News & Views

Opinion / Introspective Content

by Contagious Contributor

As self-quantification and content collide, Jeremy Garner, ECD at Weapon7, asks how can brands avoid being left out?

As the quantified self movement gathers momentum, and wearable tech becomes mainstream, the nature of content is also undergoing a transformation.

If the last content revolution was driven by a fascination with the minutiae of the lives of others - supported by the advent of social web platforms such as Twitter and Facebook - then the next wave is being powered by something far more personal and introspective: our own selves.

Body data is only part of it. Gadgets such as Fuelband, Jawbone, Pebble and Fitbit which analyse everything from heart rate, mood, distances walked, calories burned and sleep patterns, are being joined by brainwave-measuring devices such as the rational Muse and its more emotional counterpart, Necomimi.

More interesting still are Kickstarter projects such as Memoto, a miniature wearable camera that automatically takes two photos per minute throughout the day. Each photo is GPS and time-stamped, and then archived, allowing for the user's life to be documented.

Another Kickstarter-funded device is HAPIfork, which looks like a normal fork but actually contains sensors to monitor how the user eats, alerting them if they consume food too quickly. 

Whatever the functional aspects, all of the above allow the user to learn more about themselves, organise their lives and habits and, ultimately, take a more introspective approach to life. 

It's not hard to see the appeal. After all, each of the devices take the seemingly banal and makes it easy to dissect each moment - whether it's a single muscle movement or brain signal - and turns it into a valuable event for the user.

I've written before about digital touchpoints being so addictive because they effectively turn people's lives into a character-driven plot of thousands of mini-chapters, driven by the one protagonist they could seamlessly identify with: themselves. The quantified self and wearable tech takes the story a step further, deepening the narrative, increasing the opportunities for the 'protagonist' to steer and control the outcome of the next chapter.

And that's probably the defining factor of the new introspective content: it's all about control. 

Whereas Twitter and Facebook are anchored in conversations and self expression, the quantified self comes from an altogether more inward-looking place. Some would say, self-obsessed. 

Ultimately perhaps this is a good thing. After all, it's been said that, used in the right way, introspection can lead to epiphanies and increased self awareness. 

But where will all this leave brands in their quest to keep foremost in consumers' minds? Those with an affiliation to the activities encompassed by the quantified self - food, health and sports brands etc - should have myriad opportunities to keep themselves relevant and part of the consumer's story. But others, the more 'me too' products, especially emotive brands such as FMCGs, how will they fit in?

Does it mean they will have to be more functional if they want a piece of this new, inward-focused consumer landscape? Or will they be forced to humanise themselves to a greater degree to provide emotive high points and meaningful yet non-intrusive communications within people's highly organised lives?

It's difficult to predict an actual outcome for the new introspective content. As, with everything in life, there's always two sides to the coin: Aristotle said, 'Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.' Whereas science fiction writer Philip K. Dick argued that, 'The problem with introspection is that it has no end.'

Jeremy Garner is executive creative director at Weapon7