Smart Mobs and Smart Business

Smart Mobs is an amazing book. Though I read pieces of it two seasons ago, the words and metaphors hold new meaning in light of my recent research. It is incredible to me that in 2002 Howard Rheingold could predict the future so accurately.

In the first section Howard talks about privacy and virtual identities. This got me thinking about a new technology we are using here at the University of Texas and some other recently widespread services.

The deal is, Mobile Campus finds businesses local to UT who want to advertise to students via their mobile phone. To facilitate their growth, they pay our Student Government one dollar per signup and give them other perks, such as paying for the redesign of the SG website (these details are accurate to the best of my knowledge). SG then push MC on the student body (especially freshman) as the official student discount program, replacing those little coupon books.

Yeah, it’s cool that SG gets some extra money, etcetera, but is the trade off really worth it? It’s a game of ratios and reach. The database Mobile Campus is creating is worth far more than anything they are giving SG. If MC could they wouldn’t give SG a cent (a better business model), but without them a corporation would never have the kind of reach that SG can provide.

These kinds of tradeoffs seem to be the trend amongst today’s successful marketing and advertising corporations. Take Google’s GMail for example, great service, I use it. But now because Google’s bots can search the contents of my inbox (one where I never delete anything) they can more accurately classify me. True, if I have to see ads it’s nice that they are relevant and I do trust Google, but isn’t our identity our own? Shouldn’t we receive most if not all of the revenue generated by its use? We are so used to our identities being sold and traded and getting nothing in return that we love GMail because it gives us something in return. However, that something is given in exchange for a type and scale of profiling that was never before possible.

Will we ever have a say in who sees the information that makes up our identity or see any of the revenue generated by their commodification? Reheingold’s second chapter, Technologies of Cooperation, made me envision a way it could be possible (I’ll elaborate more on this idea in another post).

You’re going to create breadcrumbs, if you don’t pick them up someone else will.

2 thoughts on “Smart Mobs and Smart Business”

  1. John,
    An interesting blog.

    >Shouldn’t we receive most if not all of the revenue generated by its use?
    Arguably you already do. No cash, but services afterall you do get the gmail service for free don’t you(?).

    I believe that revenue through ad’s is any company’s easy win, I mean anyone can stick ad’s on a site can’t they.
    For mobiles, I hope that the real winners will be those that offer services of value to people like you & I. Location based services will start to creep into the market now. Much talked about in the past and never delivered upon, we’re now ready for these.

    Keep blogging, you’re building an nice online “personal brand”. This will be very useful when job application forms are distilled down to one field only:

    “Enter the URL of your blog here”
    !

    Stuart

  2. John,
    An interesting blog.

    >Shouldn’t we receive most if not all of the revenue generated by its use?
    Arguably you already do. No cash, but services afterall you do get the gmail service for free don't you(?).

    I believe that revenue through ad's is any company's easy win, I mean anyone can stick ad's on a site can't they.
    For mobiles, I hope that the real winners will be those that offer services of value to people like you & I. Location based services will start to creep into the market now. Much talked about in the past and never delivered upon, we're now ready for these.

    Keep blogging, you're building an nice online “personal brand”. This will be very useful when job application forms are distilled down to one field only:

    “Enter the URL of your blog here”
    !

    Stuart

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