Recently I attended a breakfast hosted by the Outdoor Media Association entitled ‘Look Up’. The key speaker was Dr Fiona Kerr. Dr Kerr gave a thought-provoking address on the importance of human connection as a fundamental human need. Whilst there was a strong focus on its importance to advertising, I was struck by some major changes that have occurred in the way we all live and connect with each other. The full thrust of her address is covered in a paper on the OMA website
The ability to walk around and converse is vital to us being able to solve problems, hone our intuition and think differently. At best in an increasingly technical, 24/7 connected world where the mobile phone has taken on lifeblood status, we have to develop new strategies to think creatively. Currently there are 19.2 million smart phones in use In Australia. Last year a survey revealed that Australians are checking their phones 130 times a day. With that sort of frequency to say we are addicted to our phones is a truism.
Few weeks go past where an education expert will not comment on the problems that mobile phones are having in schools. Some schools have gone as far as banning phones in classrooms with favourable results and surprisingly positive comments from students.
At a time of rising depression, youth suicides and an observation that our social media conversation is often lacking in tact and subtlety, we need to re-examine the way we interact with technology.
Scientists believe that in the last 15 years our attention span has shortened by over one third. Our brains are losing connectivity in terms of synchronising social and emotional networks. Distraction kills abstraction and whilst the constant source of emails has people regularly checking phones trying to keep up, our ability to focus and solve problems has been significantly reduced.
With the way our brains work we need time to move around, engage with people, our environments and understand that these interactions are vital to creative thinking and solving problems. How often have all of us been in a situation where we have a problem, but by going for a walk and clearing our heads a potential and agreeable solution falls into our consciousness.
The ‘Looking Up’ movement is an attempt to re-establish some creative thinking where we move from task mode to thinking mode. The automatic connection to our phones needs to be broken as we look to reduce our screen time and improve our work practices and effective communication.
One of the important findings of the ‘Look up’ study for the creators of Outdoor Advertising is the importance of succinct messaging which is easily understood with relevant and evocative imaging. People’s brains engage more easily with something that is easily consumed rather than the complex addition of too many messages crammed into a 24-sheet poster.