This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
IDmag1 - information overload
IDmag is about design of communication, media, customer service, trends in society and things like that - things I philosophize about when i’m not helping customers in creating universes. On a daily basis I am a communications nerd, whose greatest pleasure is to search for patterns in the world around me. Because I am a curious (and impatient) human being, the thoughts on these pages are sort of a pop-semi-scientific-theoretical-praktical-noneor-the-other-litterature. Maybe it’s a contribution to scientific research? Maybe it’s an inspiration to You that work in PR, webdesign, sociology, communication or something else? Maybe it’s merely a reinventing of the wheel and worth nothing? At least it’s a little piece of me, and if You can use it for anything, it’s Yours! Love Mikkel
PRODUCER: “We want to sell 7000 DytBotfigures(TM) from The FigureCompany during 01/03-11 til - 04/05-11 with 18%+ profit, offering up to 3% rebate for customers signing up for the CustomerCLub (tm), so we can send ads to them. CUSTOMER: “I also want that robot that can turn it’s arms around and shoots arrows. But I can’t see it here on the website, and there’s too much text and numbers. What happens if I click something random...no, that doesn’t work. I try with typing “red robot that shoots arows” into the search field.... no that didn’t work either bummer.” NGO: “Is the DytBot Figure produced without toxic chemicals? Under suitable working conditions? Is is safe for children under 3 years? What’s the producers environmental values and financial status? I don’t need those fancy pictures and getting rebates stuffed in my face.”
In our everyday life we are bombarded with information: advertisements in the mail box, fast paced TV, interviews never lasting more than 3 minutes, signs and symbols everywhere we go, internet pages, chat sessions, offers to buy this or to do that, and lots of other stuff. We are overloaded with information: the more input, the more we shut off and become cynical. But ad-people, designers and producers respond by feeding us MORE information!
The reason is that we / they rest in a 300 year old mindset, established and maintained by newspapers: that as much information as possible should be conveyed in as little space as possible. On this page You can see a section of a ”paper”paper(!) anno 1829, and an internet-paper anno 2008 - a world of difference, and yet no significant difference. The latin word omnibus means ”everything for everybody” and that old newspaper doctrine shows as a desire to impress through a diversity of features mixed in a big bowl of confusion. The intention is to show the most products and information, so that each one has an ”scatter-gun”-ish opportunity to reach a target audience: ”Look how exiting I am, here You won’t be bored” - see a few examples on page 4. The focusing on features results in everything being emphasized - and therefore that nothing really is! I call it featureism. Featureism is a statement of what the transmitter wants to sell, it’s not a guide for the recipient to find what she wants. Featureism is not information, it’s desperation. Featureism is to go against the way humans naturally interprets our surroundings. Featureism is bad communication - and the result is information overload. But there is another way...
is to shut up. The result, however, is transmitter focus, instead of recipient focus, the result is lost attention and lost market shares. I know how hard it is, as a transmitter, to focus on the recipient and how easy it is to think of oneself. Besides philosophizing on media, communication and technology, I also (once in a while) design websites. I know the feeling of wanting to sell websites but ALSO sell my ideas (You’re reading some of them now) - because I love both so much and would hate to prioritize between them. My brain knows that it’s best to split the two areas, but my heart would rather not let go - and the result is that I send mixed signals of who I am and what I do. My customers also know how hard it is to limit oneself - when I create their
All communication is basically about saying the right thing to the right one at the right time in the right way. The easiest thing in this equation is the external part, finding the target audience, while the hard thing is to handle the internal part: the transmitter: ”me”, ”myself”, ”I”, ”we”, ”us”. The hard part
sites, the hard part isn’t to convince them to try a radical design-idea of mine, but rather to convince them to limit themselves in terms of content. They respond in a slightly desperate tone: ”..but Mikkel, I also do this and that - those things must be included!” But the customer is NOT always right - and the brochures and websites of even big and famous companies cannot be used as an ideal of well designed communication - to the contrary! The bigger the company is, the worse it’s communication usually is - simply because it isn’t capable of administering and conveying all the information. You can see a few examples on next page.
1 2 3 4 5 6
Emotional Funnel - theory for en-/decoding information
Action Thought Reason
Squints Searches for references Focuses on references Processes understanding Focuses on target goal Objects ”Do I feel comfortable in experiencing X?” ”Do I recognize X or part of X?” ”Can I act in relation to, or control X?” ”Can I extract information from X?” ”Can I use X for anything?” ”Do I get costs or are there riscs related to X?” Pleasure = safety Identification = safety Control = safety Information = gain Transaction = gain Possibility of betrayal = safety
= The size of our critical attitude - first we are very critical, later only very little critical. = The amount of information we desire - first only little information is desired, later we desire much. Time is not linear, from 1 to 2 may be a few seconds, from 5 to 6 may be several minutes or more.
Good communication is to say the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. You can create good communication by adhering to the principles that we humans read read out suroundings by, whether it’s other people, texts, objects, or something else - let’s call it X. Early in the meeting we are critical, and will in a few seconds judge whether to spend more time on X. That’s why very few negative emotions need arise, before we cut off the contact. The longer we maintain the contact, the less critical we become - small errors are forgiven if the collected experience is pleasant. This principle is seen in above.
Focused information often use what I call information tunnels. On page 2, in the blue column to the right, You can see a simple example of parties having very different expectations of a product or a piece of communication. Communication is focused when it’s precisely adjusted to a certain group of recipients. When a transmitter adjusts a certain message to several groups of recipients, and allow the individuel recipient to choose which group she belongs to, the transmitter has created an information tunnel. See the example below, where a text is published through 3 information tunnels. Using information tunnels effectively, means that one can divide all recipients in groups - but these doesn’t have to be socio- or demographically based. I believe that dividing people by age or income, or voting pattern, is less important. It’s why they interact with You, their intention, that counts!
Early in the meeting, our need for rational information is little, First we need to feel comfortable in the experience of X - this is what determines whether one speneds more time on X. The longer time we maintain contact, the greater is our need for rational information. This principle is seen in above.
The lesson of the Emotional Funnel is that good communication is first experienced as pleasant, and is lacking information. Later it must be thorough, rich on information and may feel less pleasent. All 6 steps must cumululatively be passed before a successful transaction/interaction with X takes place: buying a product, reading a text, a flirt, a conversation, listening to piece of music, etc. I call the model the Emotional Funnel, because all actions are argued as being rational, but really are controlled by emotions: see the column “reason” above right, showing how we seek A) gain and B) safety (through wellbeing, identification, control, etc)
general information individualized information (information tunnels) individual recipient
Information tunnels - individualized information
“Xphone is an effortless experience! It automatically makes sure that Your photos and movies always shows in the right format, and it softly turns down the volume when Your friends call. It automatically adjusts the screen, so You always get the best experience from Your XPhone, wherever You are.”
“Xphone has built-in distance sensor, that saves power and eliminates inputs of error, by shutting off the touch screen in calls. An accelerometer detects the Xphone’s angle on 3 axis and adjusts the touch screen and user interface dimensions accordingly. A light-meter detects surrounding ambience and adjusts brightness of the screen and monitor.”
abcd ABCD Abcd alice BENNY Carl
“Xphone uses advanced technologies, that saves energies, prolongs the battery life and provides You with a better experience. Xphone automatically turns Your pictures the correct way, turns down the volume when You recieve a call, and automatically adjusts the screen, depending on where You are located.”
(note: The above example is exagerated on purpose, in terms of colors and fonts - as well as quite fictional. As You can see, it is one text, shaped with three different audiences in mind).
this is rare - You should communicate focused to it. Know it intimately, communicate to, and with, it as directly as possible, but in as many ways and through as many media as possible. If You have several target audiences, You should create an information tunnel for each of them.
As You see, this PDF is not an example of information tunnels or focused information. (but rather one of featureism!) But this PDF would have been so, if I had made three of them, each catering to the desires of each of the recipient groups. On page 4 to the bottom right, You’ll see a danish example of focused communication. On the front page of ”www.tag-eksperten.dk” there’s a large picture of a craftsman on a roof, and the explicit text: ”we lay new tile roofs for home owners on Sealand) - specific offer, thorough consultation, a new roof in a league of it’s own, delivered in only four weeks” In this way the company’s business, mission, geographic reach and terms of trade are all precisely defined in words and pictures. At the bottom there are 3 boxes which might seem like features, but in reality are information tunnels: ”Choose tiles”, ”Calculate price of a new roof” and ”8 tips on roof renovating”. Thus exists an entrance for those most interested in the looks of their new roof, one for those worried about the price, and one for those with a do-it-yourselfattitude. On the other hand, it must be said that the language is the same throughout the website, so in this way it doesn’t abide the principle of information tunnels. An accepted idea in business communication is ”integrated communication”: that all parts of a company ”speaks the same language”, that communication is stream-lined. Besides this principle being de-facto impossible - maybe even undesirable - to realize, it doesn’t influence focused information: integrated communication deals with the companys communication with, and in relation to, it’s surroundings: what’s to be said. Focused information deals with how it’s to be said. Focused information is therefore not to change the message, but to vary the delivery and expression, depending on whom the recipient is.
Target audiences don’t think of themselves as a socio- or demographically divided segment - but strive to schieve certain things, have aspirations and goals. They are intention oriented: either curious towards a certain product or message, seriously interested, or even negative. Either they seek inspiration, are searching for something specific or desire to offer something. Either they have no knowledge of Your business, a bit of knowledge of Your business but none of You, or maybe they have an intimate knowledge of You and Your business. Create Your information tunnels accordingly.
3) Information should be organized according to
the Emotional Funnel - See page 3: first the most elementary information, later the thorough information. First the exciting introduction, later the important details. First evoke emotions, then rationalize.
4) Focused information presents only four options
at a time - few people can cope with more than that. See the graphics at the top of page 2.
5) Avoid transmitter focus and profession narcis-
sism, but consider the users needs. Transmitters often commits this mistake, because they live in a bubble filled with certain terms, a bubble that centers on themselves and their goals and needs. See the example on page 2, top right.
To illustrate: all recipients of this very PDF can be divided into A) those that has found it by curiousity - they are interested in an easy-understandable and entertaining communication, B) those that weer looking for information on marketing - they want a practical guideline in using the theories, and C) recipients that are media- and communication theorists - they desire a scientifically valid communication. In this case, the recipient’s age or daily-life is of no or little importance, only their intention for reading this: whether they are belonging to A, B or C, My claim is that Whatever we do, we are not sociologically founded, we are intentionally founded. Key to reaching a recipient is not knowing her age, but what she wants to do.
Practical advice 1) If You only have one target audience - though
TRANSMITTER FOCUSING Communikation which transmitter finds relevant. Monologue. Featureism. Frofession narcisism. Opposite of “recipient focusing”. PROFESSION NARCISISM Unneccesary use of professional or technical terms, brand names or product series instead of situations of use or product types. A result of transmitter focus. See example on page 2 FEATUREISM Transmitter has many messages for many target audiences at once. Recipient has many simultaneous choices. Transmitter focused because transmitter disregards the recipient’s preferences. Not same as “featurism” (note spelling) Opposite of “Focused Information” FOCUSED INFORMATION Transmitter has few messages for few target audiences at once. Recipient has few simultaneous choices. Recipient focused because transmitter lets himself be directed by the recipient’s preferences. Opposite of “Featureism”. EMOTIONAL FUNNEL Theory for en-/decoding information. 1) recipient is at first very critical, needing only little information - the longer time spent, the less critical she becomes and the more information she needs. 2) Recipient argues her choices rationally, but actually acts on emotions. All this means that one should design so emotions are envoked first. See the model on page 3. INFORMATION OVERLOAD Condition in recipient, created by transmitter communicating too much information which is irrelevant to the recipient, who reacts by shutting off. INFORMATION TUNNEL A certain amount of information, or part hereof, that is designed for a specific target audience and/or expressed in a way that best appeals to it. Transmitter has at least one information tunnel. See example on page 3 RECIPIENT FOCUSING Communikation that recipient finds relevant. Dialogue. Focused information. Opposite of “transmitter focusing”. sion of access to information, now available in enormous quantities - the key word here is quantity. The new is the opposing movement that is awakening: de-selecting quantity and passive reception, to the advantage of quality and active selection. We see it in avoidance of advertisements, traditional media loses readers/viewers, growing numbers even stop watching TV, internet technologies allows customized information channels, etc. The key word here is quality. For on the one hand, technology increased the availability, but at the same time it has lowered the ”cost of access/entry” and increased individuality. ”Ordinary people” have regained control, in a form of technological democratization. The individual can avoid information overload and increase the amount of relevance in her life.
The trend in society
Avoid featureism - it can confuse more than impress. You can easily appear interesting without sense-bombarding Your recipient. Though the useage of features is a matter of judgement in each case, it’s important to consider their neccessity - this PDF may itself be accused of having too many features! The important thing is whether you use them, or avoid using them, consciously.
Search fields and FAQS are stop gaps and temporary solutions - in an ideal webdesign, everything can be found with 4 clicks or less.
Another way to view information overload, is as trend in society. The problem today isn’t obtaining information - the problem is to organise it. The history of media started with the invention of writing, which made it possible to convey knowledge across time and space. The efficiency and cheapness of the printing press made the written knowledge accessible to many. The telegraph contributed with a previously impossible speed, resulting in an even greater availability of information. The orginal internet was merely a new form, a technological reincarnation, of the principle. Todays internet, by some called web 2.0, gives an even greater amount of information, through easy tools for creating, publishing and sharing - this PDF is an example. The history of media is thus a single continous expan-
The new way of living
In everyday life, this reaction to information overload, is seen in a general return to origins, to a lower pace. It shows in an mild increasing interest in spartan ways of living, nudism, and a general “turning inwards”, among other things towards philosophy, religion and emotional health. The opposite of information overload - silence, emptyness and thoughtfullness - is trendy already: monastaries experience great interest, pilgrimages have returned. The most succesful publications are niche-oriented and deals with a narrow subject, or they are dealing with any kind of emotional issue. A symbol of this movement could be Eckhart Tolle: a secretive author that sells millions of books about spirituality. In the last 20 years, the most talked about, has been that which didn’t strive for being talked about: the café that is only discovered though word of mouth, a membership only obtained through fulfilling secret criteria, a musician that appears incognito, a product in limited editions, etc. All this is a a different kind of quality. Another result of information overload, is the way we relate to each other. Because a greater part of our time is used on a computer, and as being single, an increasingly greater part of our rolemodels and friendships are found in, and through, the new media. The common theme of almost all currently successful companies and technologies, is the fact that they connect people: auctionhouses, filesharing services, chat services, dating- and meeting services, mobile- and internet services, MMO-computergames, and so on. The success of a produkt or service depends on how many connections it opens. The two major themes that has to be considered in any project, is thus that which is immaterial, and that which connects. The third major theme which i’ll write about in another IDmag, is that which I call The CoCreating Consumer.
Changes in society has always been a great source of busines ideas. Here are some practical suggestions for how You can start a new business in, or adjust current products to, a period where consumers - and You - live in information overload. Solitude and thoughtfulness Todays journeys goes into the traveller herself: through hikes in desolate areas, she rediscovers in the isolation her own fragility and strength. 1990’s action vacation needs nourishment from 2010’s search for roots. Case: Ecco’s Sherpa campaign. A monastery-life is a fine definition of searching for roots. Todays meditation is supplemented by a light form of conventional religion and history - inner roots and outer roots. Maybe nature melts with mental health and loneliness in a new form called loneliness-gardens? Case: monasteries with waiting lists, therapy-gardens. Understatement That which man discovers, he cares for - though in a time of information overload, there is so preciously little of it: Leak a secret new product series and let Your early adopters test and market it for You. Promise less than You deliver and deliver more than promised - and don’t brag about the fact. Case: Ruby’s in Copenhagen - if You can find it. Surveys People have always wanted to pay for sorting out in the availability, but now it’s more relevant than ever. It holds true to any kind of structuralizing of information: categorization, reviews, indexes, guides, micropublications, nichedatabases, WIKIs, FAQs, etc. Case: Just-Eat, Game-Faqs, CraigsList Niches There is more business in being the best in a small area than in being mediocre in a large one. People pick narrow areas of interests which they then cultivate intensively - a small world is easier to survey, and far more relevant. Case: weblogs, Gamespot Connect people Cross roads between IRL and cyberlife, such as dating-websites, semi-voyeuristic confession sites such as PostSecret and OneSentence, or the forums, are tools that brings us closer together. Case: webcams, PostSecret, OneSentence, Yahoo Answers
Good Luck! Mikkel
You’ve now reached the end of my introduction to information overload, and a couple of my tools and advice on how to avoid it. The rest merely requires You to use Your critical sense, a little imagination and some courage.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.