April 18, 2007

We’ve been at an interesting point for a while now, in terms of having many (many) paths to take as far as the services we offer, and technologies that we employ. Around here, there seems to be a sudden surge of interest in technologies, with many people joining Facebook and a flurry of enthusiasm for Second Life. I’ve always been an “early adopter” and I have also played with these things and done some thinking about their use for libraries or education in general. At this moment, however, there seems to be a real possibility of simply freezing while being faced with the number of available options. I’m sure that I’m not alone in feeling that there are so many things to do these days with technology that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to simply absorb all of the various information flows coming at me. I listen to tech podcasts while walking to and from work, and watch Diggnation while I’m doing the dishes … I carve out time to write these rambling blog posts. One thing that strikes me about all of this. One thing that I’ve been thinking about is how very different some of these technologies are that we are choosing between. In particular, it interests me that “young people” (as we like to call them) choose technologies that are both extremely hi-tech and extremely lo-tech, and use them both. Lo-tech to me is text-messaging which is being used heavily … hi-tech would be the games that they are playing on the latest thing, be it Wii, X-Box, or Playstation. (this is not unlike the fact that many people now watch video on giant hi-def screens at home or in bars, and also watch video on tiny little iPod screens depending on their situation). So, it’s not so simple when trying to decide how to reach people, to say “our users like hi-tech … see how they play these games?”, or “our users are fine with lo-tech, punching out little text-messages on tiny little keypads”. Clearly, (and not really that surprisingly), they like both depending on where they are and what they’re doing. Part of our problem though comes when we want to communicate with these people … do we set up text-messaging, or do we create a giant billboard in Second Life. For certain purposes, one will work, and one will be a flop (or perhaps neither will have any impact).

So, as is so often the case, I have a very simple message. It is not only important to know what our users like to use … it is also important to know why they use technologies, or quite simply, how they behave. It is not simply the case that if we build it, they will come. It may very well be the case that nobody will see your email or nobody will play your game if it is built outside of the context that makes sense to people. Fact is, it is necessary to live inside of these communities and adopt the technologies, not just to observe and then send a message from your planet to theirs in the hope that they will take notice.


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