Technology has always had the capacity to delight us. Back in the day, grown adults would become frenetic with excitement at the idea of calling a distant aunt on a public telephone, and today we reach similar heights of ecstasy when we wirelessly stream a YouTube clip from a smartphone to a telly. (Well, some of us do.)
By making the impossible tantalisingly possible, technology companies force us to experience heightened states of emotion and, crucially, spend money. For the tech industry, the level of delight that's provoked by a fitness tracker or a digital smoke alarm is ridiculously important: if we're delighted by something then we suddenly become like apostles, telling our friends how much better their lives would be if they spent £59.99 on a digital electrostimulation unit.
A company called Argus Insights recently released the results of a study into how much technological “delight” we are currently experiencing, combined into a league table of five of the world's biggest technology firms. Some 942,000 online reviews from January to September of this year were analysed for sentiment, and boiled down to a number representing the likelihood of our evangelising about those products to other people. The overall winner, predictably, was Apple. It's a company whose success has been built on forging an emotional connection with its customers, and judging by Argus's findings those customers are much more likely to bang on endlessly about their recent purchases. (Hence their reputation among non-Apple customers as blindly delusional at best, helpless slaves at worst.)
Climbing in the rankings, however, is Microsoft. It's not a company that has traditionally been renowned for the devoted affection of its customer base, but recent products such as the various Surface tablets and the Windows 10 operating system seem to have tapped into some of this “delight” that seems to be so highly valued.
Next up is Samsung, and bringing up the rear are Google and Amazon. Perhaps it's not surprising that it's the screen-based, interactive products that seem to burrow their way into our hearts; these are high-involvement goods that we clutch wherever we go, enhancing our creativity and repeatedly offering us new experiences.
Comparatively mundane products such as TV sticks, e-readers and gigabytes of cloud storage will never have us gushing with the same levels of fervour – though Argus's study makes the interesting observation that smart garage doors seem to be an out-lier, provoking an unusual level of enthusiasm among their owners. “Look, darling, they're MOVING BY THEMSELVES!”
These days, pretty much everything is marketed to us as a potential bringer of joy and surprise, from the ladders we climb to the injury lawyers we hire when we fall off them. It breeds a kind of cynicism and, as someone who loves technology, I feel a little hollow after reading reports such as this. There was probably a time when we were so blind-sided by the idea of a speak-your-weight machine that we'd cross town to have a go on one. Sadly, that's no longer the case. And as technological development accelerates, perhaps our desires are becoming more intense; we're becoming perennially dissatisfied lumps of matter, just waiting to lift something new and shiny out of a box that will make us gurgle in an appreciative fashion, until our initial delight subsides into mere satisfaction and the cycle starts over.
Still. Can't wait for the launch of the Galaxy S7 – curved screens as standard, apparently! Whoop!
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