The next online frontier is how technology adapts to us. When companies are disrupted by new technologies or demographic shifts, their problems still have people at their heart wrote Tim Brown, president and CEO of the innovation and design firm IDEO. “They require a human-centered, creative, iterative, and practical approach to finding the best ideas and ultimate solutions. … By [human-centered design], I mean that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported.”
“A human-factors approach assumes that the things we’ll carry in the future are not going to be invented so much as discovered—that the answer to the question of what devices we’ll carry will become obvious as we learn more about human behavior,” explained Claire Tristram in Technology Review. Therefore, as mobile and multisensory devices proliferate and alternative economies grow, media organizations will find the best path forward by following its users.
Anthropologists are more likely than technologists to identify the next groundbreaking innovations in media. Nevertheless, technologists are still driving much of the innovation in the industry.
“(Journalists) write stories that they think are important, but that’s not what the consumers want,” according to Ashish Soni of the University of Southern California’s Information Technology Program. Those journalism organizations that still have a hard time understanding their customers may find it hard to adopt a human-centered approach. A number of progressive media projects have undergone facelifts in the past five years in an effort to appeal to a younger demographic. This is a part of human-centered design that independent media-makers sometimes ignore because they do not want to look too slick or commercial, at times to their detriment.
Social behavior makes media platforms even more complicated to design. James Surowiecki wrote in The Wisdom of Crowds that, “The solutions to coordination and cooperation problems are not like the solutions to cognition problems. They are fuzzier and less definitive…” And, researchers say there is still a long way to go in understanding how to apply offline human behavior to online media. To this end, journalists would be served by engaging in the frontiers of such research and learning from it, particularly because their central competency will increasingly be to design and build strong communities.
This blog is an excerpt from The Big Thaw, a guide to the evolution of independent media, written by Tony Deifell of Q Media Labs and produced by The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets. Learn how your organization can use this report. For more information and recommendations from the study, click here.