Ladders

At Blonde HQ, we always look at audience behaviour before we make any recommendations to clients (it’s about the people, man), even if a client is specific about what they want. You will also hear us referencing the “social technographics” ladder (see picture below) when profiling audiences, seeking to identify people into groups by their online behaviours.

Whilst I’d be classed as a “creator” now, a friend from my university days recently took great delight in reminding me of my “anti-mobile” rants as a student. I don’t remember these rants, but it also doesn’t surprise me since NOTICE-ME ringtones and lack of mobile etiquette have always bothered me.  (I was just born highly-strung.)

So, different types of ladders…. As an “arty” pupil at school, I steered clear of maths and science, simply applying the minimal effort required to get the minimum grades required for further education and the world of work. Although computers existed at school (I think ‘A’ Level computing was introduced just before I hit sixth-form), these machines were for programming and gaming, and as for the World Wide Web, it wasn’t on my teenage radar.

Whilst creative ability was always apparent, my analytical brain was less obvious, so without much consideration I ventured off to art-college to study a foundation year in art and design. I recently found a “word-processing” certificate from that year congratulating me on “entering text”, in addition to “copying and pasting” various extracts… I find this mind-boggling now, 13 years on, that you could even get recognition for something so simple.

I specialised in jewellery design, which led to interests in armour, wearable computing and sensor-activated accessories. I guess this was a little geeky and certainly I continued this research in my first year of a jewellery design degree at Middlesex.  Apart from making a vague effort to type essays on the university computers, we only heard rumours about “The Internet” through the graphic design students (a totally different tribe) and as for mobile phones, they were way too expensive, we had pagers.

My music collection was held across three different formats: vinyl, cassette and CD. My younger brother Tim was already on mini discs.

Migrating to a foundation year in engineering really ramped up my tech quotient; I had modular flirtations with CAD and set up my first webmail account with Hotmail. All project work was digitalised and storage formats evolved from floppy to zip disk. The World Wide Web and I were now on good terms, but I didn’t really spend much time there since connection speeds at home and at uni were painfully slow. I got my first mobile phone this year, but it was a brick, could only store 10 messages and calls to any number were extortionate.

And then came my degree. Since I studied product design, marketing and computing I was forced to educate myself with Apple and Microsoft systems.  I bought my first computer, a Dell + speakers + printer for £1,500, virtually all my savings at the time. It had 256MB of RAM and 10GB of hard-drive space. The 17 inch monitor was a beast or at least obese by today’s standards. Web-use was pretty standard now, but typically only for email and project research. I don’t think I’d started online banking or online shopping yet. As for social networking, I remember getting random invites from Friends Reunited and Fiendster and just thinking “why can’t you just fucking email me, what’s with all these “friend” invites? If you want to talk to me, talk to me!”

And now, seven years after graduation, I’m all copper and silicon. I micro-blog on a daily basis, blog-blog on a more infrequent basis, I have two Twitter accounts that I play with sporadically and a Facebook account I can’t live without. Since 2008, all my photos have moved straight from camera to Web. I have two mobiles: a fairly old Nokia N95 that I use for text messaging and calls and of course…. my iPhone.  I also have an iPod which comes everywhere with me. My social life is passionately practised offline and passionately documented online. I share information on an hourly basis with friends, family and colleagues through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicious, work email, personal email, text message and many other tools which I can’t even remember or recognise… they are now just nameless shortcuts in my various browsers.

So what’s my point? That I’m old? Well no not exactly…

And this is less of a point, and more of a pimple…

It’s just that I’ve done a lot of pensions research recently, which has made me think about what’s stopping us from planning for old age and also why some people are so insistent that Facebook or even “Digital” is for “young people.” In many ways, improvements in healthcare are balanced by our uncertainly about life in general (global warming, nuclear technologies, pollution, depleting supplies of fossil fuels, the recession, population trends and the pursuit of material ideals).

Honestly, we don’t know how long we’re going to live, but we do know that modern life will not abandon the evolution of technology. Just because we have these tools, doesn’t mean they solely define us and ignoring them doesn’t make such Web-based wonders a fad.

I’ll be 32 on Saturday. I’m celebrating with a skateboarding lesson (as well as the usual eating and drinking festivities), with plans to take up some snowboarding and kite-boarding lessons in May. The absence of confidence and money at school has meant that this thirty-something adolescence, documented in social media, is genuine playtime for me. True some moments look more attractive than others and it’s hard not to be self-conscious; of course we’re all getting older, but we’ll never be this young again either.

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