Many very smart and inspired individuals are working overtime to tell us that new technologies have made every preconceived notion or received truth of communications old. They describe a wildly complex New World that requires lots of strange words, convoluted reasoning, and counterintuitive approaches.

How about making things really, really simple instead? 

A few thousand years of history suggest the ultimate truths about new media are far less complicated than they may first appear. Simpler has always been not just better but truer in most every academic, religious, or economic theory. This happens even tough the details by or through which we discover those truths might seem ever-more complex, but they yield conclusions that are elegantly simple:

  • Electricity and magnetism are part of the same force, and physicists continue to progress toward finding a grand unifying Theory of Everything, or TOE. 
  • We’ve spent centuries distilling into finer clarity what Adam Smith’s invisible hand of the marketplace means in practice. 
  • Governments that are open and democratic work better than those that are perpetuated by brutal or otherwise onerous rules.

This trend goes far beyond applying Occam’s Razor to problems and delves into the ultimate simplicity that defines and unifies our experience. It’s really quite beautiful, and made better by being a useful tool for describing reality (and not simply an interesting thought experiment).

So why do our New Media models keep getting more complicated?

For some, they’re busy making up new explanations for every quality of social  experience, kind of like writing a mythology in real-time, so exceptions, addenda, and other details get added far more regularly than they’re merged or discarded. Others hope to be all-inclusive in its scope, in some marketing approximation of Laplace’s Demon (if they can pinpoint every atom of, say, a toothpaste buyer’s existence, it would be possible to predict future sales with 100% accuracy). Oh, and a few of them are sophist opportunists, dispensing advice that they’ll never be held accountable for giving. 

Whatever your circumstances, you might want to consider challenging your digital agency (or yourself) on that next New Media strategy slide: 

  • Could some dotted lines be merged or lost? 
  • Are the solid lines actionable forces and, if not, why are the boxes connected?
  • If the box “buy something” isn’t prominent, you need to make it so.

My thinking is that the entire approach could use a solid dose of reality -- perhaps a phrase like “...and why does somebody care, and what will they do with this information?” that could get added to every purported New Media goal as if it were a fortune cookie -- and perhaps more of an experimental rigor that requires plans get distilled to their simplest form (in alchemy this was how you discovered the true essence of things). Claiming that a social campaign is a functioning part of an integrated marketing plan is like arguing for sugary cereal as part of a “balanced breakfast.”

The New Media TOE will be simpler, not more complicated. I don’t think we’re even close to finding it yet. 

(Image credit: I have no idea where I found it)

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