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
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.