Steph’s poor cat; dumped unceremoniously into a wheelie bin and then posted globally over the internet. What has amazed people, almost as much as the callousness of the act, is the speed with which the story became international news; sharing the stage with the war in Afghanistan and the trapped Chilean miners. Horrible things happen to animals every day, but rarely do they catch the global imagination to such an extent. The difference, I can only assume, is that the episode was caught on camera. We don’t need to read or hear about it, we can see it. We become firsthand witnesses and, as such, feel entitled to express our outrage and opinion, much more so than if we were simply being informed of the event. Journalists and Big Brother producers have long known that what we want is to ‘see’; to be involved in events as firsthand observers. So what does this mean for the way we interact with each other in our technologically driven relationships?
Communication via the internet and mobile phones means we interact more, but see each other less. In some ways this makes our relationships shallower; having hundreds of ‘friends’ on Facebook who we share details of our lives with daily; and in other ways our relationships become deeper; there are plenty of examples of people meeting over the internet, falling in love and getting married, to someone they probably wouldn’t have looked twice at had they both been in the same bar. But it’s visuals that are now being added to our communication technology. We want to see; we want to experience each other firsthand, even when miles apart. Will this extend to our business interactions? More than likely, but how far will it go? We use the telephone and internet for most of our business interactions; from banking and paying the bills, to booking our holiday and buying our swimwear. The vendors show us their products, but would it make a difference if we could see the vendor? In some cases we can have a one to one conversation with a service provider over the internet, but what If a smiling face on our screen says “Thank you for your purchase Mrs Fiander, is there anything else I can do for you today?”
And is our need for visual interaction based around trust? Is seeing really believing and will we feel greater trust towards a vendor or service provider who looks us in the eye? The banks seem to think so and focus their ad campaigns around ‘real’ people who will take the trouble to get to know their customers, and smile warmly at them. What then of telephone customer service. How far away are we from video calls with our customers? The implications are… interesting. There is a body of opinion that some regional accents are considered more trustworthy than others. Presumably that means that some faces are more trustworthy? ‘Dress down days’ will become a thing of the past as we are expected to be shiny, polished and business smart every day of the week. The traditional office decor will need a rethink; not a bad thing in my opinion. And what of our expected behaviour? We are already careful what we say lest a customer overhear a less than professional comment; but we would need to be equally cautious about what we do. Some of the behavioural habits I’ve witnessed in the office over the years would be more than a little distracting, not to mention off-putting, for a poor customer should they be witnessing them over my shoulder as I attempt to resolve their concern.
Of course I may well be over-thinking this whole visual interaction thing and reality can go in any direction, but it would make for interesting times don’t you think?