Virtual Spaces and Consumer Anthropology

Surely, if we are going to study humans in their natural habitats; how they interact with one another, how they interact with brands, how they purchase, consume, etc., it stands to reason that all “natural habitats” are fair game.

This means we need to remind ourselves of all the spaces where humans interact with…well…anything.  The physical world is one.  The virtual world is a whole other spinning ball-o-wax.  And the fun part is…it’s one  we are still growing into, which means we (as researchers as well as humans and consumers) have the power to shape it.

So, as Consumer Anthropologists, where do we begin?  Consumers are still figuring it all out.  We having been trying on the “internets”:  email, bulletin boards, websites, social networking sites, “tweets”, virtual gaming worlds, etc. for almost a couple of decades now.  Mobile communication technology has also evolved steadily from paging technology, to mobile conversation, SMS / Texting, on-the-go-photo and video,  GPS and now Apps-a-plenty….and it will keep moving.

Soon all of it may / will merge:  anyone read Spook Country by William Gibson?

Our job is to figure out, while the world keeps spinning, how to evolve and maintain the data balance to allow for the advantages and risks of using the online and mobile world as an anthropological study universe.  So many opportunities to use for our proprietary research as well as the projects we tackle for our clients:

  • analysis of cultural phenomenon happening in purely virtual spaces (e.g. facebook / orkut / kuku, youtube, etc.)
  • analysis of user-generated content in specific cultural context areas or with regard to Brand dialogue (social networking sites, blogs, etc)
  • crowd sourcing data from custom recruited “panels” using online spaces and mobile technology
  • development of mobile ethnography “apps” as proprietary data collection tools
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.

I am deeply interested in hearing from my peers and other “future game changers”  out there who are dealing with  or anticipating consumer anthropology application with regard to virtual spaces and mobile communication.  What have you been using?  What do you think are our opportunities and limits?  How will “web 2.0”, etc. change the game?  Lets hear it.


2 responses to “Virtual Spaces and Consumer Anthropology

  1. Oh wow wow wow, the world o’ 140 is huge! First, in terms of how we analyze marketers are going to have to be creative, which is really the understatement of the century. A person’s sphere of influence is all of a sudden compounded through their use of the internet. I do not think the traditional idea of a ‘key influencer’ exists, we’re going to have to find a way to redefine that.

    And what does it mean to be an influencer now? Who am I influencing and how/when is it considered influencing?

    For marketing companies, I think this is game changing too! Consumers attentions spans are now just 140 characters, how are you going to capture them!

    I think this new world is wonderful because it is consumer driving and we have in essence, taken back control of the industry…for now!

  2. Hi! Not sure if I can be called a game changer! But defi hoping for the game to change in MR and move to mobiles 🙂

    The tool we use for Qual research is called TPV (Text Photo Video) Blogger. You can also add modules to this like a diary monitor or other questions (both open ended and close ended). The app is pretty dynamic and customisable. We also offer a web interface for the platform for both respondents and the researchers to access real time. For respondents, we can offer dual edit if required, but advice against as many would just then revert to using online once a day, as against throughout the day with the mobile.

    Lot of interest currently from both agencies and clients but too early to say if its a game changer! I believe it is a matter of time. Feel free to write to me and I can try and share my learnings.

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