Thursday, April 06, 2006

Media: ippr takes on the Consumer Culture of Technology

Are we increasing efficiency and making social progress with technological advancements? ...

"Digital exuberance" by William Davies, senior research fellow of the digital sociey team at the ippr, is a contextual piece that looks at the culture that technology's ability to play to the consumer might create.

'Rather than measurable gains in productivity (or efficiency) for the producer, most of the benefits are those of convenience for the consumer. Digital technology is further tipping the balance of power away from the suppliers of services and towards the customer. If they wish to, customers can cut out inefficient intermediaries (such as the high street), and engage with more convenient intermediaries such as online portals. A website such as cheapflights.com offers a single place in which airfares of dozens of airlines and travel agents can be compared, enabling the shopper to make a vastly more informed choice. This unprecedented level of consumer information forces down prices while saving customers time. One of Britain's more successful "e-tailers," the online grocery Ocado, has gone to extraordinary lengths to convince customers of their right to dictate the terms of the relationship. Through blanket advertising on billboards and buses, the company has encouraged customers to identify with foot-stamping toddlers making unreasonable demands. The customer is no longer just king, but capricious dictator.

'This does seem to be a feature of the technological change itself, not just the onward rush of consumerism. Digital technologies are generally personalised and ubiquitous, allowing us to opt in and out of social situations in a particularly egocentric fashion. Already, mobile phones offer us an almost permanent escape from the here and now. As the ubiquity and bandwidth of the wireless internet grows, so the forms of technological connectivity that are constantly available to us will grow also."   continued ...   (Via Usability News)

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