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After the recent announcement of Facebook’s Timeline feature, I started to think about the future of Facebook and what it could possibly mean for our social lives in years to come, and the implications for things like creativity and marketing. With the added emphasis on reliving and documenting past history in the Timeline, it’s seems like only a matter of time before Facebook start to collect information about our goals and aspirations. Something which, for the clever marketeer out there, is the equivalent of gold dust. If we know what people want in the future, then we can start to develop products to meet that need…

Dr. Robert Bilder,  Chair of Creativity Research at UCLA’s Semel Institute, recently featured in one of Facebook’s ‘Creativity Live’ series, looking at ‘Creativity and the brain‘. Within his talk, he went through some of the key factors affecting creativity from a biological perspective. These included things like a balance between having a novel idea and the actual usability of it; mass generation i.e. the most creative ideas come from those who create the most products (he used Picasso’s 50,000+ works as an example of this); the importance of the memory and working memory to retain ideas in the mind and subsequently manipulate them to yield new connections and finally, the role of drive and emotions as core motivational systems, which ultimately drive action and perception.

All of this is all very well, but unless you’re studying Psychology or Biology, then you’ll probably struggle to see the relevance of it. The thing that was most interesting about Bilder’s research, was the application of these factors to the social web, namely Facebook. Bilder concluded that because of Facebook’s enormous user base (now 800million+ users), the mass generation side of creativity production was definitely achievable. Each day, millions of people share their ideas on Facebook; what Bilder thought would be useful, was if Facebook was able to develop the tools to mine these ideas, thus weeding out the ‘bad’ ideas, and discovering new connections to foster the ‘good’ ones. The opportunity for marketing and advertising professionals here is huge – they could potentially crowd source ideas for campaigns directly from their target audiences.

Facebook’s recent development of their Open Graph announced at the f8 conference, also means that now even more information about people’s interactions and social behaviour will be recorded via 3rd party apps like Spotify. Instead of just ‘liking’ something, there are now a range of actions someone can do to an object e.g. ‘run’ a marathon or ‘cook’ a recipe, all of which are deeply integrated into key points of distribution on the platform. The implications of this mean that, in terms of creativity, there are far more ways to share social habits and inspirations in the public domain. People will also no longer have to rely on just their working memory to make new connections and ideas. A computer, after all, has a lot better memory than a human ever could. Again, relating this back to the introduction of the Timeline, the development of personal maps of ourselves over time will be used to create better representations of our self identity, but also to create an almost infinite resource of behavioural information about users. The likes of which, cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

This is why, to introduce apps which look at future goals and achievements into the Timeline, and thus the Open Graph, would be an invaluable resource for marketeers. Advertising could be specifically targetted at those wanting to for example, achieve a goal weight of x by y or doing said course to achieve x,y and z outcomes. But it would also be useful for creatives wanting to map out their journey and process. Bilder clearly emphasises the need to have drive and emotional responses in order to foster action; what better way to do this than to obtain emotional reactions to your ideas and goals from your friends and family?

It’s clear that Bilder’s research into the social tech applications of brain biology is in it’s infancy, but I for one am extremely excited to see the developments, in conjunction with huge social companies like Facebook, to inspire and foster creativity amongst users. The possibilities can even stretch to things such as Healthcare, where data and understanding of social behaviour on such an in-depth and international scale, could potentially revolutionise for example, areas such as psychology and the treatment of mental disorders.

I guess the main criticism of Facebook has always stemmed from issues around privacy controls and what they would be doing with all this social information they had collected about you. Bilder’s research is a way of looking at this in a slightly different light, and thinking about it from more of a nurturing and positive perspective, which I for one, think is a refreshing change.

You can view Bilder’s talk in full by clicking here.