The Death of Empathy? Brands, conversations and ethnographic insight - a manifesto?

One of the things that most interests us here at #designingdeeper are the questions of how our behavior is being impacted by technology and this article from The Right Brain Studio which was inspired by the writing of Sherry Turkle is very interesting. Turkle, is a specialist in the psychology of online connectivity, and her focus for the past five years has been, “What has happened to face-to-face conversation in a world where so many people would rather text than talk?

We already know that our smart phones are are addictive and distracting. Our devices connect us to others and the world at large, but can be isolating as well.  Not only is texting no substitute for real conversation, but the mere presence of a phone on the dinner table, at home or in a restaurant, is proven to dramatically reduce the odds that a conversation will ever transcend the superficial.

Citing a recent column by Turkle about empathy and technology the post states that…

“Across generations, technology is implicated in this assault on empathy. We’ve gotten used to being connected all the time, but we have found ways around conversation — at least from conversation that is open-ended and spontaneous, in which we play with ideas and allow ourselves to be fully present and vulnerable. But it is in this type of conversation — where we learn to make eye contact, to become aware of another person’s posture and tone, to comfort one another and respectfully challenge one another — that empathy and intimacy flourish. In these conversations, we learn who we are.” 

The provocation by the The Right Brain Studio that - It seems that Big Data may be the empathy-killing, marketing equivalent to texting - is very interesting. At a recent event by IBM called ‘Amplify’ the company presented technology that focus on cognitivity. This an emerging area that integrates data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works or in short making computers “think” more like humans.  90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. That’s a huge number and much of it’s coming from consumers. Much of this is dark data, messy, human information and it’s passing right by marketers unnoticed and unused. It is not hard to see why cognitive computing is so incredibly important. This at a time when face-to-face talk is getting more difficult. The Right Brain Studio however argue that marketers need to find ways to start a conversation and be part of this new world. 

For where are the real conversations now taking place between consumers and brands?In most enterprise-sized companies, simply making it to the next level or getting that next assignment often holds a strong priority over challenging the status quo in the search of true innovation. This puts a premium on process and conformity rather than the deep, soul searching conversations required to affect meaningful change. 

For those of us who work in ethnographic research, the article is to some extent preaching to the converted. “Marketers should be out talking to existing and potential customers, face-to-face, on a regular basis. In Turkle’s words, these should be “open-ended and spontaneous (conversations), in which we (can) play with ideas and allow (our customers) to be fully present and vulnerable. (For it is) this type of conversation…that (allow) empathy and intimacy (to) flourish.””

If Big Data is the equivalent of mobile devices when it comes to empathy, then the need for brands and marketeers in general to spend more time engaged in dialogic listening will only increase. However, in a culture increasingly obsessed with the immediate such practices require a culture shift rather than mere lip service. 

(This post comes from our Designing Deeper blog)
(Este post foi retirado do nosso blog Designing Deeper)