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The Biological Imperative for Intelligent Content

[Originally presented at Intelligent Content 2014] It's been about 1000 years since the last time our basic understanding of communicating content has changed as much as it's changing today. Under the pressures of multi-channel and multi-device content challenges, the old rules we learned about good content and processes are breaking down. How do we optimize for all this diversity? There is a way to understand, master, and even leverage all this change before competitors beat you to it. This isn’t an industry issue. The challenges around discussing and making full use of today’s digital communication platforms are faced by all cultures around the world as they adopt them.

Contemporary research in cognitive science and neurobiology, leads us to new ways of thinking about communication at a basic, human level. This session could be considered a study in empathy. It offers cognitive science and neurolobiology lessons relevant to today's content landscape, and a common language to help you bridge the communication issues with your clients, colleagues, managers, and end users.

Don’t worry – this session isn't a jargon-filled nerd-fest, but a roadmap to navigating the world of content, today and tomorrow. It will cover techniques and methodologies to better structure content, optimize editorial processes, and build effective, influential strategies.

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The Biological Imperative for Intelligent Content

  1. 1. The biological imperative for intelligent content 1 @nozurbina img:
  2. 2. @nozurbina Me (Noz Urbina) Content strategist & modeller Consultant/trainer Author Futurist H2H (Human-Human/B2B/B2C) 89 3929 31 x88 24g 2015
  3. 3. The problem 3 We have been side-swiped by change too many times. Web shocked us after print, and mobile after desktop
  4. 4. The problem 4 And we’re still not ready for wearable & augmented
  5. 5. @nozurbina Empathy 5 Go from reactive to proactive We need return to fundamentals. To truly, deeply understand each other, so we can better predict trends and optimise in advance
  6. 6. @nozurbina Sources and reviewers @nozurbina - 6 MIT & Stanford Lectures Slides, models & drafts reviewed by Clinical Psychologist Alberto Soler & Kontchín Soler, PhD in Psychobiology
  7. 7. To influence behaviour… …we must understand behaviour Behaviour starts and ends in the mind
  8. 8. We need to (constantly) redefine @nozurbina - 8 To invent physics, Newton had to redefine various words like “mass”, “force”, “time”, and “motion”. He was trying to describe things never before described
  9. 9. We need to (constantly) redefine @nozurbina - 9 Digital technology is putting the same pressure on communicators. People have never communicated this way before
  10. 10. We need to (constantly) redefine @nozurbina - 10 We must build the new conceptual vocabulary required, so we can discuss the issues and work out solutions
  11. 11. Communication and the mind The topic
  12. 12. The topic Increasing complexity is pushing together communication specialists of various disciplines Communication and the mind
  13. 13. The topic We need to think of language at the level of “systems”, not words or pages. Intelligent content is free from format, rich in semantic and structural metadata, and automation-system-ready Communication and the mind
  14. 14. The thesis
  15. 15. Intelligent Content supports our biological, mental processes better than traditional content The thesis
  16. 16. So let’s look at these processes… The thesis
  17. 17. WE ARE SENSE MAKING MACHINES We’ll make it up if we have to 17
  18. 18. @nozurbina BABY 18 We’re born on a biological mission to start to fill our minds with information about the world around us
  19. 19. Semantic models 19 Semantic models are semi-conscious mental storage units. We can call up a semantic model instantly and know how to react or interact.
  20. 20. Do you want to make me cry? 20 Prevent me from building my semantic models. “Mommy, I need data!”
  21. 21. Do you want to make me cry? 21 A toddler needs input to their models in the same way they need food or sleep
  22. 22. QUALITY CHECK How good are our models? 22
  23. 23. @nozurbina A & B are the same colour 23 Wikimedia commons
  24. 24. @nozurbina But they aren’t 24 Wikimedia commons
  25. 25. @nozurbina But they are! 25 Wikimedia commons
  26. 26. @nozurbina Yet they aren’t 26 Wikimedia commons
  27. 27. @nozurbina But they are 27 Wikimedia commons
  28. 28. @nozurbina Yet they aren’t 28 Wikimedia commons
  29. 29. @nozurbina Yet they aren’t 29 Wikimedia commons Our models and processing clearly aren’t perfect
  30. 30. Thinking Systems 2 and 1 30 Brain economics and the cost/benefit of cognition
  31. 31. @nozurbina Thinking System 2 • Plays poker and chess (unless you’re a master, and can use System 1) • Contains our conscious experience • Analyses, reflects on and digests content • Taxed when learning new skills • Delegates to System 1 whenever possible 31 S l o o o w “Expensive” Tiring
  32. 32. @nozurbina Thinking System 1 • “The zone”, “the gut”, “the heart”, “lateral thinking” and inspiration • Drives, plays violin (any embedded skill) • Picks up on body language, style, mood, metaphor, symbolism, etc. (using associative memory) • Uses compression & semantic models • Skims content (using keywords, colour, shapes and other fast cues) 32 Fast! “Cheap” (Nearly) Effortless
  33. 33. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE Answer these questions (out loud or in your head) 33
  34. 34. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE What’s your first name? 34
  35. 35. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE What month were you born? 35
  36. 36. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE How do you spell the month after that month – backwards? 36
  37. 37. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE Feel the effort spike? If the month had a long name, you might even have had to look away from the screen momentarily. 37
  38. 38. FEEL THE DIFFERENCE That’s the difference between data System 1 just returns vs data System 2 needs to work for. 38
  39. 39. 39 System 1 can: Read and understand large- print and/or familiar words Complete the phrase “bread and…” Drive a car on an empty road Get which country is referred to by: “Stars and stripes, Apple pie, and optimism” Find the “submit” button on a form System 2 can: Try to reason out the meaning of new words (if System 1 doesn’t offer up a satisfying definition) Drive in heavy traffic or adverse weather conditions Search for an address on a row of houses Compare two products to establish their overall value
  40. 40. @nozurbina System 1 says these are the same. System 2 can realise they really aren’t.
  41. 41. @nozurbina System 1 uses compression to take the fundamentals from the right and match it to the model on the left.
  42. 42. @nozurbina Compression creates errors. We see what is not really there (Look up pareidolia and apophenia)
  43. 43. BUT THERE’S MORE System 1 doesn’t just make compression errors visually… 43
  44. 44. COMPRESSION ERROR ILLUSIONS Experience vs. Memory 44
  45. 45. @nozurbina Who suffered more? 45 Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient A Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient B Each patient rated their pain over time. B suffered more pain, for over twice as long, but doesn’t remember the experience as negatively as patient A
  46. 46. @nozurbina Who suffered more? 46 Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient A Time in minutes Pain 0 10 20 2 4 6 8 10 Patient B In controlled pain studies, subjects given an option will choose to suffer more pain, for longer, provided that it tapers off at the end
  47. 47. Memory trumps experience …what we get to keep from our experiences is a story. What defines a story are changes, significant moments and endings. Endings are very, very important. The remembering self is a storyteller 47
  48. 48. I wanted to give a Delta Air Crew positive feedback on an experience, and I was faced with this. It doesn’t work on a phone and takes a lot of work to fill out
  49. 49. I just gave up
  50. 50. So not only did the air crew team not get their praise, my memory of the whole experience went from positive to negative because of the web team
  51. 51. Now I tell the story as “my disappointing Delta experience” instead of my “amazing, brand-identity-altering Delta experience”.
  52. 52. For each user/brand interaction: If you do a hand-off to another silo, team, page or process that ruins the end of the user’s story, your hard work is simply wasted
  53. 53. THE EXPERIENCE TO IDENTITY PYRAMID The semantic ladder for anything with interactivity 53
  54. 54. 54 I.D. (identity) Model Category Pattern Memory (story) Experience Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia
  55. 55. 55 I.D. (identity) Model Category Pattern Memory (story) Experience Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia As we experience things they get “rolled up”, level by level for efficient storage
  56. 56. 56 I.D. (identity) Model Category Pattern Memory (story) Experience Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia The details of user experience eventually and systematically build brand identity, but only after multiple layers of heavy compression
  57. 57. Our brains reward the creation of new models and IDs But it’s always “cheaper” to relate new ones to old ones
  58. 58. This is why “first impressions” are so impactful. With no history, experiences apply quickly to identity. Subsequent experiences have to outnumber or overwhelm earlier ones to make changes.
  59. 59. 59 Dopamine is the brain’s “reward” chemical. If activated, it will cause the hippocampus to create a more potent “write” to long term memory I.D. Models Categories Patterns Memories Experiences Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia
  60. 60. 60 Memories created in the presence of dopamine are recalled and pushed up the Experience-I.D. Pyramid more easily. I.D. Models Categories Patterns Memories Experiences Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia
  61. 61. 61 These memories will have a stronger impact on related models, whole categories, etc.. This impacts System 1’s associative memory I.D. Models Categories Patterns Memories Experiences Easieraccess Compression Rewards Inertia
  62. 62. @nozurbina 62 Today’s web uses these same constructs. E.g. Hashtag searches on G+ pull associated concepts, just like in the mind’s associative, semantic model-based storage
  64. 64. @nozurbina 64 Get it right, and your brand will enjoy powerful positive inertia and associations. Users will forgive bad experiences more easily
  65. 65. INTELLIGENT CONTENT Intelligent content enables agility from experience to identity 65
  66. 66. @nozurbina 66 Intelligent Content The Mind Free from format, i.e., takes messages and meaning across devices, styles. Compresses out details, retains only the key content memory. Rich in metadata – uses tagging to make associations. Associative by nature. Uses structured content models. Builds models and uses them frequently and easily. Machine-validation-ready and reusable to make diverse yet consistent stories. “Likes” finding patterns and consistency using System 1. Gets tired out by needing to parse inconsistency, which needs System 2.
  67. 67. Your creators and customers will internalise your models
  68. 68. Your creators and customers will internalise your models
  69. 69. @nozurbina Simplified model… 69 of complex reality
  70. 70. Intelligent content uses semantic, structural models of content and tags it for associative use in various contexts (e.g. related links, taxonomy filtering, auto- indexes or reuse by compilation…)
  71. 71. Computer’s can validate models. Content creators and end users will internalise them. (allowing System 1 to move through them more easily)
  72. 72. @nozurbina Intelligent content supports tailored delivery Manage Serve & Transform Create components ProfileA ProfileB ProfileC ProfileD Same content Everyone …with WPT/ processing tools …in CCMS (Structure -aware) …in structured Authoring Tool(s) ???
  73. 73. SO NOW WHAT? Your System 1 does everything it can to restore the status quo.
  74. 74. SO NOW WHAT? New ideas are “brain-expensive”, so they are naturally dropped during compression, or we try to mould and fold them into existing ones.
  75. 75. SO NOW WHAT? So take a deep breath and tell System 2 to take charge!
  77. 77. @nozurbina Attitude shift Stop framing the user in the window of the medium. Assumptions and analytics aren’t enough. Find out who they really are.
  78. 78. @nozurbina Embrace structure 78 Visual designers get that structure isn’t the opposite of beauty and the consistency doesn’t kill creativity. Why can’t content people do the same? Check out for great designer quotes about “ the grid system”
  79. 79. HOMEWORK Specific lessons and terms to take home 79 (some of which are in our book. Nudge nudge, wink wink)
  80. 80. @nozurbina Embrace Intelligent Content • Write for system 1 and system 2 • Explicitly define the semantic models implicit in your content – Map out the different perspectives and contexts in which content will be used • Give creators clear tools to create and visualise their work across contexts • Store semantic content so machines validate it and can help you deliver tailored experiences 80
  81. 81. @nozurbina Embrace Intelligent Content • Measure user memory of whole journeys – UX is just a means to an end – Digital alone CANNOT SHOW a customer’s full journey • Set up your team properly – “Chief content officer” and “chief experience officers” are becoming real things – Get content creators, strategists, engineers (and the rest) who understand the value-add of each other’s work • Start bashing your boss’s System 1 and 2 81
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