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Information Carnivore

11/12/2009

Have you ever just googled two random words? I put in serendipity and discovery, not so random if you sit down and think about it. The Curies made many discoveries through (basically) one serendipitous event, louis pasteur, i think the DNA guys too had a revelation of sorts. Serendipity brings up images of mystical revelations, chance occurrences and blind luck. So why would i google that with discovery?

The word discovery is like a vector, it’s got direction and magnitude, it implies focus and accuracy seemingly the opposite of the serendip. In college i took a Class called Leadership and Innovation where we studied serendipitous discoveries, ground breaking companies and the contexts which made these great occurrences possible, but all had a mix of blind luck, tremendous skill and intelligence as well as a vision.

Maybe i will tell you about my time as the manager of a ground breaking and visionary group of people, but i’m more interested in serendipity and it’s relationship to learning. Humans in our earliest incarnations were hunter-gatherers; that right there implies we have two means of acquisition, hunting, planning, strategising executing and gathering, loading up out baskets with possibilities that are relatively immediate. This is not to say that one activity does not involve elements of the other, bear with my generalization.

The way we hunt and gather information is not SO different. We either get online and search for what we want, we use addresses and key words to take us to where we want to go. Online we are generally vectors of what we want to find, we have a speed and direction and a goal in mind, when our need for information will be fulfilled.

Watching tv on the other hand is a gathering experience, you sit infront of the tv and flip through channels relatively random items of interest pop up on the screen and we choose to stay here or keep it moving towards greener pastures. Relatively recently in the history of tv we have “On Demand” which is usually a 1)secondary choice 2) limited in the scope of what is available and thus provides more of a gathering experience than a hunting one. But the ever increasing popularity of online properties, app stores and programs that will be able to run directly off of your TV or Cable/satellite/ip connection plugged into your tv.

I hope it will be soon that TV makers have a market for multimedia offerings and apps and make the major production houses compete on a much more even playing field with independent content producers for what goes on our TV’s at home. When that day comes i will buy a big ass LED TV and load my choice content onto my tv. It’s going to be profitable for TV manufacturers to turn watching TV into a hunting experience.

How would i differentiate an information hunting experience versus an information gathering experience?

Hunting implies a goal, at the very least a preference. You go to your friends house and ask him have you seen United By Fate 4? no? so you search for it, get these results and watch it. A hunting experience has a specific goal in mind, if you searched for United By Fate, a skateboarding video and there was no actual video, that would have turned into a gathering experience. Related information-finding about the video, videos and sites related to it and so on, not necessarily the video ITSELF would describe a modern hunting experience.

I think this is an important distinction to make. Microsites are critical to the gathering of information and tied to their respective campaigns are very effective at providing enough information or entertainment to make us feel as if we have actually hunted a piece of information to the point where purchasing the product could be considered secondary. and that is why microsites are SO effective because people that visit them rarely go on accident, they are searching for more interaction, information, video, snippets, product shots, colorways etc that weren’t in their first exposure. Microsites are for brand hunters, without a doubt. hardly a new concept.

Conversely Viral Videos are generally a gathering experience, something you find when searching for keyword related but not necessarily content related videos. For example, while i was looking for reviews on the MSI Wind i ran across three guys catching computers with their asses (no link…)

Newspapers are a gathering source of information, you pick it up and serendipitously run into all kinds of information you were AND were not searching for. Print media does serendipity very vell, they cater to gatherers because with each turn of the page there is another tidbit for you sitting there, passively. Which is why tv and newspaper producers are fretting the most for their jobs over the next 5 years.Two German guys (?) are experimenting with on demand newspapers which could work, but just seems TOO analog for anyone but my own grandmother. There are a handful of resources i read regularly, only one of them being a daily news print publication]

And this is why major advertisers are so scared, because they won’t be able to inject themselves into your daily life any more. They’re not a key-word, in your daily life. Charmin is scared you won’t watch tv, never search for their site, walk into the grocery store and pick another toilet paper brand sight unseen. Big generic brands that don’t fit into the trendy keyword hunting; green, organic, clean, bio, macro, sustainable etc.

I think progressively we are evolving into information carnivores hunting more and more for content that is compelling and not ALWAYS necessarily so new. I actively seek out more movies and music from the 70’s 80’s and 90’s than from the past 10 years. There are few instances in my personal life where i am subject to information gathering, most exceptions involve roadside signs. You can count magazines but i read relatively niche magazines with AdBusters being the most general readership rag i read and i definitely don’t watch tv on my own time.

I know i’m an information carnivore
How about you?

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