A Technological Worldview

Ben Bajarin / February 26th, 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.

Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio
  • Rene Stein

    First!

    That probably says a lot about my technology world view. 🙂

  • newtonrj

    Ben,

    Thank you for the insight. Going deeper, does this portend that emerging market (smart-device/app) users value old-school PC market leaders less? Does a Microsoft or Lenovo (IBM) have to try harder to educate the emerging market to be the ‘want to buy’ instead of the ‘required to buy’ solution?

    One other thought, if developed market apps supporting legacy PC-idioms are common place, could there be more innovation in emerging markets free of legacy burdens? Another way, is a developer in the west stymied by printing, PC-first/mobile-next, screen real-estate, and multi-OS backup services? Does an emerging developer free from those constraints develop more innovative apps or end up retreading ground covered by the legacy generation of PCs?

    -RJ

  • jfutral

    Nice.

    Joe

  • capnbob67

    I’m not entirely sure the “worldview” theory you posit is really moving the ball forward vs. the traditional market segmentation approach. If we could draw some hard conclusions from some of the analysis above, it may add to a traditional approach but I’m not sure it does as read above. Comfort with technology and buying intention/behavior seem to be very different things.

    I’m a Gen-X-er (as you may be) and I got my tech introduction through a tabletop Pac-Man game, my friend’s Sinclair ZX81 and then my own Commodore64 not long after. However, I and pretty much every one of my peers that I know cannot remember a time without constant connectivity (2007 how can 2007 seem so long ago) and expect that now as a given (along with high data usage). For reference, my “peers” are a largish group but are from a fairly consistent and limited socio-economic group (middle class and up).
    However, that does not translate into a consistent buying segmentation at all. Some of them are early adopters (though very few – it’s not a big segment), I am a “middle” adopter – I upgrade my phone to the best thing every 2 years, I buy a refurb-PC (Mac) often of a previous generation and buy consumer tech when prices fall from their initial highs. Others are more laggardly than me and more price conscious.
    The question is, what does a vague and broad concept like “tech worldview” add to our understanding? Your messaging example seems little to do with experience of technology and everything to do with carrier plan pricing and country/region economic conditions. In the US, most plans now include unlimited txt which has limited messaging. My primary messaging platforms are iMessage since a slight majority of my friends, colleagues and family have iDevices, then txt (it’s “free”), then FaceBook Messenger (soon to be WhatsApp?) from the FB addicted (and feature phone using). If txt messages cost per msg, I might try to get people to an App but even in Europe, PAYG txt are down to about 2p/3c in country which is not a great burden to require a wholesale move to another platform given typical incomes unless you are a teen with txt habit. A long-winded exposition but again, I don’t think “tech worldview” is really helping here.

    Of course I may have missed the point or you may have a much more granular set of “worldviews” that might shed more light on its value but I’m not seeing it yet.

    • benbajarin

      What I’m alluding to is that traditional segmentation, or at least the way many do it today, is flawed. Without understanding the deeper context of a consumers technological worldview then it is harder to grasp market reposes. For example each generation may have a different worldview. Within that generation will be those are are early, mid, and late adopters. My grandparents may have been early adopters in their day but late adopters of cutting edge technology based on their technological worldview today. Same is true of boomers, x-ers, y-ers, etc. But my point about emerging markets is the one that throws most segmentation off today. And since I study global markets, this is an important point for me.

      There are early adopters in markets like China and India. But those early adopters are looking very different from early adopters in western markets. What they adopt and why is a result of their technological worldview. One that is influenced by their society and technology exposure in ways western early adopters are not. The problems those early adopters seek to solve are different than western / developed market ones.

      Overall, I’m a proponent of explaining that global consumer markets are highly nuanced. This is where behavioral science comes in and needs to be applied to technology market research. But I find it helpful to unravel the nuances by not just looking at segmentation or personality traits, but also by this philosophy of their technological worldview, how it was shaped and formed, and the ways that worldview applies to how all these classes of consumers think about technology.

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