Archive for January, 2010

Is it right to think that UK citizens will use technology like Koreans – is it just broadband or are there other deeper cultural/behavioural issues that determine usage?

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

The conference on Thursday 21st January at OMS was interesting. The main content providers, broadcasters, policy makers were all focusing on the push for broadband. All were agreed (pretty much) that we would be missing out – UK PLC would miss out if we don’t have faster b/b speeds. Just over fifty miles down the road in Whitehall at a gaming conference, the push was similar – we were losing billions because of our slow internet speeds.

Accordingly Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey in both conferences were assuring audiences in Oxford and London that investment in BB would be forthcoming. Damian Tambini (LSE) asked Jeremy Hunt where was the research to justify such expenditure and Hunt agreed he was not an expert and did not have research to draw upon. However he was clear and confident about the impact on BB on behaviour in Korea and drew similarities to how it would help the UK.

My opinion is that I believe that there does need to be research asap  and one focus should be  a comparison on UK audience behaviour with, for example,  Korean audience behaviour.  If we are to look at Korean or similar Asian countries as a behavioural benchmark , I would suggest beginning by considering the context of viewing and as such the cultural and socio-economic differences: 

1. A good start would be to look at the cross cultural differences as identified by Triandis on the development of the individualistic and collectivist paradigm since this may have implications for tv/mobile technology use in the home.

A hypothesis could be that in Korea (or similar Asian countries), private internet use of the mobile maybe more likely to continue into the home routinely, and perhaps more likely to quickly become an embedded behaviour because, as a culture, Koreans are more likely than UK viewers to approach negotiation in ways to preserve a relationship.  Triandis defines Collectivism, as the subordination of the individual to goals of the collective. This maybe very different to behaviour in the UK where we are more likely to assert our goals and negotiate.  Triandis would describe the UK as more of an individualist culture. Individualism, Triandis defines as the subordination of the goals of the collective to the goals of the individual .  Understanding these cultural norms would mean that in the UK there maybe more of a tendancy to openly debate and argue about what’s on the main set. 

The implications of this could be that as  a consequence most of our viewing is not what we might have chosen privately but more of a compromise.   Whereas in Korea there is less negotiation and perhaps more of a tendancy to seek out private screens.

As P3 consortium members know , in our UK study, the hierarchy of viewing in the UK PVR home is ‘high urgency’ programmes are watched socially. Secondly the next level, which makes the bulk of TV is Compromise tv.  It’s the private viewing – the favourites that are recorded and squeezed into rare moments of ‘My TV time’  But ultimately the UK tv viewer will prefer to compromise and watch socially than watch privately.  Certainly there is much evidence in our research and others to understand that viewers are prepared to negotiate around what they watch.

Of course it’s ironic that our compromise viewing serves the purpose of the collective,   but here in the UK we like viewing socially and are prepared to compromise, but will invariably put up an argument to try and get the best from the compromise .

In sum , if negotiation is difficult or awkward in some Asian countries eg: Korea, China, private viewing be more enjoyable and win the day and as such there may be more use of individual screens in the home.

This of course needs cross cultural research but it will be interesting to see if the Triandis cultural paradigm impacts viewing in these countries and if they do we maybe more hesitant in ‘stretching’ the use Koreans make of their mobiles and broadband to UK citizens – at least in the home .

2. A second point  is to also compare cross cultural economic history and the impact of the individual’s sense of self  relating to their material wealth. In the UK where we have relative historic wealth, – as such an individual may define their sense of self through the type of house they live in, their car, their clothes, their technology including the mobile. This may differ to countries such as China or Korea where there has been massive economic growth in the past ten years and perhaps less of a history in terms of defining oneself through their house, car or even clothes.  Now,  with the recent rapid growth,  young middle classes may be more predisposed to define themselves through their mobile phones. These  portable, highly visible statements may say more about themselves and may explain (to some extent) why they renew their phones with greater regularity, use more applications and are more engaged in the phone than perhaps individuals in the UK.

Gradually over time , one could argue,  Asian countries may become wealthier and its middle classes may become more interested in cars/property.  Equally  UK citizens may attach more of their sense of self to their phone as it increasingly becomes more of a status symbol and perhaps as other items such as cars, homes are less obtainable.   It’s difficult to predict, but what we do know is that we definately need more cross cultural research into these differences to understand the extent to which bb will change our lives,  if we are to draw upon similiarities in behaviour between different countries.