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How do human needs affect digital innovation?

Dear Tedsters,

We have heard many talks on how the digital environment changes our culture and how humans are adapting to innovations.

Now, I would like to share with you a thought with you that I had, feel free to critique or build upon my thoughts if you think different or similar about this topic:

I believe that human needs are the driving force behind innovations in digital space, I believe humans needs effect our online behaviour more then digital our culture,
I believe we are looking at our digital life out of the wrong point of view.

Everyone seems to be talking about how digital innovations effect our lives. But at the end of the day, haven't we humans, created of all these digital technologies with our own minds. I therefore ask my self shouldn't human psychology and anthropology effect the technology much more then it us...

If so, Is it possible by analysing our needs to predict future innovation?

For Example: Facebook is connecting people all over the globe. What began as a phenomenon for students has spread to all ages, making Facebook a vast cyber-culture in itself.

The phenomenon has gained much popularity because it allows people to stay in contact, they communicate and become closer with each other, no matter how far appart they are.

Striping it down to the core, Facebook allows us to express a fundamental human need, which is being social. Communication is the foundation of every social group and a major pilar of human identity.

In conclusion this means by working backwards, our fundamental human need of being social, has led us to invent a digital tool or platform where humans can live out their social desire. This might also explains why it has been so successful: Maybe its because every human being has the same shared human needs. Its successful because it satisfies a need, not only a interest.

I would love to hear your thought this, do you know if there is prevouis work on this point of view out there?

Kind Regards.

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    Nov 15 2012: Design and innovation, whether digital or not, typically seek to address human needs, don't they? Sometimes these are expressed needs and sometimes the innovator's interpretation of latent needs.
    • Nov 21 2012: Hi Fritzie,

      Thanks for getting back, I see your point and I believe so as well.
      I would like to dive a bit deeper to find out why? and what differs expressed needs from the latent? Does the digital landscape shape new needs or are our human needs the basis of all new needs formed, how does a need become a need?

      Haha sorry for hitting you with all these question, no need to reply, just dumping my head!

  • Nov 18 2012: I agree that human needs are the driving force behind innovations in digital space. I find myself thinking of ways to solve situations with digital mediums that take a while. An example of this would be standing behind someone at the grocery store who has 30 coupons that they need scanned to receive their discounts. In this day and age there is no reason why this is still being done manually. It benefits everybody if coupons can be redeemed digitally. This of course is still being modified by companies such as Groupon and Deal Chicken. I'm confident that we will be there eventually.
    • Nov 21 2012: Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for the reply! I agree with your thought of wasting time infront of counters or in queues.
      I am very much interested in the psychological though you attacked. Where did you start your research or did you just go for it?

  • Nov 15 2012: If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

    1st Physiological
    - Food, Water, Sleep, Cloths
    2nd Safety
    - Home, Family, Health, Property, Work, Resources (money)
    3rd Love/ belonging
    - Friendship, Family, Sexual intimacy
    4th Esteem
    - Confidence, Self-esteem, Respect of others, Achievement
    5th Self-actualization
    - Morality, Creativity, Problem solving, etc.

    Everything we do is because of our needs. Our entire society thrives on people their needs in either one of Maslow’s hierarchic layers. Every innovation that has occurred throughout history has something to do with one of these layers. So you are absolutely right about our needs acting as a catalyst for innovation.

    To come back on your statement that you think the viewpoint of ‘the digital innovations changes our lives’ is incorrect and should be ‘our needs create digital innovations’. Notice that you actually describe a vicious circle. Because we have new needs we create innovations, which allow us to have new needs.
    So we create facebook in our need to socialize, which creates a new digital culture, which changes our lives and so our needs.

    Also think the influence of our need for resources (money). Did Mark Zuckerberg create facebook because he truly wanted people to connect or did he smell dollar bills and used our need to socialize to make money?
    In a modern society where everyone is active in all layers of needs, you could say that the society is already saturated with tools to facilitate those needs.
    So what makes us believe facebook is something we truly need in our lives? Our need to socialize doesn’t justify the countless useless hours spent on facebook. It IS the reason why facebook is so successful and addictive, but it isn’t something we truly need. It’s exploitation of our basic needs and desires.
    So how much of the things we think we need is actually created by good marketing?
    • Nov 21 2012: Hi Max,

      Thank you for your thinking, very interesting to draw back to Maslow's Theory and rearranging it into a cycle considering the digital influence:

      "Because we have new needs we create innovations, which allow us to have new needs. So we create facebook in our need to socialize, which creates a new digital culture, which changes our lives and so our needs."

      This gives me a new angle to look at some of the digital evolution. Do you know if there are any theories, articles or books out there that go in further detail?

      It also very interesting that you critic Maslow theory and bring in a additional need of resources, that defiantly are a driving force today, do you have more thoughts on this?
  • Nov 15 2012: Didn't have enough characters left

    Take fashion for example. Our basic need is to wear clothes, but why do we feel the need to buy a new t-shirt according to today's fashion, which we truly find good looking and not feel the need to buy a perfectly fine t-shirt from the '70 (which back in that day everyone thought was truly good looking)?
    So what makes us think we need different clothes?
    Because there are so much people involved that earn their money in this branch and to keep there safety secure (keep earning money) they have to forcefully change our needs.
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    Nov 15 2012: Digital Innovation does have pros and cons.
    1. As you mentioned the impact of Facebook towards socializing.Its does provide an advantage to people in get connected with new sections of people building relationships etc and getting in contact with people who have not been in contact since ages.
    2.Impact of e-commerce:It does provide an ease of purchasing online in regard of wasting time going out at a store and purchasing things which we can purchase online.It does provide us with comfort with all the advantages which a person would prefer while purchasing.E.g:Going through different varieties,payment option(online/offline),30 day trial etc.
    3.Ease of Information:Internet is a hub of information.we can get every information specific to any subject that we desire to obtain.
    and many more.
    1.Spending loads of time in using digital technology making us submerged in it.We may not be completely dependent on it but in a course of time we may be completely dependent on it which in the future may not be a good sign.They may be reasons for it.Health concerns may be one of the main reasons.
  • Nov 15 2012: Good Fritzie. I don't see how else it could be but I hope someone can also see something else.
  • Nov 15 2012: Sensor packages that can provide health information remotely might be in the future.

    Local based activity planners that include health, and basic needs (food), and life support equipment (HVAC, phone, utilities, home maintenance, car health, etc) that can be tailored to the individual will be popular.

    Data collection about trends will be collected at all times. Probably be a traded commodity like pork bellies.

    Digital communities, where people can look out for one another, like old communities of the early 1900's might develop.

    I think the fear of loss of communication, power, or utilities will become paralyzing for some, never having to leave the keyboard for most needs.

    I think the human lifespan will decrease with mass decrease in movement and exercise. Somehow, there will be a way to capitalize on the fear people will have of dying young as a result of this lifestyle. Proabably pay for it with Paypal.

    I think police and fire service might begin to use unmanned assistants for some duties.

    I think screens will be replaced with special goggles that accomplish the same thing with less materials