2/2010

The Internet changes our communication habits

Hanna-Kaisa Desavelle

As we explore visions of future technology, existing technologies are
gradually becoming a part of our everyday routines. After all, a coffee
maker is a technical gadget, too", says Researcher Hanna-Kaisa Desavelle.

Future technologies will enable increasingly diverse forms of communication and consumerism but in the end the changes may go unnoticed by the general public.

Digitalization and globalization have led to the fragmentation of consumer and communications markets. Different forms of media are consumed haphazardly, regardless of the time and place. This transformation may not, however, be as extreme as we once thought.

"Even though the Web is redefining the media sector, people still have a need for high-quality radio and TV programmes and traditional media", says Researcher Hanna-Kaisa Desavelle from TUT.

Desavelle represents TUT in the COBI (Consumer Behaviour in Information Society) research project headed by Helsinki School of Economics. The project focuses on the change of consumer markets, especially on the effect of digitalization and globalization on media services and consumer behaviour.

Blurring the boundaries between consumption and production

People form loose communities in the Web based around, for example, hobbies and common interests. At the same time, these communities are powerful opinion leaders and transform the way people consume media.

"The number of passive media and technology users is rising. Few people regard themselves as media consumers when they log in to Facebook. This shows that the services are becoming a part of our everyday routines", states Desavelle.

These changes have led to the fragmentation of consumer markets. In addition to the Web, the changes are brought on by consumers' evolving discussion habits. Consumer consumption patterns have always been more complex than associated models suggest, but now the changes are picking up speed.

"A person who reads the culture section of a newspaper every day may just as well watch Big Brother", describes Desavelle.

The growing importance of media and communications has implications for media companies and their services.

"Media companies will evolve into so-called knowledge refineries and middlemen between markets and companies", says Desavelle.

In the future, the sales volume of traditional advertising space will drop. Keeping tabs on social media and producing and filtering knowledge that concerns cultural meanings will become more important. Consumers are active co-producers. Products, brands and services are continually reproduced in interaction between consumers, as they acquire, negotiate and modify meanings related to them.

The Web will not replace face-to-face communications

Desavelle believes that the importance of the Internet will increase in fields such as education and learning but the changes will be slow. Online learners still hand-write their exams under the supervision of invigilators. In addition to globalization, one major trend today is the rise of localization.

"In spite of the proliferation of online shopping that is not restricted to time and place, the popularity of local food and other locally-produced goods and services will continue to grow."

According to Desavelle, information networks should not be discussed as a separate phenomenon, since people form networks, too. The biggest stumbling block to making full use of all the opportunities the Internet has to offer is that consumers expect the same from online services as from social contacts.

"As long as the use of the Internet and mobile services is limited due to price, availability or speed, they will not replace traditional forms of communication", summarizes Desavelle.
 

Text: Antti Routto
Photo: Petri Laitinen

 

 

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