Thursday, February 17, 2005

Domed Dualisms

"The PR industry's current obsession with measurement is indicative of a systemic lack of creativity and innovation...The fact is a lot of PR executives stopped thinking creatively a long time and are now focused on justifying mediocre ideas with complex measurement", H&K's Creative Director Doug Dome recently bemoaned.

In the context of what I do this kind of Creative-Measurement distinction, while challenging prevailing assumptions, has the potential to cause some muddle. It's very Yin-Yang, mind-spirit, rational-intuitive, leftbrain-rightbrain etc.

Few such dualisms stand up to serious inspection. Anyway Yin-Yang is technically a "rotational symmetry" rather than a strict dualism. Dome might take heart than an excess of yangy measurement usually presages a new era of yinny creativity. In practice the way of the wise is to dynamically manage the interplay of these polarities.

Nevertheless, regular readers of this blog will recall, there are indeed some good reasons to keep a watchful eye on the fanatics of granular classification. It's not measurement per se that's the problem, rather it's the what and the how. Beyond that, it's also the impact that the tools and the methods have on the way people think in general. Novel conventions emerge which impose newfangled conventional ways of thinking. The 'bot' mentality tends to speak the lingo of innovation while actually constricting it.

Language is a Web of symbols in which words are the nodes. You can count up the nodes, analyse them statistically to your heart's content, but you may not actually be learning what you claim you are. This kind of knowledge is often very one-dimensional and should not really be packaged as 3D intelligence.

Take Chinese texts for example. Different translations into English sometimes appear to have completely different meanings. This is because there's more to the meaning of the word than its definition - layers of meaning are stashed away in multiple allusions associated with the pictogram. The bonds of allusion are present to a lesser extent in the English language. You would be right to worry that the symbolic content and impact of any piece of communication would be hard to measure in a purely statistical way. But even if we can't measure it precisely, we can get better at encapsulating it. The excitement generated by rapid serial processing is blinding us to the need to concurrently consider softer models for recognising and capturing meaning and its impact.

No comments: