The co-founding editor of The Huffington Post’s Tech section, which she helped launch in 2009, Bianca Bosker has developed a keen understanding of how consumers use technology and social media. (She’s also interested in architecture and wrote Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, published in 2013.) JWTIntelligence spoke with her about two of their “10 Trends for 2014”: Do You Speak Visual?, the idea that we’re shifting to a vocabulary that relies on imagery much more than text, and The Age of Impatience, the notion that consumer expectations for speed and ease are rising exponentially. Bosker talked about how and why technology is driving these shifts and spurring new consumer behaviors.
This Q&A originally appeared on JWTIntelligence.
Do you think our trend the Age of Impatience is one of the drivers behind the shift to a much more visual vocabulary?
Absolutely. Photos are a much more rapid way of consuming information, especially on the small screen. If you’re walking along multitasking, looking down at your phone, it’s much, much easier to scroll through some images than through some texts, and you can get sort of the same amount of information much more quickly. We’ve seen a huge spike in using images to tell stories, and part of that has to do with the fact that it’s just so much more efficient.
How about video imagery? Do you see that increasing as well?
I actually think those slow you down. When you’re looking at an image, you’re on your own time. Video, you have very little control; you can’t speed that up. I personally end up scrolling through a lot of video and not watching it. [Vine] is not 6 seconds [of time], because you have to factor in load time. You’re waiting for it to load and then you’re watching it, so it’s not really 6 seconds.
Photo- and video-sharing platforms have caught on amazingly quickly. Why is that?
To many people it’s much more natural and intuitive to share with an image than via text—it’s a lot easier to snap a picture of the L.A. skyline than it is to try and describe it. Images really tap into our natural desire to share and socialize with one another and give us a really effective storytelling medium that we relate to. Images are also a very economical way of presenting a lot of information.
Aside from social media, in what other ways is this trend manifesting?
Website design, [particularly] e-commerce design, is gravitating toward a very image-heavy layout. People see images as a marketing mechanism. If you present a really beautiful image, someone can take that and share that, and that’s really helpful in a word-of-mouth market. So many shopping sites these days have the Pinterest button that lets you share something.
I also think we see it in news storytelling. BuzzFeed is a good example. Many of their stories are mostly photos and images, because it’s a very pleasurable, quick way of consuming content.
Pictures just capture our attention. It’s like looking at human faces. When we’re looking at things really quickly, which we are because we’re all short on time, images really stand out, so you see every social media company making a big push to play up images. Facebook is doing that in their feed, Twitter recently redesigned theirs, and that has the added bonus of pleasing advertisers, which of course want to put really image-rich content in front of us. So your pictures get our attention, advertisers want our attention; hence this big push toward more pictures.
How do you see this visual trend evolving in the year ahead?
It’s almost hard to imagine people putting more images inside of things. So I think we’re going to see images entering themselves into a lot of other places.
One interesting thing we’re seeing just inklings of right now is this idea of sharing emotion online. Right now we don’t have a great way of doing that, right? You can share what you’re doing, you can share what you’re looking at or what you’re eating, but it’s still really hard to convey the way you’re feeling.
Do you think the rise of visual culture is changing the way we think?
We’re already beginning to replace text with images in our communication with each other, where instead of saying, “This is what I’m up to,” you show a snapshot of what you’re up to. Does it change how we think? Yeah, probably.
I think people who are really active on Twitter began to think in tweets, right? They start to maybe narrow down some of their thoughts, their expressions, into Twitter-friendly sound bites, and we’re starting to see people doing that with Instagram. My friends go out of their way to capture Instagram gold, a photo that will generate a lot of likes for them, so that is powerful. Social media and the image format make us behave in different ways even offline.
Read the full interview over on JWTIntelligence.