Monday, January 31, 2011

Internet: The Decision Point

Society is changing - and the evolution of the Internet in recent years is causing
unprecedented changes in consumption patterns.
Until very recently, people rely on cafes to conspire and explore tomorrow’s
trends or, in an often isolated act, used napkins from restaurants to record
ideas born in a spark of creativity. In deciding a purchase, we had to go to a
friend's house to ask for advice, a few trips to the stores, read magazines or
newspapers, have ears ready to catch the last word-of-mouth, be attentive to
whatever was advertised. We had no central decision-making - we had several:
scattered geographically and conceptually. With the popularization of the
Internet, the centres of decision merged into one: a huge online headquarters.
Today we plan online and do offline. Internet provides all the information in a
single point, and only ceases to be used when a physical demand overtakes it.
Buy a mobile phone? We look for models on the Internet, choose models on the
Internet, choose where to buy on the internet, we join with friends to buy cheap
via Groupon, we see the best route to the store in the Google Maps ... and after
going to the store ... we go back to the Internet to join the brand's site and make
updates, to check technical support and do some reviews. And if we're not
happy, we say bad things about the phone on Facebook, or give it just one star.
If we are pleased, we distribute "Likes" in everything that relates to the brand.
Things are made in a smart way, because you simply keep coming back to the
online world. In the limit ("limit" is too hard in this context), you don’t even go out
- just buy it online.
Making a revolution in Tunisia? Pass the word on Facebook, outline the
strategies online, go to the streets and knocks out a regime offline. Making a
revolution in Egypt? Well, you know the story ...

However, the passage from a structured face-to-face strategy of thinking to one
designed online, may have other implications. The “virtualization” of society
gives us great tools for “organization” in a broad sense (organizing resources,
people, procedures...) but it is misleading to the “physical” society: the one in
the operational level, in the fieldwork. No wonder that power is more concerned
with the raw materials for iPad’s batteries than with the food shortage that
began to plague the planet. No wonder it can better deal with speculative
bubbles in the stock market than with the deaths of miners around the world
due to lack of operational and psychological conditions.
Virtualization gives us the illusion that we can do everything. There will always
be a freeware to the problem X, or an app to pass the time with Iphone.
But it's too far more complicated to solve a tangible problem, with physical
implementation. In Farmville’s land we can produce virtual food - but the human
stomach is not satisfied with that placebo. Returning to the revolutions issue, I
fear the day when this feeling of "Super Internet" (the feeling that great things
can be organized virtually) collides against the cruelty on the ground, where
troops organized (literally) to the bones will be not so intangible in the wounds
they’ll inflict.
I also have my reservations about virtual money: the extent to which “Facebook
Credits” could save someone who needs U.S. Dollars to eat the next meal.
Money can be disguised, but needs cannot.
So, I leave a message: virtual world must evolve sustained in the development
of the real world, not the opposite. The Internet has developed thousands
of times faster than fishing, today almost no one uses a Spectrum (which
appeared in 1982), but millions of people still use ancient fishing techniques.
This imbalance between the online and offline, if not corrected, could lead to a
false sense of security. And as far as I know, bits are not very good to eat.
Francisco Teixeira


gerbo said...

Great article. Highly professional. Francisco is a visionary. Luís bastos

Francisco Teixeira - Consumer Behavior Specialist said...

Thanks, Luis!!!