Epigenetics and Social Media

March 25, 2011

At the heart of it, we’re all still researching the social media space. While we try to capture, explain and operationalise our learnings and best practices, the space is so nascent (even after 10 years or so) that nothing is set in stone. In fact, every campaign, every whitepaper has an epigenetic effect.


Epigenetics – how the study of an organism effectively changes and influences that organism. There is an excellent case study from the world of anthropology where a researcher conducting an ethnography into a tribe’s rituals was incorporated into the rituals – changing the ritual for subsequent ethnographers.


My main bugbear with social media has been how the self-styled experts have a totally different experience within the space than the people they are seeking to influence and educate. If you are one of the lucky 1% to have a massive following on Twitter or on your blog, you see huge value in the community – if you have a question, you can have it answered because there is a much high chance of a member of your community will know the answer and be motivated to share it.

So by participating in the social media ecosystem, and then using your findings as recommendations or sweeping statements actively changes the expectations of newcomers to the space…expectations which rarely get met, especially if you are one of the 93.6% of Twitter users that have less than 100 followers.

It has been and will continue to be an interesting ride.


Why Social Media Works

March 8, 2010

Rob King, Editor-In-Chief of ESPN.com was asked about athletes gravitating to social media outlets in general and Twitter specifically. I think his answer is illuminating on a number of levels:

“People are inherently lonely and disconnected. People want to connect; they want to know that they matter.”

via Hardwood Paroxysm » Blog Archive » We Just Want To Matter- A Look At The Sloan Sports Conference.

Psychological Insights from Social Gaming and Their Real-World Applications

February 27, 2010

Some guiding principles that could be applied to the design of collaboration, communication and attention game mechanics in the future, based off the success of Farmville, Mafia Wars and all the other annoying updates you get spammed by on Facebook from your middle aged and female friends*!

Based on Jesse Schell’s, of Carnegie Mellon and Schell Games, talk at DICE:

1. Psychological Design drives user behavior

Use of free-to-play, virtual currency, lead generation and “velvet-rope” models shape and channel user behavior to ultimately spend real money in-game to create new revenue streams.

i.e. – the freemium model, where the heavy users subsidize the majority of users, works.

2. Break through to Reality

The most successful games break through from a virtual experience to include real-life interaction.

i.e. what we’ve known in the communications business for ages continues to be true. Offline events drive online coverage and community.

3.  Technology Diverges. Gaming will too

As technology advances it wants to diverge not converge. It grows and spreads. You might call this the Law of Technical Divergence. Mobile devices are an exception.

i.e. don’t get enamored by the technology, focus on the behaviours it elicits and draws out of your user group.

4. Sensors will enable new gaming mechanics in everyday life

As activity, location, biometric and attention sensors emerge and are embedded in everything from our toothbrush, to clothing, to food and of course devices, we will see an explosion of game mechanics used to drive and change our behavior.

i.e. get your tin foil hats out – privacy is shrinking.

5. Persistent history of our actions could drive improved behavior

In the near future, when we are all being tracked, watched and measured by all kinds of sensors; and our children’s children will know what we read, ate, did and thought, will it inspire us to improve our personal behaviors.

i.e. technology improves your experience the more you use it. If it can be used to improve and change your behaviours, see below, then that’s even better.

Also of interest:

Jesse Fox at Stanford finds that experiences with avatars, including personalized images of ourselves, can change our view of reality and the way we act in the real world. From PhysOrg.com

via Bruce MacVarish Notes: Avatars & Game Psychology Reshape Real Life & Behavior.

* According to this eMarketer study on social gamers. More than one-half of players are female, and the average US player is 48 years old. Relatively few US weekly gamers are under 30, while nearly one-half are over 50.

A rough scale of the abstractness and salience of questions

December 12, 2009

From How to Break Anything:

Typical times children begin to ask questions, from a lecture at the Medical College of Georgia:

  • “what” 2 yrs
  • “where” 2.6 yrs
  • “who” 3.0 yrs
  • “whose” 3.0 yrs
  • “why” 3.0 yrs
  • “how many” 3.0 yrs
  • “how” 3 ‐ 6 yrs
  • “when” 4 yrs

This could be interpreted as either a rough scale of abstractness, or a rough scale of what is most salient and critical.

via A rough scale of the abstractness/salience of questions – thoughts, insights, and observations – How To Break Anything.

Interesting to see “when” shows up. From my anthropological undergrad, I know that when teaching monkeys sign language, the idea of either the past or the future is beyond their comprehension. I guess that’s when we separate ourselves from our simian cousins.

It also helps us define the sophistication of our messaging to our clients’ target audience, with “what” being the most basic question we need to answer.

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