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January 01, 2010

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Christian Perry

This post brings attention to the dichotomy between abundance (characterized by choice) and the larger context of the singular entities in which abundance is presented and disseminated (characterized by immersion, engagement, and a difficulty of leaving).

Abundance is often presented within the context of a singular entity: the website, the store, the media device. Youtube offers participants an abundance of video in a similar way Amazon offers an abundance of books, shopping malls offer an abundance of stores, television offers an abundance of channels, and Facebook offers an abundance of friend activity.

In each of these instances, a consumer makes an initial choice to engage with the entity itself -- clicking the link, signing in, walking through the doors. Once "inside," the entity captures attention with a dazzling, overwhelming array of choices, an ease of transitioning between choices, and a high physical or psychic barrier to exit.

The culmination of these factors results in an experience of "engagement," characterized by a tendency to lose oneself, becoming engrossed, addicted, consumed. Such entities become difficult to leave, and often entice participants with incentives to remain or to return.

You correctly point out that abundance offers the consumer a plethora of "decision points." However, these decisions take place within the greater context of an abundance entity. Within such an entity, the scope of a decision point is confined to engaging with a single instance of abundance, rather than with the entity itself. It's easy to flit from one channel to the next, for instance, or one Youtube video to the next; it requires a greater psychic effort to leave the store or close the browser window altogether.

Choice qua decision point is, then, not a true choice, but an illusion of choice that in fact occludes the greater choice: to participate and remain within an entity in the first place. Arguably, the greater the number of choices made available within an entity, and the more seemlessly one transitions between them, the more ensnaring such an entity becomes.

Youtube's goal should not be considered anomalous, then, but similar to other abundance entities, inasmuch as it seeks to minimize the friction and effort to transition between choices, thereby increasing immersion and engagement, and commensurately raising (by relative perception) the psychic barrier to leaving.

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