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The Emotional Cycle of Digital Interactivity

Recently, a colleague and I were discussing media and technology as being “social” or “not social”, and what this means in terms of private social networks, or PSNs, as an investment. I won’t go into the gory details of why we’ve been talking about this, other than to say that whatever determination we make ultimately boils down to understanding human behavior, and more importantly, emotion.

I’ve long maintained that phenomena like “social media” are behaviors, more so than channels or applications or types of media inventory, what have you. There are extrinsic factors at play like market movements, various forms of scarcity, supply and demand levers, etc. and there are intrinsic factors like human emotion that are rarely, if ever, discussed when it comes to making investments in these types of ventures. Concepts of haptic or emotional design have been around for a while, but to be clear, I’m alluding to something much more profound.

That said, I think the bubbles we are experiencing in the market and on the platforms we use are a combination of elements that are interlinked: In short, dynamics that occur as a result of our interactions, and those that occur on behalf of our interactions. Just as communications are multi-dimensional, interactions are as well, and they cross over into different emotional domains… Those places we all too often ignore or don’t even consider when we create things.

In this way, I believe that any great technology venture (any great company, really) must provide doors to perception and discovery that look well beyond transactional or even relationship benefits to some degree. We are evolutionary beings who use and build technologies as extensions of our biologies, genealogies and mythologies, and the complexities that arise can really only produce — rather, they must endeavor to produce — emotional benefits for end users and participants, as well as for creators and developers.

Platforms like Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter do provide strong emotional benefits by default. The question becomes in what ways and at what times. Understanding acute emotional cycles might allow these same platforms to achieve greater scale (not so much upward, but horizontal) such that they can make intrinsic pivots. In other words, expanding upon their emotional benefits could provide them and their users far deeper value.

So, I produced this graphic to illustrate the point. I suppose it’s less confusing than the last one I created, and, well, it demonstrates my pathetic, unbridled love for Venn-like diagrams (speaking of emotion). You’ll notice that there are pervasive emotions that cross domains — four I’ve provided here — to show how important it is that we design emotionally, and adapt to user or developer behavior empathically.

What would you add or change about this idea? Do platforms (like Facebook) tend to “own” one of these domains, or do they at different times and in different ways? (Hopefully this begs many other questions… ;)