Saturday, October 31, 2009

Intimacy: The New (Technical) Frontier

At the Tuttle Club yesterday, I had a rather inspiring conversation with FJ van Wingerde. For those of you who don't know FJ, his thinking is wonderfully, productively disruptive. His comments are also right to the point.

We talked about the mobile industry -- as well as (conversationally) ubiquitous social media (so how could we avoid it, really?). Here's the interesting part.

My feeling has been since the early mid-90s that what technology has to aim for is intimacy. As FJ said, we can call it "personalization", but it's personalization for the purpose of intimacy. FJ also noted that at a large entertainment company, he worked with others on finding ways to make mechanical devices (such as phones) into characters for the sake of creating relationships with users. Second Life does this with avatars. And games like WOW do it with communities.

As a theater person, I think we're missing the performance aspects of the Web and mobile -- after all, every medium should be explored to its unique full potential. Those in advertising talk about "engagement", but is it engagement we're after for its own sake?

OK, the overall goal is roi (usually for businesses) or repeated use (for geeks who just love getting things right). But before we get to the end, let's really break down the the path we're using to get there.

The bottom line is: when it is with the aim of creating intimacy that we go for expanding the possibilities of theatricality, engagement, or any other web-possible activity. That's how you hook consumers. That's how you create a relationship between a mechanical device and a human being.

FJ noted that people probably won't feel comfortable with word "intimacy" in a working environment. He's not wrong -- "intimacy" in work always implies sexuality.

But take the sex out, and remember that the reason people hate spam with their name at the top is the note's inappropriate intimacy. What else can you call it?


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