The year ahead in culture and tech

You will be assimilated? Where humanity meets technology in 2015

As we start to make our way back to reality, we thought to start this year with some of our thoughts on the things that will (continue to) stir up in the blurry zone of culture and technology in 2015.

We’d like to preface that neither of us are futurists, ninjas, prophets or soothsayers, so please don’t hold us liable for any false future telling.

Accepting the "new" news. This year we saw citizen journalism come to life dramatically in news and culture — from Ferguson to the Sony scandal. Technology has given a voice to those previously silenced. That’s not new — but now we’re not only accepting, but also actively seeking out these new sources. Trusted news sources actively follow and cite Anonymous; it’s not CNN or MSNBC that we may be turning to for the latest news, but Reddit.

The new question is, what is news? Does where it comes from determine whether it’s "real news"? If it comes from Buzzfeed is it really news? Or TMZ? (OK, maybe not TMZ.)

The good news is that we are learning from last year and recalibrating our BS meter for modern times. Last year we were fooled by subreddit falsely accusing the wrong person as the Boston Marathon bomber. We felt horrible being on the wrong side of the truth and learned how better to validate real news from all the social media noise. It’s not a perfect science, but the more we engage, the better we get.

Big Data finally comes to Real Life. The promise of big data that we’ve all been waiting could finally come to fruition in 2015. We are already accustomed to relying on algorithms and recommendation engines to tell us what we could want — Apple, Netflix and Amazon leading that charge.

In 2015, we will see these algorithms come together with personal data from our wearables and our increasingly smart homes. In order for both wearables and "Internet of things" to flourish, they must find new ways to add a value or a personalized experience that outweighs the fear of giving up personal information.

This year at CES, we saw Nest start to take the next step towards connecting data sets by adding several third party partners (the "Works with Nest" program) to their smart home system. It’s that mix of bespoke personal data and big data that will enable "the magic" — same kind of magic you felt the first time Pandora served up the perfect song by just knowing a few data points about you.

"Always On" flips. The term "Always On" is popular marketing speak ‘ mostly related to a brand’s ability to react to their audience via technology (social, data, apps, et al.). The simple argument is that people in culture are "always on," hence there is an expectation from brands and companies to reflect the same.

Moral of the story: All of us (brands and humans) are having a little trouble "turning off."

Similarly, our technology is starting to suffer the same fate. The things that enable our "always on" behavior are now (truly) always on — even when we don’t think or expect them to be.

The Microsoft Kinect recognizes family members by sight and voice. It works fairly well, adds value and is convenient. For the most part, people didn’t react to the "creepy factor" of Microsoft watching and listening to everything we are doing in our living rooms. In contrast, consumers didn’t love the newly launched smart speaker from Amazon, the Echo. They felt the voice-command device was too intrusive and did not add enough value.

So, the people are clearly split: creepy/ not creepy? As with any tech adoption, some will be comfortable with the machine being "always on" — taking in data and information; others will not. This privacy threshold will only evolve further this year.

... :est we forget when everyone freaked out over "exposing their lives" on Facebook? Yeah. Those days.

Real Time Marketing flies the coop. Years ago, when social media was an emerging communication platform for brands, it was about making your brand more approachable, more human. While still true, taken it to the "nth" degree — inserting themselves in conversations they have no reason to be in.

This year brands will (hopefully) demonstrate a more sophisticated understanding of the space. It’s not just inserting yourself in any conversation, but the right conversation that actually make sense for your brand. Arby’s and Pharrell? Brand symbol meets a relevant moment in culture = fine. DiGiorno jumping on a popular hashtag and unintentionally making an erroneous statement on domestic violence? Not so much.

It won’t ever be perfect, but let’s all hope that we stop just being hyper-reactive for the sake of being so, and learn how to listen for the right moment to make a real, meaningful statement.

Thas Naseemuddeen is VP, group strategy director at Deutsch LA. Ricardo Diaz is director of digital at Zambezi.

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