ometime during the 1980s a term was coined to encompass the shift that society was seeing at that period towards digital data creation, transmission and retention. It was known as the ‘Information Age’ and beckoned in the current era within human history of a knowledge based society supported by an infrastructure of technology that connected industries, manufacturing, services, commerce and the individual to a web of information sharing and collecting.
The internet from the 1990s and the smart phone from the early 2000s continued to augment this age of connected information allowing us to get access anywhere, anytime even at 35,000ft. One might argue that we are in the middle of the Golden Age of the Information Age and are enjoying all the fruits that such a period have to offer. Think again…
The information age is dead. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
And don’t take our word for it. If you follow social media, an industry that was born out of the information age, you will be aware that information giants like Facebook are investing billions of dollars to shift their focus away from an information based platform and towards an experiential based platform.
Twitter, a platform born out of the sharing of micro information at an instance is seeing its share prices erode away in recent years as well as its user pool shrink while Instagram, a photo & video experience sharing platform is skyrocketing in popularity. Snapchat on the other hand, which focuses on the sharing of pictures, messages or videos for only a limited time before they self-destruct, is a rebellious slap in the face of the Information Age’s philosophy of data and information retention.
Information & data are binary, computer orientated concepts far removed and somewhat alien from how humans typically share knowledge. From stories told around the campfire from our cave dwelling history to today’s meme’s and 5 second viral videos shared down the hyper lanes of the World Wide Web;
Humans are about sharing experiences more than about sharing information.
Welcome to the birth of the ‘Experiential Age’, a transitional shift away from a data creation, transmission and retention focused society and towards an experiential based paradigm. What does that mean? Very simply; don’t tell me something, show me something. Let me experience it. Let me make it personal.
So what part does Virtual Reality play in this epic shift in human thinking? Virtual Reality at its core is the creation and sharing of experiences, usually experiences which the user has some degree of agency (control / influence) in the outcome or narrative. That might be simply directing from which angle they wish to witness the experience, such as in 360 video, all the way to actively engaging with, changing and manipulating the journey, such as with fully interactive VR games or story.
Virtual Reality allows users to share experiences on mass, yet through agency allows those experiences to be personal to the individual experiencing them. Taking this analogy back to social media and smashing it together with VR; the user is not simply watching a video or image shared by the creator, in VR the user is present with the creator, experiencing the shared moment with them, while at the same time making it personal.
Facebook can clearly see this shift towards the creation, sharing and personalisation of experiences and like other tech giants are scrambling to ensure they are part of this shift, even at the cost of billions of dollars. Ultimately their very existence as a leading digital platform will either be made or broken over the next few years as we shift even further towards an experience orientated global society.
Virtual Reality as a hardware and as a medium to share experiences, art and stories, has been born out of our shift towards the Experiential Age. But Virtual Reality also acts as a catalyst propelling us faster and harder towards a state in which our experiences are no longer our own, but rather can be shared with others, made personal by others and through that process of collective personal experiences humans are finding a new way connect to one another.
Stay tuned for my next article looking at how Augmented Reality will be the event horizon in our journey through the Experiential Age.