Is ‘FaceTime’ a good idea?

I was sitting on a train yesterday, reading a newspaper, when I noticed an advertisement for FaceTime video calling on the new iPhone 4. The idea of the videophone has been around for as long as I can remember, for at least thirty years, and here it finally is.  Fantastic. But I foresee a potential problem.

If you add video to audio you are adding another level of communication. Another layer cognitive processing you might argue. Thus, whilst it is wonderful to see the person you are talking to on the other end of the phone, surely the depth of our listening or understanding will suffer?

This reminds me slightly of a project I worked on alongside Mckinsey & Company about ten years ago. It was for United News & Media as they were then called (a FTSE 100 company). The brief was working out what to do with Express Group Newspapers, which they owned at the time. 

To cut a long story short, I asked someone called Theodore Zeldin if he’d like to get involved, not least because he knew the editor and I was convinced that there was a connection between newspapers and conversation, which was (and still is) a big theme of his.  However, Theodore was really busy and couldn’t make it up to London to share with us his thinking. So he telephoned into a meeting instead. And this is where it gets good.

Most big meetings involve written material or some kind of a visual presentation such as Power Point – all of which are another level of distraction. Because Theodore couldn’t make it (and because the iPhone 4 had yet to be invented) we were all forced to listen very carefully (he’s softly spoken too) to his voice on the telephone. I can remember almost every word he said to this day.

If you are wondering what exactly he said I’m not going to tell you but I can share with you the fact that he more or less invented the idea of user generated content years before anyone like OhMyNews came up with the same idea.

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2 Responses to Is ‘FaceTime’ a good idea?

  1. Max Kaehn says:

    “surely the depth of our listening or understanding will suffer?”

    Do you routinely avoid face-to-face meetings in favor of telephone calls, so you can ignore a person’s facial expressions and concentrate on their voice alone? Voice-only communication is more limited than voice and video because it’s *losing* a layer of nuance that is commonly available in human communication. (Even being literate affects that— there are African languages in nonliterate societies that include just as much gesturing as they do words, and going deaf in those cultures is much less of a limitation on communication.)

  2. Richard Watson says:

    I think it depends on context or dare I say it objective. Sometimes you want to listen, sometimes you want to listen and see (I’d say ideally in person but video could be a good second best).

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