Can neuroscience help create more meaningful digital content? Neuroscientist Dr Beau Lotto certainly seems to think so, and he’s been explaining why.
Lotto partnered up with a team of mobile designers to develop an “immersive messaging app” named Traces. Nearly a year after its launch, he’s impressed with the results.
As he told The Drum recently, “Information is meaningless.” Sensory information, he said, is inherently ambiguous, and just looking at the world, especially through a 2D screen, does nothing to resolve it. Human brains must actively engage with the world in a non-stop process of trial and error: what we see is also what we end up conceptualising, and that depends on physical engagement.
Lotto thinks this has major implications for video production and content writing on digital media. The brain, he argues, can only create meaning by means of real interactions with people, places and things we care about in the world; it can’t do so by passively receiving content through a more or less impersonal broadcasting medium. He states: “It’s not surprising, then, that many social platforms ironically decrease our social bonds with one another (or indeed with oneself), while simultaneously devaluing creative content shared.”
What’s the solution? Converting smartphones or wearables into a window capable of reading digital content that’s been placed in the physical world. This is exactly what Traces does. It works like this:
- Once the app is downloaded onto your smartphone, you can create a message (brands, of course, can also do this, giving the app real commercial legs). You can then “hide” your message in a physical location of your choosing (a brand might choose a retail store or the place where the brand activation is due to occur).
- People must then visit the location to unlock the message (the “Trace”): using their smartphone screens, they’ll see a drop of water floating in the distance.
- By catching the Trace droplet with their phones, they can unlock and read the content within.
Lotto thinks that people value experiences shared in this way much more because they’ve had to put a little effort into tracking it down. They feel pleasingly rewarded when they find what they’ve been physically searching for.
This idea just might be a game changer.