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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

June - 2009 - issue > Technology

Consuming Media in a Social Networking World

John G. Waclawsky
Thursday, June 11, 2009
John G. Waclawsky
Social Networking is driving the Internet into the Fabric of our Lives.

While technology is helping us to adapt to living in a sea of on the go connectivity, it is also burying users in an avalanche of media choices such as MP3 players, iPods, mobile phones, TV, cable, desktop computers, and wireless 2G, 3G, and soon 4G networks. Access to personal media from anywhere, at any time, is a critical part of the much broader picture of human social interactivity. Technology is increasing our ability to satisfy fundamental human needs, such as belonging to a group, sharing our experiences with a number of peer communities, and further enhancing our ability to be socially connected. Understanding Maslow’s five level hierarchy of needs (often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level associated with physiological needs, while the upper levels with community, esteem, self-actualization, and hierarchy needs) lets you begin to see how mobile devices, TVs, and computers help us meet our needs on all the Maslow levels utilizing rich media. For example, you can satisfy many basic physiological needs by ordering a pizza, checking on your dry cleaning, or making a hotel reservation while using media as a way to help satisfy your curiosity to what you are buying.

Continuing up from the physiological bottom of the Maslow hierarchy, when my daughters go out, they take a cell phone, not just to stay connected with their friends, but also for security (and my piece of mind). When a car meets with an accident that causes the airbag to deploy, some cars automatically call 911 and report the accident location by GPS coordinates. Moving further up the Maslow hierarchy, today we have evolved from safety and security to increasingly using phones, computers, and PDAs to meet social needs such as staying connected with our friends and loved ones, as well as to break the ice with new acquaintances, ask for a date, be ‘cool’, and to find and become part of new communities. Media is especially valuable in any social context such as sharing pictures and videos. Especially with today’s younger generation, network devices such as mobile phones and their usage is no longer just about talking on the phone - they are about community, belonging, self-actualization, and the consumption of content.

Older people even enjoy emails and IMs with pictures and videos as well as share links to the websites they find that feature quirky, fun, beautiful, social, or entertaining content. Sharing with your peers the photos, music, and videos that you like is a big part of demonstrating who you are as an individual (Maslow’s status and esteem needs). Content recommendations also turn social communities into viral content and advertising distribution vehicles. This social aspect makes content distribution even more attractive and valuable; especially for long tail content providers to serve up content to targeted social community audiences like motorcycle clubs, investment clubs, school curriculum, and particular sports venues. When users share and recommend, they are saying these are my tastes, this is relevant to my community of interest, and this is who I am; and it can lead to product sales focused around social activities.

While individualism and anonymity has ruled the Internet in the past, sharing and self expression are growing today as more individuals, young and old, are using the Net, to not only conduct business, but to create and join in new forms of community. Social applications are here today - like MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, and many others - and, as the Internet develops into a social fabric, devices at the edge of the network are increasingly important for content consumption and are evolving to allow the dynamic formation of a wide variety of networks to meet social needs. Membership will range from an individual and his or her buddy to a bridge club to an alumni association or even larger groups of people.

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