This is an area I'm becoming increasingly interested in – why we do things and act in certain ways online.

The Positively Media blog at Psychology Today looks like an interesting read. In particular I like the article on techno-cultural trends for 2011.

In it, Pamela Rutledge argues that this year will be the year tools will take a back seat to human experience ie the focus will be on understanding how we use tools.

A couple of trends stood out for me:

Shifting Psychology = Shifting Power
2011 will bring a psychological shift in individuals and groups. Social media, social networks, and mobile technologies have caused a fundamental change in the core assumptions about how the world works. People are more publicly expressive and vocal.  The hurdles for producing and publishing are almost nonexistent, defining new norms of participation, content production, and message facilitation. Expectations of having voice don't exist in a vacuum. If you speak, you want to be heard. This will redefine relationships at all levels of society: between business and consumers, governments and people, teachers and students, and social and cultural groups.

This redefining of relationships will be really important for anyone who produces content. As content becomes a prompt, a start of a conversation so our expectations of how we engage around the content will change.

The Old Spice and Tippex adverts last year were a good example of how relationships are changing. Both used narrative to enable the brands to start a story and let users finish it.

Aesthetics Matter 
2011 will place new premiums on aesthetics in physical and technological environments.  Usability won't just be about function. It will become more broadly defined to include the qualitative sensory foundation of user-experience. Aesthetics and design will finally make the leap from luxuries to necessities, driving improvements in productivity, innovation, and general well being.

Designing for mobile and apps has changed the game for user experience – efficient, fast interactions through apps means the user has higher expectations from web sites. This should see greater focus on design and UX.

Psychological Content Ownership
Ownership isn't just physical property rights. Psychologically, ownership comes from a different type of investment: emotional.  Interaction comes from motivation and emotion manifested as behavior. The act of engaging creates ownership.  Whether it's forwarding a joke, making a mashup, or creating a mixed media novel for mobile devices, each step of participation puts skin in the game. Each act of participation is an act of individual agency and creates empowerment.

If engagement does leave us with a sense of ownership (it certainly leaves us with a sense of connection) then anyone working on content needs to understand how to engage with users – looking at it from this perspective you can see how time consuming it can become to effectively engage with your readers, customers, potential customers. I think this has very interesting implications for the job design of anyone who creates content.