As an American, I am profoundly aware that I am living in a “me” culture, one that took off during Generation X. Here are a few examples of cultural/technical changes, partially influenced by this “me” philosophy:
There used to be 4 main television channels – ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. From these sources, consumers were entertained, informed, and marketed to. Today, it is not uncommon for the typical consumer to have hundreds of cable or satellite choices to satisfy their specific interests for entertainment or information. Consumers with these advanced pay services can also choose to see selected movies, sporting events, music events, etc. with on-demand-like features.
Services like iTunes and Napster allow consumers to pick and choose the individual songs they would like to purchase (or “rent”). Even radio formats such as Jack tries to broaden its appeal to many people, so at least they can hear some tunes off the beaten path.
I made the mistake a few years ago when my contracting company planned to implement the portal concept to its web applications. I thought, “Why waste all this time and energy collapsing customized information for people when they can go to individual sites on their own?” I made the mistake of forgetting where I was (America – the “me” culture) and two other critical variables.
First, we are now living in the information age – more information is not necessarily created, but more information is available through technologies such as the Internet. Because there is so much information to wade through, it’s as if someone has thrown a deck of cards at us and we must quickly try to catch only the face cards (information that is considered important by us) before they hit the floor. Thomas Vander Wal elaborates on this idea with his Personal Infocloud and Model of Attraction theories.
Time is a precious thing. Often, in order to achieve our desired results, we do not have time to start searching for information from scratch, heavily weighing the source of the information and considering alternatives. Instead, we must satisfice. In other words, in order to maximize our available time, we need just enough (trusted) relevant information readily available so we can quickly make a decision or pursue a course of action.
I’m learning that, although our culture is extremely egocentric with “me-first” attitudes, this philosophy probably positively influenced this technological focus on personalization. It’s a good thing to have services and solutions that essentially tivos your need for personalized information (if only temporarily).
I think folksonomies and subscribing to RSS feeds is an extension of this need for personalizing information that is collected. Just as cable news has become a viable alternative to the big 4 mentioned earlier in this post and weblogs and internet sites have replaced many traditional periodicals, tagging gives every consumer the opportunity to be their own Matt Drudge – to find, make readily available, and to potentially share information that’s important to you…