Thursday, June 25, 2015

economics, culture, and electronic communication preference

Voice Memo'ing is insanely popular in Buenos Aires right now. It's the confluence of several factors, including economic: in many Latin American countries they still charge you for each SMS, but WhatsApp voice memos is effectively unlimited with a data plan. (I remember when my AT+T plan had an infuriatingly low # of texts per month, given what I knew about what it was costing them.) Over time, the choice of communication format becomes a cultural norm and develops its own accepted patterns of behavior.

My first thought was that it looked too much like a flurry of little voice mails (which I kind of hate), but I realize the UI presentation is very different because each conversation is collated, it's not the big "voicemail inbox" I try to ignore as much as possible on my phone.

The article lists several advantages to the form:

  • it's expressive, and voice carries nuance and feeling that might be lost in text (or made up with emoticons ;-)
  • there's a facility to send the same voice memo to a group of people
  • they're easy to generate while walking or driving
  • they carry their own validation of who is speaking, though this might be a downside in terms of plausible deniability for some...
It reminded me of the Filipino Texting Phenomenon - observed as far back as 2001, it was partially the result of a deal where calls cost money but texts were unlimited. (Again, this probably was in line with the actual cost to the telecommunications company.) A decade later it put the islands ahead of much of the rest of the world for electronic payment in the real world.

I suppose of the culture I swim in made the switch I would follow, though I'd have to learn to be more concise in my speech on the spot, as well as tolerant of other people's pace. (By nature I like to skim and jump back to things, which is not as trivial with audio as with written text.)

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