. Simple and clean ads will be the antidote to feeling overwhelmed. Above the noise, we will be looking for signals that resonate with our values. We will go from "What have I got to gain" by being connected to "What have I got to lose?"

Is the Tide Turning?

Stone says that when she talks to young people, they ask for strategies for better quality of life. She added that one CEO asks people to disarm at the door of a meeting -- to "drop all weapons of mass communication."

Knowing whom to believe is essential. Queer Eye and many of the contests shows feature hosts who are considered experts and become trusted sources by viewers. Infomercials, she adds, have become a 2 billion dollar business. Kevin Trudeau, despite being a convicted felon, has sold untold numbers of his book 'Remedies They Don't Want You to Know About." In other words, he's become a trustworthy source, both by showing up in one's living room in the middle of the night and peddling ideas that can protect.

Then there's gaming. Stone pointed out that multi-player games feature meaningful relationships on a new level. For example, a professor wrote an article called "It Takes a Guild" when she was surprised by the beneficial effects of these games on her son's development (more on gaming in future posts).

And So?

Linda ended by saying we have gone from Information Workers to Knowledge Workers, and now we have the opportunity to become Wisdom Workers.

Imagine what would happen if we all put our attention there.

More places to find out about Stone ideas: Ross Mayfield, CTC website, and Nancy White (who offers almost an entire transcript).

More on Linda and CTC in the next posts.

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