5 things I’m thinking about

Following Alice and Dan, here’s my contribution to the ‘blog 5 things you’re thinking about’ meme:

1- Attention Patterns
I’ve been getting very obsessed with the patterns of attention around content and stories lately. For example, the huge spikes of synchronous attention we see around live events like Reality TV, breaking news stories or sporting events; or the binge-like, asynchronous patterns of attention around cult drama, as people time-shift their viewing with PVRs, VOD or box-sets. Then there’s the katamari-damacy style rolling balls of attention that mobile apps and social games get- huge, distributed balls of attention made up from tiny slivers of our lives. Are these patterns maturing now? Can we design projects based on these models, or are these patterns still unstable? I’m *way* more interested in attention patterns than I am in any particular platform or device.

2 – The Next 30%
There’s a big push in developed economies to get everyone online, as the first two waves (early adopting geeks, and people who use online tools in the workplace) are already well served. I’m interested to see what needs and uses of the internet will emerge over the next few years as new users come online. Will apps and gestural interfaces become more used than open web browsers? Will Facebook become the default experience of the Internet for most people? Will mobile be the most common route to access information networks? Or the set-top box? Or will new brands (ie Tesco) reposition themselves as gateways to information goods as well as ‘real world’ services?

3 – Recession Culture
I was in Art School in Glasgow from 90-94, during the last serious recession. It was an amazing moment of cultural invention, with musicians developing the strands of late-80s grunge, hip-hop and rave culture; indie film in rude health in the US and UK; and artists becoming entrepreneurs and putting on shows in derelict warehouses all over the UK. All this was driven by a DIY ethic that was the only real response to huge public spending cuts and poor employment opportunities. The current university-age generation are facing the same issues, and I’m perversely optimistic that we’ll see similar strange cultural shoots emerging, well outside of the reality-show-driven culture that has dominated the last 10 years. It may sound impossible now to imagine anything breaking through the hegemony of X-Factor and BGT, but I’m calling Peak Cowell around about* now*, and believe the influence of these global culture engines will slowly diminish. We need a few new culture-amplification engines to kickstart (see what I did there?) some of these new shoots, and a few new leaders in the shape of 90s pioneers like Damien Hirst, James Lavelle, Warp records, Richard Linklater and others, but I can see it happening already. And we didn’t even have the transformational power of the web back then, so this should be *really* interesting…

4 – The Underground Olympics
Related to the point above- if you want to reset the cultural barometer, you need something that is even bigger than Cowell to flick the switch. The Olympics is just such an event, and is important not just for it’s huge umbrella of activity and attention, but for the mutant strains that will emerge in its shadow. The art scene around the Transmission Gallery in Glasgow that produced Douglas Gordon, David Shrigley, Christine Borland and many others got its initial kick in opposition to the 1990 Glasgow Year of Culture, so I expect to see similar ground-level initiatives kicking against the 2012 Olympics. If the LOCOG team are smart, they’ll encourage it to happen. If they’re *really* smart, they’ll deliberately provoke it.

5 – Games Getting Boring
By this, I don’t mean games actually getting boring themselves, I mean the hype passing, and everybody finally getting used to the fact that games are a complex, successful and mature part of contemporary media culture. We’re at the top of the hype cycle at the moment, because some people are amazed that *shock!* just about everyone plays games, *shock!* some of them make a hell of a lot of money, and *shock!* they don’t have to involve sitting alone in a room pretending to shoot things. So I’m looking forward to the moment when the investors move on, some people lose a hell of a lot of money, and the mainstream press starts writing snarky “so what was all *that* about then?” post-hype articles. Because I remember the first dotcom crash, and it was just after that when things got really interesting, and the seeds of the current social web were born. Imagine that moment, but with *games*. I’m getting excited just thinking about it…

Hmmm. These have all ended up being a bit more big and wooly than I expected. But I think that’s because I sense the conditions are right for some interesting new trends, and I’m trying to see beyond the big changes in politics, culture etc that are currently right in front of our eyes. It’s more fun to try and look in the cracks, shadows and edges, even if you end up being wrong.


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  3. Tim Aldiss

    Woolly?! Far from it – that’s a great read, and it’s a great idea to be encouraged to crystallise one’s thinking. Love the recession culture thought. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. will mcinnes

    Hi Matt, I’m also very interested in attention, and have been ever since first hearing about the concept (and then immediately recognising the reality) of continuous partial attention a couple of years ago. How our behaviour and investment of attention is adapting *is* deeply interesting.

    What I wanted to ask was about the Katamari Damacy reference – the game and so the metaphor was new to me, and I’ve now read about it but it would be interesting to hear a little more about how you see attention around mobile apps and social games – could you go further? Thanks.

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