CultureGeek 2017 and Digital Customer Experiences


Better late than never, its a month since I went to two events in one week, and I’ve been so busy since then that I haven’t had time to write them up. Those of you who were following my Twitter stream live may ave some idea what excited me at the time, but for anyone else who might be interested, and more importantly for my own reflection, let me ram my thoughts together into this one post on both events.

We’ll start with Culture Geek in Kensington, which follows on from the M&H show, which I didn’t attend this year. This was the expensive one, with speakers flown in from other countries. I was pleasantly surprised to meet my colleague Alex there, so we were able to reflect a little between sessions, and there’s one thing especially we came away wanting to do, but more on that later. The conference touched on everything digital, including in-visit technology, but of course also plenty of on-line stuff. The first speaker was from that side of the field, Kimberly Drew, social media manager from New York’s Met museum. She drew on her experience as a person of colour doing a history of art degree, and how her life has changed during an internship at Harlem’s Studio Museum when a whole side of black art was revealed to her which had not been covered in her white-centric education.

Keen to share her epiphany, she and a friend started a Tumblr blog on Black Contemporary Art. Now that blog has over 200,000 followers, and she has unintentionally become “a poster child for diversity.” The Met weren’t looking for a “diversity champion” when they advertised the role of Social Media Manager (I asked her afterwards), but you can see why they snapped up such a dynamic, self-motivated blogger, with experience of, and reputation for, reaching out and expanding audiences.

Her work for the Met isn’t all about black art either. She sees the social media as the Met’s fourth space, alongside the 5th Avenue building,  The Cloisters and the Breuer. Her role there is to share 5000 years of art; connect users with the collection; highlight the ways the museum serves art and art history, and to “humanise” the museum and create invitations to participate. This last is the objective that benefits, in theory, from her previous experience, but of course they all do. Reflecting on her talk what comes across most is authenticity. Its a challenge for cultural heritage organisations, to match that authenticity of enthusiasm for both the medium and the message, someone who lives and breathes social media and the cause.

Kimberly is a young woman who inspires, and shows us how to do it, and the organisation she works for is a springboard, not a water-slides forcing her in a corporate direction. She’s one to watch.


The most interesting presentation for my research was given by Joe McFadden of the Royal Opera House. they are trying a number of digital experiments as they redevelop one of their spaces, known as the Piazza, with the intention of increasing the number of daytime visitors. Currently only the tens of thousands annually, which for a central London space, is very few. Their work is in three broad areas: Transactional – things like ordering your interval drinks online, and paying with Applepay; Experiential  – things like AR with hololens and VR (check out the work of the VOID) and post-show video on demand: and, Informational – things like personalised wayfinding (which made my ears prick up, but sadly when I quizzed Joe afterwards, he said they were struggling with the contending needs of different visitors at the same decision point, so It might not happen). We also talked about their current testing of an Alexa skill, so that Amazon Echo users could quiz their “household assistant” about whats on and even, possibly, buy tickets.

Which tied in with a fascinating presentation I saw later in the week at the Academy of Marketing’s Digital Customer Experiences event. There Prof. Merlin Stone of St Mary’s University talked about work he is doing on Baby Boomers and the heath service. These are “the largest generation of older people the world has seen”, but also the healthiest and longest living, the richest, most educated, etc etc. though its early days in the voice first market – he sees signs that they are also likely to be enthusiastic users of Alexa and other home voice assistants, and may well expect services (he was talking about health, but it applies equally well to Opera and Heritage, where baby-boomers are currently core market) to be provided by voice-first platforms.

Back to CultureGeek, Tim Wood of the Ballet Rambert showed us some simple online stuff that had proven surprisingly popular – live streaming of rehearsals. Not fancy dress-rehearsals, but studio work, the repetitive practice of moves and blocking. This is what set Alex and me off on a reverie about making a “slow TV” livestream event of a voyage down the length of the river Wey. One day….
Apart from those presentations at CultureGeek, there was interest as well in Patricia Buffa’s discussion of e-Marketing the Fondation Louis Vitton to Chinese tourists. The Chinese market isn’t a big one for my market yet, they are mostly urban tourists, and ticking off the iconic sites. But if (when?) it becomes spreads into the countryside and independent travelling there’s stuff we can learn here: the importance of Weibo/WeChat; finding Chinese celebrity advocates; doing exhibitions in Chinese partner locations; and, interestingly, the ubiquity of the QR code – “in China your QR code is your business card”.

We also got insight from the Science Museum’s use of Kickstarter to fund the rebuilding of Eric, Britain’s very first robot. We were shown a really interesting content management system created by MIT, and heard about building digital systems for a City of Culture in Hull. There were also some lovely experiments in mixed reality from the National Theatre, including a VR Alice in wonderland that the viewer experienced sitting on a toilet, and Draw Me Close, a VR opera that puts the audience in the naively drawn world of five year old Jordan. I’m not sure how sustainable the business model of this experience might be, the cast outnumbers the audience (of one) so that as the virtual Mum hugs you, or tucks you up in bed, a physical cast member also does it to you, to make an fully sensory experience. Its the closest we’ve come yet to the Ractors of The Diamond Age.

The Digital Customer experiences event was more commercial (after all, it was hosted by the Academy of Marketing at the Direct Marketing Institute). I had been invited to give a presentation, the abstract for which I posted a few weeks back. Apart from Professor Stone, whom I spoke about above, Dr Julia Wolney introduced the day with an overview of all the points in the customer “life cycle” where AI has growing potential.

Ana Canhoto gave a very interesting presentation about the conflicting attitudes to tracking and personalisation. As one respondent told her, its:

… creepy. But, then, it is just also very useful.

Dr Wolny returned to talk about her research into wearables, and the quantification of the self. As a recent wearer of an Apple watch, which I am using to incentivise my own movement, I was very interested in what she had to say. However based on her findings I’m not sure I’m typical. Women are more likely than men to track their fitness, but men are more likely to share their latest achievements. (I am not.)

But perhaps the most intriguing presentation was from Dr Fatema Kawaf – she presented a research technique I had not heard of before, but one I think may be valuable to evaluating heritage experiences. Its called The Repertory Grid, and as the linked article shows it comes out of psychology, a technique as a method to help the individual unveil his or her constructs. As Kawaf demonstrated though, it enables participants to use their own words to construct their understanding of experiences too. Kawaf was thinking about the retail experience, but I wonder if its ever been applied to heritage?

Heritage: The Terror Management Industry?

Shiva as Nataraja – image from the Glasgow Life website, click to visit the page of St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art

A couple of weeks ago, Mark O’Neill, late of Glasgow Museums (and now of Glasgow Life, the charity which runs the city’s cultural and sporting facilities) can to give a keynote speech to me, and a few hundred other National Trust colleagues. He made a throw-away joke about the heritage sector being “in the Terror Management industry.” How we laughed. But it wasn’t quite as throwaway as we had thought. The idea lingered with me, and so this week I’ve been googling Mark’s name and those words. I discovered this very thought-provoking paper.

It turns out Terror Management Theory is an actual thing. According to Mark’s paper, the theory developed from the ideas of US anthropologist Ernst Becker, and according to Becker’s work, Terror Management (though he didn’t call it that) is responsible the the development of culture: “Becker defines culture as ‘humanly constructed beliefs about the nature of reality that are shared by people in groups in order to minimize the anxiety engendered by the uniquely human awareness of death.’ For Becker, culture reduces anxiety with respect to death in two ways, which he refers to as ‘lending meaning’ and ‘conferring significance.'”

Which is cool. I can go to my job refreshed, knowing that the work I do is the only thing keeping society from breaking down in abject fear of mortality. Its handy too, because today I also read this blog post, from Sarah May’s entertainingly written and challenging blog, Heritage for Transformation, which calls what I do for a living (and by association at least, the charity I work for) into question, because of what we are preserving: “For me, these buildings are dark heritage […] where we keep them we should use them to expose and explore the power that they represent.”

However, I must admit there is a darker side, even if Becker’s ideas about all of culture being our tiny anguished cry into eternity are true. As the Terror Management Theory developed and was tested, both with new experiments, and with re-readings of old research, it became apparent that the corollary of seeking comfort in one’s own culture is prejudice and hostility towards the cultures of others. In one experiment that O’Neill describes as an example “They found robust evidence for the existence of an unconscious influence of mortality awareness on attitudes to divergent worldviews, including increased stereotyping and hostility.”

As O’Neill says “Whether expressing civic pride, or national or imperial identities, museums [and yes, in deference to May, let me also include country houses] usually presented a clear and often explicit hierarchy of cultures, races, and genders, and a narrative of progress, with white British and northern European males at the top. […] These views are no longer socially or intellectually acceptable in a public institution so that museums have changed their story. Showing objects from worldwide cultures is now said to promote mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance.” But does it? O’Neill argues “If museums, at some level, are about mortality and trigger ‘death awareness,’ the [Terror Management] theory would suggest that because they present representations of other worldviews, they are more likely to foster intolerance than tolerance.”

He does offer hope though. Experiments have apparently shown a difference between awareness of death (or “mortality salience”) and “death reflection” (considering how you might die).  Subjects made merely aware of their own mortality show signs of increased selfishness and greed, but those reflecting upon their inevitable demise showed benevolent, generous behaviors. Just as many who have had a near death experience often reject worldly possessions as empty and meaningless. So, he argues, museums can promote mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance, but only if they help visitors reflect upon death rather than simply make people aware of their own mortality.

Museums can only be effective ideological agents if they do the primary cultural work of creating meaning in the face of human mortality.

He concludes “Perhaps most importantly the lessons of TMT are that these issues do not have to be the debated in the abstract based on guesswork, speculation, and opinion, but can be subject to empirical experiment.”

So, my fellow heritage professionals and academics, get out there and start experimenting!

Participate in research and (maybe) win!

Fleur Schinning is currently writing her master’s thesis as a part of her specialisation in Heritage Management at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her research focuses on the use of blogs and social media and how they contribute to the accessibility of archaeology. Public archaeology has been developing considerably in the Netherlands for the last couple of years, but much can still be improved concerning public outreach activities. This is why she has decided to focus her research on social and digital communication methods that might make archaeology more accessible for a wider public.

Her research is looking at several blogs from both the UK and USA; in these countries blogging seems widely accepted and used a lot as a tool in creating support for archaeology. To be able to explore how blogging in archaeology contributes to public archaeology,  she would like to question the bloggers and (this is where you come in) readers of these blogs. She has created a questionnaire for you dear reader, which can be accessed here: http://goo.gl/forms/z3BAUTyYUL.

All participants also have a chance to win a small prize; 6 issues of Archaeology Magazine!

Go on, you know you want to!

On ello

Not much new today, as I’m catching up on the Portus MOOC (final week complete, but I’ve left a ton of gaps in weeks 2, 3, 4 and 5) and trying to lay down few thousand words of literature review (yeah, like that’s happening). But I wanted to pause to reprise something like my Twitter is your friend post from some way back.

Some weeks ago I got an invitation to join ello, the ethical social network. Not from anyone I knew, I’d requested an invite a couple of months back, when ello was starting to make appearances in the press. I joined and found the problem of early adoption – a social network with none of your friends on it. So I invited a few, but ello still isn’t really working for me.

Today though I found my first useful thing on ello – the blog(?) of Tom Abba, an innovative fellow in the realm of pervasive  literature and games. Tom isn’t a new discovery  – I’d already heard about him as the co-creator of These Pages Fall Like Ash, but its nice to have someone to follow

That’s all I wanted to say.

(dis-)Connected Life?

Last week I attended Connected Life, a one day conference at Balliol College Oxford, the home of the Oxford Internet Institute.

There’s an extensive photo gallery of the event here, and I’m sure it will be joined by more content as time progresses.

One thing we’re promised is the transcript of Dr Nick Anstead’s keynote, which was a compelling challenge to the idea of Connectedness, asking whether we in fact find ourselves in an age of disconnect. Acknowledging that the recent success of “more right wing” parties across Europe isn’t necessarily about the rise of right wing voters, but more about disenfranchised voters across the political spectrum he didn’t paint an optimistic picture. The political class seek to be more nimble and responsive by leveraging “big data”, but won’t that make them appear more managerial? Will the connection between government and the the needs of the population be apparent? Do the disenfranchised contribute less data to the the Big Data, and so are we in danger of “data apartheid”? All of this resonated with my thoughts on the Playful Aristocracy and the trolling Leviathan last year.  He tried to end on a more optimistic note, but I share his fear that it may push politics and citizenship even further apart.

Then we split into smaller groups and I enjoyed  a session on Culture and Identity, which kicked off with Stephanie Duguay talking about how the dating app Tinder insists on using your Facebook profile to populate your tinder profile, as though Facebook is the most “authentic” on-line version of you. And for dating of course this policy is interesting, given Facebook’s recent move to 50-odd gender and sexuality descriptions, which Tinder currently parses into more binary “Male or Female interested in Males or Females” type classifications.

The Taiwanese student Chen-Ta Sung asked “Why do Asians take photos of food?” discussing geotagged selfies from restaurants, and Leo Mercer explored the internet at poetry, capturing my agreement when he said that a “a poem is a meme machine.” It sent me off looking for twitter poetry.

My own contribution was to kick off an “Un-conference” session on Virtual Economies and Virtual Selves,  by sharing the disappointing results of my geo-gaming survey.

The round-table discussion that followed touched upon (among many other things as you can see from the above tweet) location as an expression of self, which I though was a great concept that reflected what Chen-Ta Sung had presented and deserves further exploration.

Then a second Un-conference session looked at the Rise (and possible Fall) of MOOCs, during which I had a little epiphany (which may be more obvious to others) about how universities (and everyone in them) can sometimes forget that they are all about the network (in the old fashioned sense) and not about the buildings.

Even though Balliol does have some very nice buildings…

 

International, interdisciplinary and “on the move”

Today, I’ve been at Southampton University’s interdisciplinary week, for a session on the World University Network, of which, Southampton is a part. WUN sponsors my trip last year to the the US to attend and speak at the the Decoding the Digital Conference at University of Rochester.

After a brief introduction to the session from my supervisor Graham Earl, and another one to the WUN from Elanora Gandolfini, Professor Leslie Carr, of the University’s Web Science Institute, kicked off by trying to claim that universities are old and more sustainable than the countries in which they are based. (I’m not going to agree or disagree.) He does make a compelling case however that there were attempts to make things like the World Wide Web before this academic and open initiative actually succeeded and was given free to the world.

He contrasts this with the rise of for profit academic publishing since the war, and recognizes the tension between the two methods of distribution and sharing of knowledge. But he concludes that universities are more than places to learn, but a vital engine for better worlds, woven into the social fabric, and more sustainable the Johnny-come-lately technology companies.

Then Chris Phethern, a third year PhD candidate, talked about a couple of exchange trips he has made alongside other Southampton students to Tromso and Korea, facilitated by WUN. Graeme Earl explained a little about the Research Mobility Programme (which got me to Rochester) and another programme that makes awards to specific projects.

He then went on to challenge us on various methods of interdisciplinary work, making me realize that though I work collaboratively on all sorts of written work, I do it by sharing multiple copies of the work on email, not by working on a single shared document like GoogleDocs.

I was on more comfortable ground when the discussion turned to social networking and blogging, two fellow PhD candidates I was sitting next to turned out to be far more nervous that I am about sharing this sort of stuff. Partly, I think, because they felt very few other people would be interested in their area. I countered that in the great scheme of things, I don’t expect VERY many people to be interested I this blog. But I feel I’ve already made useful contacts out of sharing my work here and on Twitter. However, justas we turned back to the front, one of the highlighted the concern he had about opening himself up to abuse on social networks. I think this is a very real concern for many, especially (it seems) women, as we transition from a pseudonominous internet society to a real-name one.

I have an action to take away from this session, to find out more about the University’s Internal Communications Network and SMuRF (and CalIT2). As someone who doesn’t spend much time on campus, I do feel I still rely too much on face-to-face real-world networking with my university cohort, and I might be missing the person also working at Southampton on a project that might perfectly compliment my own research.

Overall though, I left the session feeling very excited about the digital future of Universities. We may still be feeling our way nervously through the digital forest, but when the “find it” we’ll look back and realize that we changed the world.

The Invisible Hand – part 2

I promised more on the Blast Theory workshop I attended a couple of weeks back, and here it is. The two days were kicked off by Matt Adams of Blast Theory explaining why they’d titled the event with a term the Adam Smith had coined a couple of hundred years ago. Smith of course wrote about the Invisible Hand as a good thing, turning selfish acts into selfless ones:

By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations Book IV, chapter II, paragraph IX

However the Invisible Hand that we examined during the workshop had the power to be good, a more sinister. We were looking an profiling and personalisation. Matt started with off with an example of profiling. Mosaic is Experian’s database of UK households and organisations use to identify markets. My own day-job at the National Trust uses Mosaic, but you don’t have to be an organisation to access at least some of the data, their ForSite app is available for free  for your iOS or Android device. At the National Trust, we know that a number of the sixty segments into which Mosaic divides the population are more likely to become members than others, so certain postcodes might, for example, respond more positively to a fundraising appeal. Of course its a pretty broad brush, and describes a population by the people they live among, not as individuals. Its all about inference, not fact.

But technology enables organisations with the inclination to collect more and more data on individuals, not just addresses, and modern manufacturing processes allows a degree of mass-customization that moves the world of profiling into one of personalization. Matt spoke of the chain Zara, the high street face of Spanish company Inditex where staff collect feedback every day from customers, and send it to HQ, where designers collate and respond to what customers are looking for within weeks. Apparently only 3 or 4 units of each design are shipped to branches, and using the daily feedback from stores and a  2-3 week production process, the entire stock of a shop will change every 11 days.

Matt’s question to us all was, what does this mean for the arts?

Of course personalized art has been around for decades. Matt cited  Allan Kaprow’s 1959 work, 18 happenings in 6 parts; the neo-futurists’ ongoing Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (which is not just personalized but also randomized – a roll of a dice defines your ticket price); and Lev Manovitch’s Soft Cinema as examples.

Blast Theory themselves are not alone in the contemporary application of technology to create art: Invisible FlockNon Zero OneConey; and Urban Angel all create worlds that are part theatre, part game experiences that create unique experiences for each audience member. Many of these experiences collect data on their participants, is this a good thing or an abuse of privilege?

In the discussion, concern was expressed about the power of profiling and personalization. I found myself playing devils advocate. Yes, profiling is a blunt tool, and can be used to exercise power unfairly upon minorities, but personalization, if its done right, is a dialogue. Some years ago, when I was a young man, I liked Levi’s 620 jeans. Then, with some retro rock and roll, Levis introduced 501s and 620s disappeared from the shops. I was gutted, I’m not a handsome man, but I’ve got a pretty fine set of pins, which 620s showed off at their best (or did at least, when I was slimmer), tight in all the right places (around the calf I meant!!). 501s were baggy, which might have been fashionable, but what I would have given for the manufacturing process that dangles now so temptingly in front of us now, where those few of us that were not persuaded to convert to 501s might still buy 620s, even better than they were before because they’re made to measure.

Of course the debate turned to privacy, such a vital topic in these post-Snowden times, but even here, despite my abhorrence of the state spying on its democratic masters, I found myself an apologist for Big Brother. Is “Privacy” actually an aberration, a blip in the long history of society, brought about only a few generations ago by scraping together enough coin to live in the luxury of separate bedrooms? For most of human history we’ve lived with a different concept of privacy, where communities knew pretty much everything that when on, and privilege bought some people only a reduced number of people to share the toilet with.

I think we concluded that the debate was less about privacy than power. We discussed the politics of knowledge, touching upon Marilyn Strathern’s simple hierarchy of data, information and knowledge. Data being the unprocessed stuff that we see (or sense by any other means); information being that data organised in some way so we can begin to see some sense in it; and, knowledge is information that has an effect, that makes us change our behaviors in some way. The fear is that data is being harvested  by large, wealthy organisations, in such huge quantities and the “common man” or woman can not make sense of it. So we let these organisations organize it into information, and offer us knowledge that manipulates our behaviours to the organisations’ benefit. A new Invisible Hand that isn’t working for the benefit of society as a whole.

Kelly Page offered us examples. Doubleclick was a company that monitored websurfing, following clickthroughs on banner ads especially, a form of anonymous behavioural profiling. They acquired an off-line catalogue company called Abacus with the intention of merging their anonymous data with the  personal information within Abacus’ database. (though after Microsoft called foul, they were prevented from doing so by the US FTC. Later they (and their data) were acquired by Google. Page worked for a time at DunnHumby, who run Tesco’s Clubcard, and surprised us with the revelation that Inland revenue use club card data to validate your tax return.

But why should big and sometimes anonymous corporations be the arbiters of data, information and knowledge? We explored ways in which artists might take the mechanics of big data and transform it into different, playful information and knowledge. Blast Theory shared projects that tried to do just that from early experiments with Prof Tanda’s Guess-A-Where to a more recent and on-going collaboration with National Theatre Wales. Then John McGrath and Katherine Jewkes both from National Theatre Wales came on to talk about being an organisation that started out as an on-line community, and how even they struggle to cope with the “small data” that their participants have shared.  But they also gave us a taste of a lovely game/perfomance that imagines having to smuggle yourself of the border of a newly independent Wales. Part of that game involves creating a fake passport for yourself, and they were surprised by participants willingness to give their real names and data rather than making stuff up.

Giles Lane of Proboscis told us about a fascinating co-creation with Anglia Ruskin University and the R&D section of Phillips who have a interest in telehealth. Their idea which echoed our earlier discussion around the politics of knowledge, was to take an individual’s medical data and turn it into a 3D printed model, a talisman, a lucky pebble, which they carry with them. A beautiful object used as a tangible locus of meaning, mindfulness, rather than the dull data which means not enough to change behavior.

So can art use big data/infomation/knowledge to benefit society? And what are the ethics of doing so? That was the meat of our discussion, and Blast Theory, having collected our thoughts (data), are organizing them (infomation) and will shortly share them in some useful format (knowledge).

When they do, I’ll share a link here.

Questions, questions

My head is full of questions today. On the one hand, I need to get some front end evaluation data on young people and mobile gaming together, in just a month, so I’m composing an online survey about that.

On the other hand it is the deadline for Bodiam Castle to submit bespoke questions for the National Trust’s visitor survey, so I need to get my head around what questions to try and persuade them to add. It can’t be everything that I’ll eventually ask on site, because the National Trust visitor survey is already pretty long. The most obvious one is did the visitor actually do (what I’m currently calling) “the thing” (because I don’t yet know what they’ve decided to call it)?

With my third hand (if only) I need to crack on the with composing the interview questions for my planned research into the relationships between tech companies and heritage organisations…

But I’m going to leave that and  Bodiam to one side for a moment and concentrate on the other survey. I need to ask about the target audience’s social media use, but before I do that, I ought to review what we already know. And I know very little. I hear from the papers that Facebook use is on the decline among young people because all us oldies are spoiling their fun. To which I want to say “It was always meant to be for us oldies anyhow, to keep in touch with our University friends as we got older and drifted apart. Your place, my young chums, was meant to be MySpace, but like a teenager’s bedroom you let it get messier and messier before you moved out.”

But actually my 12 year old is counting down the days to her birthday when she’ll be able to comply with Facebook’s terms and conditions and open an account (which all her friends with more relaxed parents have apparently already done). So it seems there’s life in the old network yet. My first point of call of course was to ask her what “the young people” were using nowadays, but she didn’t say anything that was new to me. And actually she’s a bit younger than my target market, so I had better turn to some published data.

The Pew Research Center tells me that 90% of all internet users aged 18-29 (which is pretty close to my target market) in the US (which is not) use Social Media. They also report proportions of the the 18-29 age band using particular social platforms. In 2013 they asked 267 internet users in that age band about what they used:

84% used Facebook

31% used Twitter

37% Instagram

27% Pintrest, and

15% LinkedIn.

I think its interesting that there’s such a steep difference between Facebook and the also-rans. The curve leaves very little room for other networks like Foursquare.

Meanwhile the Oxford Internet Surveys show us that use of social media is begging to plataux at around 61 % of internet users generally. They also show us that Social Network use gets less the older the respondent is, with 94% of 14-17 year olds using networks,  dropping t0 the mid-80% (the graph isn’t that clear) for 18-24 year olds.

The full report of their 2013 survey concentrate on defining five internet “cultures” among users.

Although they overlap in some respects these cultures define distinctive patterns. While these cultural patterns are not a simple surrogate for the demographic and social characteristics of individuals, they are socially distributed in ways that are far from random. Younger people and students are more likely to be e-mersives, but unlike the digital native thesis, for example, we find most young students falling into other cultural categories.

The group of young people that I’m interested in here falls especially into two of those cultures: The e-mersive and the cyber-savvy. Both of which might be worth looking at in more detail later. What I can see now, though, is that these two groups are the most likely to post original creative work on-line (rather than simply re-post what others have created. Interestingly, between the 2011 and 2013 surveys, the proportion of users putting creative stuff online has dipped a little, except for photographs. I guess that may be the Instagram effect. In fact the top five Social Network activities recorded in the survey are updating status; posting pictures; checking/changing privacy settings; clicking though to other websites; and leaving comments on someone else’s content.

Its an interesting report, but nothing novel comes out of it about young people’s use of the social networks. That should be reassuring I suppose, but it doesn’t particularly inform our front-end evaluation for a mobile game based around the Southampton Plot. So we’re going to have to ask young people themselves.

How to we ask, first of all, what sort of games they are playing? There are too many to list, so I’m toying with a “dummy” question that simplying gets respondents into the mood, by asking about a relatively random selection of games, but trying to include sandbox games like Minecraft, story games like Skyrim, MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, social games like Just Dance, etc. (And throwing in I Love Bees, as a wild card just to see if anybody bites at the Augmented reality game that seems to be closes to our very loose vision for the Southampton Plot. But the real meat is a free-text question that simply asks what is their favourite game that they’ve been playing recently.

My next thought has a bit more “science” behind it. Inspired by the simple typology put together by Nicole Lazzaro, I’ve taken seventeen statements her researched players used to illustrate the four types of fun she describes, and asked respondents to indicate how much they agree with them. My plan is to use some clever maths to identify what sort of mix of fun our potential gamers might enjoy.

Then I plan to ask them about the social networks they use, including the top three from the OIS data (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) but also throwing Pintrest (which the US data also highlighted) and Foursquare (which I wanted to include because it is inherently locatative (though Facebook and Instagram are too, slightly more subtly). We’ll see how much our sample matches the published data in terms of users. I’ve also asked them to name another network if they are using that and its not one of my listed ones. Just in case MySpace is making its comeback at last 🙂 or G+ is finally getting traction.

Then I’ve suggested a similar question about messaging networks, like What’sApp and Snapchat.

I have also included a question about smartphones, whether they have one, one sort (iOS, Android etc) it is. And I’ve tried to create a question about how much of their social networking is mobile vs desk (or laptop) based, but it’s the one I’m least happy about.

Finally, as we’re trying to use this game to get people to places, I’ve asked about transport: walking; cycling; public transport; catching lifts; and being about to drive themselves. We’ll see how mobile they turn out to be.