March 4, 2013

The Art of Artificial Recognition

Posted by Dan Sobovitz

Human beings have an innate need to be recognised and appreciated for their accomplishments. Certain online platforms have successfully identified this need and learned how to cater for it. Those, and only those, have a chance to change the future of human communication.

 

brice_mini_square-150x150Back in the 1940s, the ‘Maslow hierarchy of needs’ revolutionised our understanding on what drives and motivates human behaviour. It stated that once we satisfy our basic physical needs, our mental aspirations are awaken, including personal ambitions, sense of achievement, and need for recognition by our surroundings. Yet, the way in which we strive for society’s respect and approval has drastically changed over the centuries.

It was much easier to gain one’s place in society at a time when families lived together for generations, working places rarely changed, and friends were for life – none of which is still the case. How do we seek the same kind of recognition at a time when family bonds are weaker, jobs and colleagues change regularly, and social lives transform as we travel, re-locate, and re-settle around the world? To make things worse, our societies have grown more competitive, thus less generous in offering recognition, and demanding that we (re)prove our skill and talent on a regular basis. Our human need for respect and recognition has thus remained, while attaining this goal has become all more difficult.

Whether you consider it good or bad news, online platforms are here to help! Whereas we have witnessed with awe the exponential growth of social media in the past years, few of us have succeeded in recognising the “magic element” that makes them so popular. We all know that communities exist as long as they serve the cumulative interests of their members (and the fall of the Berlin Wall was a good lesson for those who thought otherwise). What is less obvious is that this interest includes our need to show off and exhibit our talent, wisdom, thoughts, and insights.

In fact, social media fulfil the same need we have always had to be “recognised” by our family, friends, colleagues, and peers.  Obviously, the new type of recognition is artificial and does not require more than a simple LIKE, SHARE, FOLLOW, COMMENT or RETWEET. Interestingly enough, however, it is a cornerstone in the architecture of all social media which have witnessed significant success. Even a so-called altruistic community, such as Wikipedia, ensures its members are rewarded with “fame” for their contributions (simply click on the “View History” button of any article to see the exact contribution of each user).

This guideline was in the backs of our minds when Emakina built Yunomi, a multinational social network for women in the Benelux countries. The network has become a huge success, attracting millions of women and becoming one of the three most popular female communities across the Benelux countries. Whereas various elements contributed to the popularity of Yunomi, we saw a significant increase in traffic as soon as we introduced the ‘Kudos’, the Yunomi way to appreciate someone else’s contribution. This reaffirmed, yet again, what we at Emakina had identified with the rise of social media.

You may (rightfully) think that digital recognition is superficial and even fake. Yet, it is a key element when developing the existing and future online platforms. If you want the average person to engage, participate, share, and expose elements of her or his personal life – do not underestimate the human need for recognition. Translating artificial recognition into the next digital feature of social media is no less than art. It is the most creative artist who will lead the next developments of online communication.

Brice Le Blévennec

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