A Technological Worldview

on February 26, 2014

Webster’s dictionary defines a worldview as the way someone thinks about the world. Everyone has a worldview whether they know it or not. This word came up often during many of my sociology and psychology classes. It came up even more often as I was studying behavioral science. When we talk about worldviews we often think about religious ones, political ones, scientific ones, or philosophical ones. As I began studying consumers when I joined Creative Strategies in 2000, I started applying this thinking to technology. I started exploring how different segments of consumers may have shaped or were in the process of shaping a technological world view.

I shared on my blog how my upbringing shaped my technological worldview in a way that causes me to look at technology a certain way. My worldview is that of an early adopter. I am an early adopter. I have a specific technologic worldview. My wife, on the other hand, is a text book late adopter. I approach technology emotionally where she approaches technology pragmatically. I have to have the latest and greatest gadget, and she will use her smartphone until it is no longer usable. Even then she will loathe the fact that it didn’t last longer. Our personality, exposure to certain types of technology, environments, and more, all contributed to each of our technological worldviews.

It can get complex when you start to peel back the onion of how, why, and what a particular class of consumer’s technological worldview was formed. However, it is extremely helpful when trying to understand consumers and how they may think about technology products. It is also very helpful in my line of work as I try to understand adoption cycles.

As of late, I have stumbled onto something that I feel is interesting related to technological world views. I have begun to gain insight into how consumers in countries like the US and Western Europe and customers in emerging markets like China, India, Africa, and others, all have come to shape a very different set of technological worldviews.

For example here in the West, most of our entry points to computing and the Internet was a desktop or notebook PC. This is the foundation for a Western technological worldview. Taking this point even deeper your preference of operating system, i.e. Windows or OS X, could also play a role in your worldview. The main point, however, is that this particular technological worldview’s foundation was set with a PC of some type. This is why so many in the west have a hard time grasping the idea that a PC is a legacy computer. And things like tablets, phablets, and smart phones are becoming more central computing devices.

In contrast, for consumers in many emerging markets their entry point to computing and the Internet is a smart phone. This fundamental point is shaping their technological worldview in very different ways than western consumers. This is the one major issue I see standing in the way of the chat apps that are popular in emerging markets attempting to penetrate western more developed markets. These applications like WeChat, LINE, and WhatsApp were born out of very different circumstances and targeting a group with very different technological worldviews. This is not to say that they can not be successful in western markets, but it hints at a point that the value proposition of these apps may need to be something other than the one that is appealing to consumers in emerging markets.

Similarly to consumers in emerging markets, we now have generations of consumers who know nothing but being constantly connected via a mobile device and are extremely comfortable with technology. My kids, for example, have no frame of reference of a world where they can not use a smart device for real time communication, information, and entertainment. This will shape their technological worldview which will open doors for new challenges and new opportunities.

Understanding the different technological worldviews and how they can be applied to classes of customers in every market of the globe can help us understand the many nuances that make up the global markets for personal technology and the consumers who will buy them.