Why Content Is King — The Psychology of Technology

Kareem Tawansi
6 min readAug 11, 2021
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So much of our world is about “things”. That is especially true in the tech world — what is the latest gadget; look how powerful my machine is; I want to make sure I have the latest software. The irony of it is that when we focus on things or stuff or gear, we miss the point of it all……emotion. As developed and logical as we may thing we are, we are still somewhat controlled by our reptile brain. What gives us the dopamine hit, what stirs up our anger or excitement, what makes us look good in front of others — these are the things we humans tend to gravitate towards.

The Pyramid
Let’s examine the relationship between (information) technology and emotions. In my journey of exploration into The Psychology of Technology, I like to break down technology into small pieces or layers, if you will. So, let’s take a look at what drives the technology of our everyday lives. When we look at most of the tech we use in its entirety, it’s usually made up of 3 levels of services:

  1. The hardware
  2. The Operating System software
  3. The App or Platform software

I like to look at these 3 components in the form of a value pyramid — the higher up the pyramid we go the more valuable the service is. So, with that in place, at the lowest level is the hardware — hardware is often very cheap and quite commoditised these days. Sitting on that is the operating system — this is usually abstracted from us, but the value of the OS is higher in a sense. On top of the OS are the various Apps or software platforms (for the purpose of this discussion we will assume we are using a single app — it can be any app of our choice). Often, this is where the most uniqueness begins. But this isn’t where the ultimate value lies, the ultimate value is in the emotion that we feel when we consume the content, generated by the various levels of our pyramid of technology. Whether that is for work or play — getting my job done well and efficiently or seeing something on social media that excites or angers me.

We are emotional beings and as such, everything comes down to emotions, and that emotion is delivered in content. In other words, hardware facilitates operating systems that facilitate apps and platforms that generate content. It’s in the content that the emotion lies. So, in a sense, it’s not until we get to the content that the real value of any technology can be measured.

The Great Enabler
o, over the past 2 decades, technology has become the great enabler of content. And so much content, so easily produced, has allowed us to redefine our tribes. When once our tribe was limited to our bloodline, whether that be ethnicity and/or religion (and often even just family), now, for many, our tribe(s) are the ones that share our values. So, like no other time before, we can belong to multiple tribes and feel so at home with each of them. Whether that is the various channels on YouTube we subscribe to, the blogs and forums we read (and subscribe to) or the Facebook & WhatsApp groups we belong to. And so, if these are our new tribes, the next question to ponder is, who are our new chiefs?

And the answer to that question is obvious, the content creators, the influencers — they are our new tribal chiefs. They are the ones we now all turn to for their “wisdom”. It’s usually wisdom in very specific lanes but it’s THEIR wisdom we want. And it’s through technology that this wisdom is transferred.

Tribes
Having said that, technology also amplifies the message of the traditional tribes. So, we can now easily stay in touch with our kin, our temple, our homeland. No matter what are aspect of our lives one considers, technology is there, doing its bit to generate the content, within which lies the emotional stimuli we are constantly seeking.

But access to the so-called wisdom is not the only thing technology has enabled. It’s also a forum for us to release all our built-up emotions. Our delight at being on holidays, our outrage at politicians for their policies our opinion on whatever matter we believe we have the right to express one on. While there are so many good things about this, it also comes at a cost — misinform ation, hate speech, bullying, etc. But I guess we must take the good with the bad, that’s the deal, right? The scary things is, studies have shown that misinformation travels 5 times as far as facts. And when that misinformation is associated with advertising dollars it’s no wonder that the big tech firms don’t crack down as swiftly and firmly as maybe they should.

And with so much content now being delivered by information technology, we have so many choices for where to get our content, our emotion, from. Where once we would go to the TV, now we usually go to our phones, tablets and computers. Casing point is how TikTok Olympics has been so successful, especially in comparison to the tradition forms of TV and radio. There was over a billion instances of #olympicgames during the Toyko Olympic, just one of many popular Olympics-related hashtags.

Who Should Moderate?
But, with so much content out there, with so much effect on our lives, on our societies, there is now an expectation that the platforms will moderate it for us. Let us know if something is untrue, remove the hate speech and illegal pornography and keep us safe from the extremes. But can they do that properly yet and should they be the ones who make those decisions or should that come from our elected governments — these are the issues we now have to grapple with, now that Content is King.

Ironically, It’s often said that the most views a YouTube content creator gets on YouTube is when they angrily decide to leave YouTube; the irony of content and the ability to create it. So, in this instance the technology (the platform) that facilitates the content now becomes the fuel for the content.

Where To From Here?
But I love all this Psychology Of Technology, which is why I run my blog about it. It’s where the machines and the humans collide. It’s what sets us apart from all the other animals — this ability to extend ourselves by “docking” with machines. The machines that help us store and process information that at some stage we use to generate emotion within ourselves, and for those in the world who have any interest in us.

So now that we are addicted and dependant on the constant flow of new content into our lives, by extension we are addicted to the devices (and the stack underneath them) that provide us with that content, where to from here?

There are so many roads forward, from rich avatars of ourselves to (Elon Musk’s) Neuralink — allowing us to create and consume content quicker via a human/machine interface. And if Moore’s Law is right and technology doubles in sophistication every 2 years, imagine where we’re going to by the year 2050! But we humans love a good story; that is the way we best consume content. Like never before, I think we now need to be focusing on our communication skills, our story telling capabilities because it’s all about the content we create. That is why Content is definitely King!

Originally published at https://psychtech.ai on August 11, 2021.

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Kareem Tawansi

Digital Strategist and Thought Leader; Delivering Smart Technology to help businesses grow