I've got to admit, the four letters T-E-C-H give me the shivers. The term “technology” is practically a scare word. Whenever we hear it, we're supposed to be either afraid, impressed or excited. Rarely do we focus on the purpose of technology: getting complexities out of the way so we can get more done and have more fun.
Just Information Technology
Even though the word technology comes from the Greek word téchnē, meaning “craft,” these days we are almost always referring to information technology. Readers of The Martech Zone are steeped in the many eccentricities of this field. We toss around acronyms like URL, SEO, VoIP and PPC. We make broad comparisons between different products, services and industries that seem otherwise unrelated. The world of tech is full of so much jargon that it's nearly impossible to understand what people are saying in conferences. Saying you're into “technology” can scare some people away.
Between Technology and Technicalities
There's a world of difference between technology and technicalities. Technology is the practical application of scientific concepts to do produce useful or interesting results. The technicalities are the many details that make the technology work. To clarify: It's important that somebody knows how to diagnose engine problems in your car, but in order to enjoy automobile technology you don't need to be a mechanic.
So what happens? Here's my theory:
In the beginning, none of us have any idea what it going to appear next. And then one day, BAM, you hear that Google, the Food Network and the International Olympic Committee are joining forces to create an online social network for competitive arugula farming.
Not surprisingly, we don't buy into things right away. Really? What I am going to do with a device that doesn't have a keyboard? We ask ourselves, why do I need a machine that uses body language to send text messages on my behalf?
These questions, however, require a bit of technical understanding. We have to at least visualize ourselves using the new technology, and have some sense for how it might work in our own lives.
Discovery or Fear
As a technology becomes more prevalent, we come across a fork in the road. Either we can get it in a flash of discovery (Oh! I can keep up with old friends on Facebook. Cool!) or it never really clicks in our minds. The technology starts to pass us by, and we become afraid that we're “just not smart enough” for the world around us.
(Not pictured: tech we get but don't care about. For example, iPhone applications that make embarrassing bodily noises.)
Adopter to Expert
Sometimes we become fluent in the technical details of a new technology, and we want to take it apart and show off our prowess. As I write this post for The Martech Zone, I get to do so in raw HTML and add my own markup tags. The technical fluency is fun, because I'm sufficiently expert in doing so.
Sometimes we become sufficiently competent in a technology, understanding just enough to know how to get by. You may not really understand how a touch screen works, but with a little practice and comfort you can get along using it just fine.
Sometimes technology seems hopelessly complex and passes us by. This is the most troubling of all positions, because it's hard to help someone recognize that if only they understood just a little bit of the technical details (such as the difference between the search box and the address bar), they would be much better.
What You Can Do
- Recognize that everyone you meet is at some place along the Technology Cognition Chart for any particular new gizmo, system or gadget.
- Help them move in the direction they want to move (toward competency or expertise), not the one you want.
- Design technology and marketing campaigns with each role in mind. Market people where they are, not where you think they should be!
What do you think? Are people living the paths shown on the Technology Cognition Chart?