ChatGPT is ushering in Research 3, but what is Research 3?

AI illustrationRay Poynter 13 January, 2023


For the last year, interest in the Metaverse and Web 3 has been booming, with articles, conferences and new products emerging left, right, and centre. If you want a primer on the Metaverse and Web 3 – then I recommend checking out the ASC Conference from November 22. All of the presentations (including sessions with Matt Gibbs, Kerry Frank, Betty Adamou, and Jennifer Heape) are available via their YouTube channel to watch for free. Click here to see them.

If you want the short version of what the Metaverse is, here is ChatGPT’s description.

The metaverse is a virtual reality space that businesses can use to create immersive, interactive experiences for their customers. It is a collective virtual shared space that can be accessed and experienced by users across different platforms and devices, and it can be used for a variety of purposes such as e-commerce, entertainment, education, and more. Businesses can use the metaverse to create virtual stores, events, and other interactive experiences that can increase engagement and drive sales. It is a new frontier for marketing and advertising, allowing businesses to reach new audiences and create unique brand experiences. With the development of the metaverse, businesses can expect to see new opportunities for growth and innovation.”

And here is a description of Web 3, also from ChatGPT

Web 3.0 is the next evolution of the internet, also known as the “Semantic Web.” It refers to the use of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and machine learning to create a more intelligent and user-centric internet. The goal of Web 3.0 is to create a web that can understand the meaning and context of the information it contains, making it possible for machines to interpret and understand the content, rather than just displaying it.

Web 3.0 is also associated with the decentralized web, where data and applications are stored on a distributed network rather than centralized servers. This allows for greater security, privacy, and control for users. The use of blockchain technology and decentralized apps (dApps) are some of the key features of Web 3.0, in addition to, web 3 also enables the creation of decentralized marketplaces and platforms, where data is owned by users themselves, rather than centralized companies.

Web 3.0 is still in its early stages of development, and many of the technologies and concepts associated with it are still in the research and experimentation phase. But it is considered as the future of the internet and businesses should start to prepare for the shift to web 3.0.

My take on the Metaverse and Web 3
I treat both the Metaverse and Web 3 as simply the next step in the development of the internet. For example, smarter, more interactive, more media (I like the phrase extended media to describe things like augmented reality as well as VR), more devolved, and more democratized (by which I mean non-experts can do more stuff). I don’t see the immediate future to be virtual reality headsets for everybody, or blockchain as the norm, but I do see things like conversational AI and augmented reality as being everyday tools for all of us.

As a personal preference, I prefer Web 3 to Web 3.0 – but I will go with whatever becomes the norm. We will know when Web 3 has fully arrived because we will have stopped saying Web 3, just like we stopped saying 2.0 for things.

Why Research 3?
Back in about 2006, Martin Oxley coined the term Research 2.0. Research 1.0 was traditional or established research, such as surveys, focus groups, depth interviews etc. Research 2.0 was an extension of market research, utilizing things like social media. By November 2006 I was promoting Research 2.0, in conjunction with companies like Virtual Surveys and Colmar Brunton, and by 2008 it was a core part of one of my courses for the MRS. The graphic below is taken from my 2008 training deck – showing the link between established research (retro-named Research 1.0) and the new 2.0 options.

Research 2.0 and 1.0

This line of thinking was also the driving force of me writing The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research which was published by Wiley in August 2010.

I am always nervous about terms like Research 2.0 and Web 3, because they imply real, defined boundaries. In reality, things slide from one state to another. Research 2.0 did not invalidate traditional/established research. Indeed, even today, more dollars are spent on traditional research than are spent on the elements in the beige section above.

However, the benefit of terms like Research 3 is that it makes all of us look up from what we are doing and behoves us to question whether we need to change and adapt.

So, What is Research 3?
For me, the key to Research 3 is the devolved or democratized nature of many of the new research options. We have seen an explosion in the use of platforms for DIY and self-serve research, we have seen a massive increase in the use of passive data, for example social media listening. However, both of these changes have often been associated with a drop in the quality of research being conducted. Yes, we can ask research participants to collect hours of video footage, but we have been limited in how we process it. Yes, we can gather millions of lines of text, but the analysis has been really clunky.

For me, Research 3 is the link between things like chatbots, video, extended media, observational research with non-experts. Research 3 allows non-experts to produce useful insights. This is not going to happen overnight, there will be roles for experts for many years to come. But the ability of product managers, HR professionals, sales managers, creatives, designers, engineers and service providers to leverage new media and generative AI to collect robust insights is coming.

Why do I say that ChatGPT Ushering Research 3 in?
ChatGPT has broken through in a way that none of the other Web 3 and Metaverse elements have. In the first week of its launch, on 30 November 2022, it achieved one million users. As you can see in the Google Trends chart below (Worldwide searches for the last 90 days), ChatGPT is way ahead of concepts like the Metaverse and blockchain in terms of interest.

Google Trends chart for ChatGPT

There are two key reasons why I think ChatGPT is indicating a tipping point. The first is that is it Generative AI – it can suggest solutions (some of which are completely wrong BTW), and secondly, it is super easy to use. Every day of every week for the next few months people are going to be using it to help generate discussion guides, design surveys, create concepts for testing,  and to interpret open-ended comments. People will use the paid for tools that underpin it (and its competitors) to create better conversational research tools.

To hear a great discussion about ChatGPT’s impact on research and insights, check out this panel discussion by QuestionPro’ Dan Fleetwood, with Lenny Murphy, Jamin Brazil, and Vivek Bhaskaran. (note QuestionPro are a sponsor of NewMR).

To see an example of using Generative AI to run a research project from specification to results (and a discussion of Generative AI) check out this great session with Mike Stevens from Insight Platforms, with Kathy Cheng, Alex Orlap, and David Boyle (you will need to register, but it is free).

And check out Prompt, a book on using ChatGPT for marketing, written by David Boyle and Richard Bowman (and partly written by ChatGPT).

How Good is ChatGPT for Research?
When I look at the posts on social media about using ChatGPT to generate discussion guides, questionnaires, and summaries, they are usually not very good. They tend to assume, for example, that people can know what they feel and are prepared to say what they feel – something that is often not true. But, these examples are often no worse than the discussion guides, questionnaires, and summaries written by many humans. As Boyle and Bowman point out in their book Prompt, ChatGPT is faster and cheaper, and sometimes that compensates for the quality not being as good as people want.

So what?

  1. You don’t need to call it Research 3, or ResTech, or anything else for that matter, it is happening whether we name it or not. However, as Michel Foucault pointed out names are not neutral, the way we name things reflects power relations and dominant ideologies.
  2. You need to get your head around generative AI, and the quickest and the easiest entry point is ChatGPT. When I go running in the mountains for say 3 hours, I always pack a waterproof, a first aid kit and some food, just in case I need them. ChatGPT may not turn out to be essential, but it is wise to put it into your mental rucksack now as we set off on our Research 3 journey.
  3. Expect fast and cheap to massively outweigh quality in most areas. This is what happened with the internet and research.
  4. Smart, well-trained people will use AI more effectively than other people.

2 thoughts on “ChatGPT is ushering in Research 3, but what is Research 3?

  1. Well said Ray, just get my head around with AI these days, you have well summarized the points here.

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