How do we see the future of online information?

Last Thursday we had an interesting discussion in our course on Online Publishing on how students anticipated the near future in online information. We took some inspriation from Vannevar Bush’s visionary 1945 text “As We May Think“, but also from authors such as Manuel Castells, “The Net and the Self: Working notes for a critical theory of the information society”, 1996, Henry Jenkins, The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence, International Journal of Cultural Studies march 2004 (vol. 7), p. 33-43 and Lev Manovich, “The Practice Of Everyday (Media) Life”, 2007.

As a vindication of Jenkins’ views on convergent media, we also had a short look at Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry’s great presentation of “The Sixth Sense” at the 2009 TED event:

For one thing it shows that we will want to interact in a more integrated way with the superimposed virtual world than we do today through a multitude of devices.

From our class discussion it emerged that issues and new ways to cope with privacy were the most pressing concern: we will learn how to live socially with less privacy, or privacy organised in a different way than today. The feeling is that to reap the benefits of social information technologies, one must be prepared to share more with others than what we are accustomed to.

In some projects, the students will explore more radical ways in wich the web touches upon our social life and identity, such as Online Churches or Facebook Obituaries. Other groups focus on how the creative industries recuperate subcultures and youth cultures through the web, and stress the importance of online games and gaming to model social relations.

The rise and growing reality of user-generated content was also highlighted. A striking example is JK Rowling inviting a selected group of readers to contribute to the narrative a a new novel. In this sense, the introduction of the e-book is not only seen as a new way of publishing, but also as an opportunity for a new way of writing.

More technically, finding out user expectations towards technology is deemed to remain important for good web design, and much attention is paid to information selection, e.g. through association. Students also see the web as a place where tacit knowledge is becoming explicit.

There is also the insight that our vision on the future is hampered by our current concepts: “Fantasy of the future, the current technology will restraint our imagination of the future.”

For those who thought that speech technology was dead, students see in Web 3.0 and Speech-to-action a revival of those technologies,  enabling us to interact with the virtual world in a more natural way.

About fredtruyen

Responsible for Digital Media at the Institute for Cultural Studies KULeuven. Teaches Information Science and Online Publishing.
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