The Human Element


We’ve automated a lot of our lives. We can have AI help schedule our appointments, unlock our homes remotely, change the color of our lighting on a whim, share our location with friends and loved ones, and so much more. We’ve entrusted many things to the assistance of machines, and we have reaped the benefit.

Many things still require a human touch, however. watchLAB knows this, and for that reason we put people first in the design of our studios, recruiting methodologies, and interactions with clients and respondents alike. But this year, we’ve begun to see the companies that once entrusted in The Algorithms have now begun to put Real Human People between big data and the end consumer.

A recent example of this shift is Apple, who made a big hubbub about their newest service, Apple Music, this June. Launched on June 30th–and the inevitable conclusion following their acquisition of Beats last year–the service is their answer to Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and Google Play.

Apple has the same approximate number of songs as Spotify and the others. However, Apple focused on one feature above all: human curation. Beats 1, their new global radio station, is manned by DJs with distinct tastes in music. Apple Music has playlists across all their genres, compiled by editors. All of this in the name of providing a better product.

Apple isn’t the only one betting on (and promoting)the human element. Twitter will roll out a new feature, currently dubbed “Project Lightning” that will be manned by editors at Twitter who will compile the most relevant tweets into topic-based timelines. Google is verifying eyewitness accounts of breaking news through YouTube Newswire. In response to Apple Music, competitor Rdio is also launching curated playlists. Buzzfeed’s newest app, Buzzfeed News, compiles the news of the day into a bullet-point format, followed by a handful of big stories—then you reach the end, which never happens these days.

Each of these endeavors are an answer to the quintessential modern problem in the developed world: information overload, or what media critic Douglas Rushkoff calls “present shock.”

Collectively, these companies are all discovering the value of human focus and attention–something that watchLAB and our clients have known all along. Qualitative research is more than just about gauging sentiment: on both sides of the mirror, it is about creating an environment for focused attention.

Consultant Linda Stone calls attention “the most powerful tool of the human spirit.” And she is right. That is why watchLAB works tirelessly to forge environments that make our clients and respondents comfortable, relaxed, and focused. Our rooms are modular so that they may fit the group size. Our waiting rooms are designed to evoke a kitchen table. Our food is comforting and wholesome.

No matter how much of our lives are augmented by the machines and algorithms we’ve built to assist us, the human element and the human touch will always be important.

Blake Chastain

Blake Chastain

IT/Media Specialist at watchLAB
Blake Chastain is a writer and marketer. His obsessions are media, technology, and video games. Blake lives in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife and daughter.
Blake Chastain

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