Before Malcolm Gladwell, there was, among others, John Naisbett. Naisbett’s Megatrends was a must read. My favorite was the “High Tech/High Touch” trend. His theory was that the more technology impacted our lives, the more we would strive to find balance with human interaction. We are social creatures, after all.
High tech/high touch has been going on with humans since the advent of technology. My view is that this is a three-step adoption/integration process.
Take the wheel. Great new technology. Took awhile to figure out how to use it (Mastery). First used it for work (Utility). When it became easier to make wheels (and more “cost effective”), someone probably thought “let’s hook up a mule and go visit some friends” (Social Usage).
Or the pen, after paper became plentiful (costs had come down). Mastery again came first (practice for legibility), utility came second (use for business or lessons), and social usage came third (write a letter to a friend). High tech to high touch.
Social usage is often linked to lowered costs and a distribution system or infrastructure that’s in place. Take the telephone. Initially, it could only be mastered by a few as distribution was more limited. When the infrastructure was built, bringing phones into homes, costs were still high, and usage was more local and limited – but business usage soared. Over time, and as people moved further apart, the telephone allowed people to “visit” without making a trip; they could do so more often and without the time and expense of a real trip. High tech to high touch.
Name your technology and it follows this basic mastery-utility-social usage adoption process, if the infrastructure is in place.
Video games: learn the rules –> a fun way to spend free time –> play with others online
iPod: learn how to use it –> build library –> share tunes with others
So social media networks are the logical manifestation of becoming comfortable with the Internet and cell phones and the other technologies of today. We’re comfortable now, so we’re socializing them. Facebook makes it visual. Twitter makes it fast.
I wonder what’s next!