Tuesday, February 28, 2012

By what and by whom do we want to be remembered?

Forbes reported this week that 'CMOs must prepare for the next technology revolution’.
The revolution in question is the shift from org-owned CRM (customer relationship management processes) to customer-owned VRM (Vendor Relationship Management - as Doc Searls has pioneered ).

This 'revolution' is, of course, far less tech/tool related than described. It is for more attitudinal and requiring of cultural shift (as often the case, observers confuse correlation with causality).

The basic notion is that the customer gets to own their data and share it with whom they choose to their own ends and benefit (as opposed to the organisation laying claim to customer data). 'Personal' is one example of the output of such a cultural shift in thinking.

All of which surfaces some questions about data ownership that have been gnawing at me.

What is the difference between your actions being recorded in a digital database - and being recorded by our human collective memory?
Do human memories decay faster, do digital ones do a worse job of delivering context (and therefore meaning)? These are the 'technical issues'. They are questions of effectiveness.

By what and by whom do we want to be remembered?
Let's set aside for the moment that memory and data may be different things - that memory may be the story through which we understand the data stored in our and other people's collective memory. In my view that applies equally to data stored in databases; it makes no sense without a story applied to it, derived from experience and with context.

By whom or what is it anything from 'ok' to be remembered, all the way through to 'desirable' to be remembered?
We want our friends and families to remember us. Is this different from data being stored in a database. If so, how and why?
We want our favourite restaurants and hotels to remember us.
We want society to remember us.
We want posterity to remember us.

Throughout history the remembering has been done by other humans, creating context around the data in the stories they tell, write, record and film.

So why not have Google storing your data? Why not Facebook? Why not the brands you consume? Perhaps they can record the source material more accurately than has been possible. The stories that make the data comprehensible, that gives it its context, will still require humanising.

I ask these questions because I think we need to be clear about what the risks and benefits of who owns data really are.
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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?