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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

This Modern Life

The last few weeks have been hectic to say the least. So much so that my blog posting has been severely restricted. Like many people today, I split my time between a number of different job roles and clients, meaning I am constantly having to juggle priorities to ensure I meet many different expectations — with work delivered both to the right standard and within a given deadline. Unfortunately the volume of work and life commitments recently has meant that something had to suffer — namely this blog. The situation should improve somewhat over the next month and I’d like to get back in to the rhythm of posting regularly.

Funnily enough, the Beeb called me up last week and asked me to comment on the role that technology plays in the modern life. I’m appearing on the BBC Radio Manchester breakfast show tomorrow morning alongside a self-confessed Luddite to talk about the gadgets that I can’t live without. It got me thinking about whether the preponderance of communications technologies on which we all (except the Luddites) rely is responsible for the increased pace of life, or whether it just helps us all to cope with a trend that was happening anyway.

I think the answer comes down to the individual. For me, having a laptop with broadband access, means that I can work from my bed if I want to, as I am now. Admittedly I am working on a Sunday, but that is my choice and it is enabled by the fact that the tools of my work are so portable.

By contrast, imagine a junior executive in a full-time office role. The Blackberry with which he or she might be equipped isn’t a chosen tool to allow them to work more flexibly. Rather it is a work-assigned tether to the office, eating in to their free time.

In either case though, the technology is a fundamental enabler of the knowledge economy in which we all exist today. Though you can’t disentangle the development of one from the other, I for one am happy to working in an economy where I can choose when to work, and can make a living from selling my creativity of thought. Especially when I get to be creative in such a comfy environment.

Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Location, Location, Location

I’m not coming over all Kirsty and Phil (there’s a Jarvis-style joke in there somewhere). Location Based Services seem to be back with a vengeance.

Four or five years ago, LBS was the buzzword to have in your proposal if you were looking for venture capital. Companies like Cellpoint promised a world of services keyed to your location, divined by tracking your mobile phone. This promise has yet to be fulfilled.

One of the challenges is privacy: do you really want advertisers to know your location? Google, soon to be even more dominant in online marketing, has already confessed that it wants to know enough about you to tell you what to do tomorrow. Yet currently it only has access to a small proportion of information about your activities — captured when you are online. Your mobile phone is with you constantly, and so the potential for learning your habits and patterns of activity is all the greater — especially if the phone becomes intrinsically linked to purchasing.

The initial reaction is one of fear — especially amongst the more liberal media. The term ‘Orwellian’ crops up again. But chatting this through with journalist and industry commentator Guy Kewney, he questioned whether people really care about their privacy as long as they only get targeted with services and adverts that are relevant to them. Certainly the convenience factor of receiving targeted offers that are genuinely relevant is high. I receive two or three ‘newsletters’ each day that are little more than lists of special offers from given suppliers. But I’m happy to receive them because I am interested in the products.

Another industry figure, Tony Fish, has proposed a solution that addresses the privacy issue to some extent. Instead of the advertiser or ad provider knowing your location, and other information, there would instead be a centralised broker, enabling you to access all the benefits of Web and Mobile 2.0 while maintaining control of your identity and the data about your habits.

It seems certain that more services will soon take advantage of knowing our location, in addition to the other information they already collect. Given the general levels of apathy, I doubt anyone will kick up much of a fuss about Google knowing where we are, as well as who we talk to and what we search for. At least until one or other less-than-democratic government requests the information to track down ‘enemies of the state’. If you’ve seen the movie, you have been warned.

Tom Cheesewright