Emotional bandwidth and communication technologies

August 9, 2007

When 3G was first launched here in Europe, the operators used video telephony as the feature of this new technology. It seemed like an easy sell. Obviously, adding moving images to a voice conversation makes it better, right? And since it’s better we can charge more for it, the operators seemed to think.

Today, you won’t see any ads selling mobile subscriptions or phones with video telephony. It seemed video calls wasn’t better than voice calls, it was different. So different, in fact, that making it more expensive than voice calls is the complete opposite of how it should be priced.

One way of understanding how communication technologies are different from each other is to measure their emotional bandwidth. This indicates the extent to which a communication technology can transfer emotional data.

Humans are social creatures. When meeting someone face to face there’s a huge amount of emotional data transfered between you and the person you meet. Sweaty palms, how you move your arms and legs, what your eyes look at, a smile or a frown, if your face blushes or what your voice sounds like. Even how you smell. They are all signs of your emotional state – let’s call them emotional datapoints.

Accessing this emotional state of another person connects you to that person. By looking at a smiling person, you feel a little happier. A child crying makes you feel sad. The ability of a communication technology to transmit those emotions constitutes its’ emotional bandwidth.

A video stream with sound carries more emotional data than a voice conversation. This in turn is more emotionally intense than a written email or an SMS. The funny thing is – and this is what the mobile operators didn’t understand when they sold video calls for 5SEK a minutethe higher the emotional bandwidth, the longer you want to be connected.

For a few perfect examples of this, read the following:

An immigrant family from the Balkans living in Switzerland has a big computer screen in their living/dining room, with a Web cam focused on the dining table. The MSN messenger window is open all day, for incoming messages or calls from family back home or friends who migrated to other countries. And almost every morning they have breakfast “with” grandma (the husband’s mother) who lives in Kosovo with a similar Webcam set-up.


Several evenings a week, a retired grandfather in New York reads bedtime stories to his young grandson in California over Skype.

A family enjoying dinner together over an internet video stream. A grandfather reading bedtime stories to his grandson using internet telephony. That’s what emotional bandwidth is all about.

The GlocalReach service will make it easier for you to manage how you can be reached. In that way, you can also better control what communication technology you want to use in different contexts.

We want to give you a control knob for how much emotional bandwidth you transmit or receive. Our beta will be out this autumn.


6 Responses to “Emotional bandwidth and communication technologies”

  1. […] much happening on this blog at the moment, but you can read my post on emotional bandwidth over at the GlocalReach blog. Some excerpt: Humans are social creatures. When meeting someone face […]

  2. […] through her blog, I also noticed that Marci discovered that the telephone as a higher emotional bandwidth than email: Recently, I did something strange. I called a fellow journalist for something we would […]

  3. […] which has a much smaller emotional bandwidth, is by far the most common usage of the […]

  4. […] emotional bandwidth, prfekt, psychology, Video I feel I need to dust off my old post about emotional bandwidth after seeing how Swedish startup Bambuser attracts users and how their service is used – and […]

  5. […] Also read my old post on emotional bandwidth. […]

  6. […] Ruanur och Yuina gissar jag vara en ganska platt affär. World of Warcraft saknar helt enkelt den emotionella bandbredden som krävs för att kunna konkurrera med […]

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