Yes, they can, according to the seemingly eccentric Professor BJ Fogg of Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab. If you think desperate times require desperate measures then perhaps you will be pleased to learn that using technology it may be possible to influence human beliefs and behaviors enough to bring on World Peace in 30 years or so. Would you like to be influenced into this condition?
How does it make you feel to know that think tanks around the world are devising ways to influence your behavior using technology. Let’s face it, marketeers have been working very hard to change consumer behavior since the inception of the barter system. How will this be any different?
Enter companies like Involver.com. They have confidence in their approach, “…we turn your passive video viewers into influential viral marketers.” That’s powerful stuff. They practically guarantee viewers will take immediate action. They are responsible for some amazingly powerful marketing campaigns. Kiva is just one example. Their method of using video messages in a very targeted manor through social networking leads to phenomenal success. Have you been manipulated lately? Remember in the old days it was called ‘subliminal seduction’? In Brave New World it was known as mind control.
So how is persuasive technology any different than what we’ve been exposed to in the past? Here is a positive example. SMS (texting) on a global scale may be able to influence better health. Hmm. Text messages telling you to take your meds before you eat breakfast and so on. This kind of network may also help identify disease centers quickly enabling problems to be addressed before they get out of hand. Sounds reasonable.
One of the interesting psychological approaches taken by the influencers (old name marketers) is to create a twisted version of the Pavlov’s dog scenario using people and websites. Here’s how it works, and it works very well. The website offers both an opportunity and regret(a lost opportunity). The user cannot become complacent about their relationship with the website or they may experience regret. If they exercise the opportunity to visit the website regularly it costs them nothing more than a little time and they are much more likely to feel in control. The return by choice repeatedly. Is this great marketing or mind control? It’s like a game earning points for staying engaged in the action.
I don’t know how I feel about this whole area of research. I am a former sales person/marketeer and I am a teacher who if nothing else is an influencer by trade. What applications may persuasive tech have on children and learning? I wonder? I will continue to keep an eye on future developments unless I am influenced to do otherwise.