Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Unwelcome Interruptions?

Magazine article Marketing

Andrew Walmsley on Digital: Unwelcome Interruptions?

Article excerpt

When it comes to remembering our technological manners, we could learn a lot from the Japanese.

Inkjet printers for decorating your fingernails, ear-wax cleaners with a digital camera built in (see how clean your ears can be), the MP3 toilet (yes, really) are just a sample of the gizmos that keep the Japanese at the forefront of the gadget world.

However, Japan is not indiscriminate in its adoption of such devices There are strong cultural characteristics that both encourage, and occasionally stymie, the take-off of technologies, even those that have proved amazingly popular in the West.

Microsoft's instant messaging system took the world by storm. At one point, 90% of UK teens used it, and across most of the world it had become the de facto standard, but its launch in Japan was effortful.

It seemed the system had fallen foul of Japanese culture's regard for politeness and consideration, which is so ingrained that it uses three levels of polite language.

Email was immensely popular, and the fax still widely used in Japan. The appeal of these two forms lay in their asynchronous nature; the receiver does not have to be at the point of receipt when the communication is sent in order to receive it. For a Japanese person, communicating without creating an 'impolite' intrusion is ideal.

The UK may eschew such exacting standards of politeness, but we are still sensitive to the same considerations.

The asynchronous nature of email and text makes them useful. I tend to work at all sorts of random times, emailing people in the middle of the night, at weekends and while on holiday. However, when I send an email to someone at the weekend, I don't normally expect a response until the working week starts - after all, I don't expect people to be working at whatever odd time I have chosen to.

Yet I am receiving more and more responses straight away, as the use of mobile email devices becomes widespread. It is kind of my contacts, but I feel I've disrupted their personal time. I don't expect immediate replies, but that beep triggers autonomic responses.

The BlackBerry and the iPhone, for all their convenience, are contributing to the destruction of our personal/work boundaries, and people seem to like it. A study by Sheraton Hotels of 6500 executives showed 35% would choose their BlackBerry over their spouse. I suppose, not having met their other halves, it's hard to comment on how reasonable a position this is, but the same survey found 85% took their BlackBerry into the bedroom. …

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