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After The Hype: The Web Is Growing Up
Yesterday I read a post by Kirsten Winkler in which she noted that “there is no innovation, just some iteration and lots of hype” in the (education) technology world at the moment.
Is this just a temporary phase before the next big breakthrough? Or are we perhaps developing a kind of tolerance to technological innovation and the way it is marketed?
The Anatomy Of Hype
In the beginning advertising was a pretty straightforward business. It usually consisted of a) making people aware of the product and b) listing the benefits of the product. Since then, advertising has become much more psychological.
Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK. – Don Draper
Mobile phones and consumer technology are the cars of today. They are marketed in a very similar way. We see beautiful people smiling through Instagram filters, hair waving in the wind in slow motion, a lens-flare between trees, time-lapse sunrises, all telling us: this technology will make you feel loved and alive.
A second trope of marketing new online services or products is the “quirky” demo video which features faux hand-drawn user interfaces, 3-step explanations and the everpresent “lighthearted banjo” music.
Last but not least, there is the pseudo-documentary approach, where we see (mostly white) people with glasses and high foreheads talking casually and sincerely (I wonder how many takes they need) about the sophistication of their work, preferably on a white background.
Many times, these three different forms of advertising are mixed together. It has been the standard approach for the last few years. On top of that, every new “The New Facebook” or “The Next Instagram” is written about extensively on tech-blogs that masquerade product placement as journalism, feeding their “news coverage” through the echo chambers of Social Media.
Too Many MCs, Not Enough Mics
Advertising and marketing aside, there is also the very real possibility that the tech market is reaching over-saturation. How many photography apps does a person really need? Do we really want to sign up for yet another social network? In times when it’s not just a paranoiac’s fantasy but a proven fact that the government is collecting everything we do online, are we really so eager to fill out yet another profile with personal information?
New start-ups are born and dying every day, all clamoring for our attention, fueled only by their own hype.
We drank the Kool-Aid and went all-in. By the time demo day came around, we had cheques being written and were all over the press. Still, I had this nagging feeling eating away at me. That nagging feeling was disbelief. – My Startup has 30 Days To Live
Let’s be honest. After the first few years of Social Media hype we’ve come to know not just the warm fuzzy feelings of connection but also the pressure of maintaining one’s social presence, the terror of esoteric “privacy” settings and the annoyance of redundant notifications that are constantly nagging for our attention.
The Web Is Growing Up
In about one month, the World Wide Web will celebrate its 22th birthday. It was “born” on August 6, 1991 when Sir Tim Berners-Lee launched the first webpage in history.
And although the Web is still far from being an adult, we are slowly leaving behind the teenage years of reckless experimentation, the fights for individuation and finding one’s own place. The Internet has become an inseparable part of everyday life. We use it to find things, buy stuff and connect to family and friends.
Maybe this is the time to stop waiting for the “next big thing”, to cancel your subscription to the party-line of bigger, better, stronger, faster, take a good look at what we already have and what we can actually do with it.
In the end, it’s not the platform that is important, but what you build on it.
img: CC, x-ray delta one