Getting Contextual Outside the Text Box, Part II

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Starting where I left off in August:

“While you wait, think about the fundamental ways our relationship to the unit of information known as a ‘book’ changes when that unit becomes a table in a database.

Marketers, think about how much more you know about me when I search and copy a paragraph from one book, and then another, versus what you knew about me when I ordered those two books form Amazon. What can I do with that kind of information?

Now, apply this to video and audio.”

This is where it’s going to get interesting. Homework assignments: Seek out and read things like if:book, Attention Trust, and study up on the current push to put all things print into the digital realm.

In The Future of the Book, Umberto Eco states that he believes that computers will not supplant books completely and I partially agree with him. However, Eco has apparently not spent as much time with the ‘third-screen generation’ as I have and therefore has not observed the interaction with text as it exists today. The reader/book relationship that develops around technologies like SMS and email is fundamentally different than the traditional reader/book relationship.

From an attention-data standpoint, the granularity of the usage information I can gather about a reader who orders a book about a particular subject, versus the usage patterns that develop around users interacting with a table of information in a database, known as a ‘book’ are different by many levels of degree. The digitization of books will only increase this kind of evolution of the user/reader/book/journal relationships. Look at systems like eBrary and Safari for current examples of this kind of interface into book units.

The next wave that will become ‘hot’ in the search space is undoubtedly the derivability of audio, video and multimedia formats. When users can search video archives based on any number of criteria and have the relevant segments returned (search: video: brown rice on table with red flowers: movies: IMDB listed: US EN) the rules of engagement become as granular as those I outlined above for digital books.

Marketers, take note here. The above examples highlight where your ability gather long chains of relevant behaviors will get interesting. But, get ready to pay for the privilege. As the gathering of data crosses formats and platforms (look into what Tivo and cable companies are proposing) consumers are going to become more and more aware that their data is being harvested and used to sell back to them. Expect grassroots consumer movements to arise that will demand compensation for the usage privilege. There is already chatter among the digerati about ‘Attention Economies’. Be prepared to do revenue shares or rebate programs in order to access people’s attention data in the future.

However, this should not cause you distress, because this signifies a ‘opt —in’ on the part of the user, which is generally a good thing for quality of data. As time progresses, users will also demand tools and access to data in order to allocate usage permission levels. In essence, the ‘Attention Economy’ will spawn a attention data management economy all its own.

Social networking, which I have written about ad nauseam, plays into all this only from the perspective of what SocNet and Social media have become. Namely, a set of features that are de facto included in most Web-based applications these days. These features encourage flocking and swarming behaviors which help to segment and identify affiliations and behaviors. Like most useful technologies, the ‘hype’ is finally wearing off of social media, allowing us to get down to the practical and useful applications.

Until next month, happy networking.

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