Socially Relevant Technology

Michael Reuter

28 March 2014

If a technology wants to be respected it should demonstrate its social relevance. Then it will be approved by the people and its implications will be accepted. Otherwise it will be dead on arrival.

Generally, there are two different sorts of people: tech lovers and tech skeptics. The first are open to any innovation and happily embrace new technologies, products and services. The others look for risks and potentially negative implications of new tech. Ok – that may sound a little black and white – but for this post it helps. I think, if a new technology wants to be regarded as valuable, it should demonstrate social relevance. What do I mean with that? Let me explain using the example of or app explore.

A quick reminder for those who don’t now explore: the app helps you to learn more about yourself, your behavior. It does two things:

  1. it tracks you by collecting data from your smartphone’s sensors – like geolocation data, and
  2. it offers you questionnaires regarding your behavior to be answered by you.

The more questions you answer, the more does explore know about you and the better is the feedback you get from explore: your behavior, presented in nice-to-read graphs, with comparisons of your own behavior with that of other explore users. explore is a quantified self app, fully functional without any additional gadget.

The goal of explore is to help you improving the quality of your life. And that’s why you provide explore with your personal data: you will learn a lot about yourself – how you behave in certain situations and how this correlates with other factors, such as weather conditions, your individual communication behavior, your stress level, etc. If, for instance, you don’t feel well for the last few days, explore might find out a strong correlation with a higher than normal coffee intake. And since we all forget quickly – we even don’t remember what we did last Monday – explore supports you by showing your behavior in a time line. That might be the first time you don’t have to speculate about the reason for your not-so-well-being, but you actually see the reason!

“The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer.”
Adam Smith

We are individuals, all of us are different. There is no standard recipe for illnesses or bad feelings. There are as many recipes as there are people. And this is where explore comes in: since you provide explore with your individual data, you will get individual feedback and recommendations about what to change, if necessary. And here we are: I think that our app explore – and its behavioral analytics in the background – is socially relevant.

3 Aspects of explore’s Social Relevance

  1. Everybody can use explore. The app is free and there is no need of using an additional gadget like a fitness band, or else. It’s in your smartphone – with you all the time.
  2. It’s absolutely easy to participate: explore asks the right questions at the right time – nobody must be overly creative and fill in an empty diary – just answer short questionnaires in under a minute.
  3. Users get individual personalized recommendations to change their behavior, if necessary. No standards, but individual advice.

For me, it’s absolutely great to work with a product (and a team, of course!) that helps people to change their lives for the better. Depending on the usage and the individual user, these might be minor changes – but with every small improvement is a good one. And since human beings can only change themselves for the better by changing their behavior (and not by waiting, taking pills or expecting any other external help), explore is a well applicable tool. And then it becomes socially relevant.

Please send me your perspective on socially relevant technology – would love to discuss!