Does technology generate more talk, less conversation?

There’s an interesting article in The Atlantic based on an interview with the publication and Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and a professor at MIT. She recently released the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other in which she argues that we are losing the art of conversation:

“Conversations, as they tend to play out in person, are messy—full of pauses and interruptions and topic changes and assorted awkwardness. But the messiness is what allows for true exchange. It gives participants the time—and, just as important, the permission—to think and react and glean insights. “You can’t always tell, in a conversation, when the interesting bit is going to come,” Turkle says. “It’s like dancing: slow, slow, quick-quick, slow. You know? It seems boring, but all of a sudden there’s something, and whoa.” Occasional dullness, in other words, is to be not only expected, but celebrated. Some of the best parts of conversation are, as Turkle puts it, “the boring bits.” In software terms, they’re features rather than bugs. The logic of conversation as it plays out across the Internet, however—the into-the-ether observations and the never-ending feeds and the many, many selfies—is fundamentally different, favoring showmanship over exchange, flows over ebbs. The Internet is always on. And it’s always judging you, watching you, goading you. “That’s not conversation,” Turkle says. She wants us to reclaim the permission to be, when we want and need to be, dull.”

I like the idea of the occasional dullness. The idea that breaks or gaps in a conversation is actually help drive the conversation. Check out the whole article.

My persona?

First things first, Clo explained it best what this is all about:

Personas | Metropath(ologies) | An installation by Aaron Zinmanis "a component of the Metropath(ologies) exhibit, currently on display at the MIT Museum by the Sociable Media Group from the MIT Media Lab. It uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one’s aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you.

Sounded interesting so of course I had to give this one a try. And indeed nice animation while your profile/persona is being created – mine ended with this:


Not sure where ‘religion’ or ‘politics’ is coming from but I suppose everything happens for a reason ;). In the meantime I saw other people I follow create their own Persona Web but then I got curious to see which results it would generate when looking for brands such as Duval Guillaume (the agency I work for), Windows Live, Kinepolis, Marlboro, … etc and then I must say I got kinda disappointed. The results always seem to turn out very similar… almost the same really. Too bad, hope they keep developing because they’re definitely on to something here.

All of this got me thinking though. Wouldn’t it be possible to search on a brand name for blogs, twitter, … etc and then look up the content of the last 10-20 posts and turn that into a word cloud similar to what Wordle creates? I would definitely be interested in seeing the result of that. Let me know when it’s ready ;)

Improving online video

I’m not such a big fan of predictions like we see them all over on the web at the start of the New Year. There are a few good ones like those of John Batelle for instance, but other than that many predictions sound more like acknowledgement of something that’s already happening today or a wish-list for something we would like to see happen.

One good example is mobile for instance. It’s going to be the year of mobile since 2005 I think and as I said before, 2008 is not going to be the year of mobile either. Or talk about video, I had a discussion with someone recently about online video after a statement that 2008 would be the year online video will get big. That’s just not true, 2007 was that year already. As a counter argument I did say I believe 2008 will be the year in which online video will become more useful, of better quality, with better metrics, better advertising, … you name it.

And that’s what is happening today indeed. Yesterday Read/Write Web reported on the launch of Dailymotion HD upload & playback, including automatic bandwidth detection which allows easy switching to lower quality versions. Check out the HD example in their post. Now I can see how HD quality might not be on top of everybody’s wish-list for online video, but I do believe it’s a must have for future development of online video.

About a week ago, MIT AdverLab reported on a new innovative technology related to video advertising. The technology developed in Microsoft’s AdCenter Labs included tools for content analysis and speech recognition for advanced contextual advertising. (again disclaimer: Microsoft is my employer). Definitely take a look at the video below to get an idea of what they exactly mean with that:

Now as I am in advertising, I’m interested in this but not only for advertising purposes. If you watched the video you will understand that there are also opportunities for websites for instance to relate archived content to in-video content (think news sites) or how the technology can create automatic chapters in a video for more useful video browsing for instance. There are quite a few exciting technology usages you can think of with this new development.

A last improvement will be about making video more searchable. The technology mentioned before will definitely be able to help in that area, but quite a few startups are working in that area as well. A few weeks ago at the LIFT Venture Night we saw Viewdle showing off their approach on this, including face recogniation etc. Neat stuff as well.

Content analysis, speech recognition, chaptering, contextual advertising and content (based on the video – not on title or tags), HD, … Yes, online video is big already, 2008 will be the year in which it will get better.