Monday, July 9, 2012

Call Me Maybe - A Technology Metaphor

#cio #tech 

Hey, I just met you,
And this is crazy,
But here's my number,
So call me, maybe? (chorus)
Carly Rae Jepson - Call Me Maybe

This pop culture song is everywhere and you can’t escape it.  Everyone from Colin Powell to the Muppets are singing this. I started thinking about how this song can be a metaphor for other parts of our lives. After all, pop culture really does act as a reflection of some of us, as well a catalyst for change. In business we would call this a lag indicator, as opposed to a lead indicator, but that is the subject of another (more boring) blog post.

The song is about instant attraction, and the awkwardness that follows. The person is not sure if the attraction is reciprocal, so they leave the opportunity out there for response (call me maybe). I will skip, for now anyway, any pontification about picking up people that are strangers and how dangerous that can be for young women.  

Is this song a metaphor for the way we are affected by technology trends and consumerism?

We live in an instant-on culture. We have a 24 x 7 news cycle and expect immediacy in all things. We are increasingly shorter attention spans and suffer from what I call BSO syndrome (bright shiny object). If a 12 year old doesn’t have an iPhone, they are a social outcast. Technology is not the cause of all this, but it is certainly an enabler.

I worked for Circuit City for many years. I learned many valuable lessons there, including the role that technology turnover plays in corporate profit. Companies have to bring you new products, services, features and capabilities to keep you spending your money!The technology turnover cycles are becoming shorter and shorter, as Moore’s law predicts. This feeds our inclination to short attention spans.

As a metaphor the song, as with technology, begins …
Hey, I just met you...
You see the new smartphone advertised on ESPN. Bigger screen, faster processor, 4G broadband, 10MP camera.There is lightening. There is thunder.  And you are instantly drawn to it. “That would be sooo cool” you think. I could text my wife back faster. I could see the screen easier. Use it for work maybe.

And we know it is somewhat irrational ….
And this is crazy,
And you recognize that your current TV is just fine, and the new 240 hertz screen will make barely any difference. You could give your old TV away, and the potential act of philanthropy makes the decision a bit easier. The neighbors can come over and watch TV too!

But we can’t help ourselves ….
But here's my number,
Hook me up, lets do it. I’ve justified it. I’m a bit nervous perhaps, not knowing what my husband will say. My compulsion got the better of me, the new cable service has so much fast internet speed and on-demand for the kids plus I get 2 years of HBO, Cinemax and Showtime for FREE!!!

And we hope it works out ….
So call me, maybe?
At the end of it all, we have succombed to the lure of technology, influenced by our instant society and our attraction to shiny objects. Are we still happy with the decision the next day? Does that technology still look shiny the next week? Any regrets? On to the next technology distraction.

So what is there to be done about this? Some hints:

Research - Check things out, use technology to help you in your research. This will delay the impulsive decision to buy, and allow you to process the need. Buy nothing expensive in the store if you haven’t looked into it beforehand.

Commitments - Beware technology that comes with long term commitments! Almost no technology outlives any agreements that are used to subsidize it. What will it cost to continue to use the technology? Does the paper for that photo printer cost more than the printer itself? Are you committing to a 2 year smartphone contract on a phone that is going to be outdated in 6 months?  

Quality of Life - If you are trying to make your life easier, better, more efficient, then good for you. But don’t fool yourself. All technology comes with a price, an investment you must make to be effective with it. Be prepared to make the investment and get to know the new camera, social network or whatever.

Carly Rae is doing us all a favor by providing this opportunity to examine the lure of technology through the lens of pop culture. Any questions? Just call me. Maybe.


David Sullivan said...

Your post got me thinking again about an editorial I read yesterday in the Virginian-Pilot called "Tuned out in the Information Age". Interesting parallel themes. Consider this quote from Calvin Mooers - "Having information is painful and troublesome," he said in 1959. "We have all experienced this. If you have information, you must first read it, which is not always easy. You must then try to understand it.... Thus not having and not using information can often lead to less trouble and pain than having and using it."

Bill Greeves said...

So in other words..."ignorance is bliss?" Yikes...that kind of thinking could put us CIOs out of a job!

Barry Condrey said...

David, thanks for the quote. That will make a great future post. Have things really changed since 1959? Can we escape technology and live a conventional life?