Slides for the version of this talk that I presented last night (2/23/2011) to the Central Texas IEEE Consultants’ Network. I presented earlier versions to the World Future Society and at Link Coworking.
Plutopia Productions, the company I’ve built with Derek Woodgate, Maggie Duval, and Bon Davis, is having a “sampler” event tomorrow night, February 5, at The Beauty Bar in Austin. By sampler, we mean that we’re including artists that will be part of our larger show on March 14… this is a preview.
Lineup for the February 5 show:
- Intimate Stranger
- Dr. Strangevibe
Plus interactive fun from:
- Steve Jackson Games
- Switched On Audio
- The Edge of Imagination Substation
- Darkstack Media
Tomorrow’s show is free, register here.
What is Plutopia? Here’s some draft material I’ve written about the company:
Plutopia Productions is a highly creative events and media company that emerged from a consideration of the future of digital convergence in 2005-2006. We create experiences and media that are steeped in the evolving post-technological culture where mobile connected technologies are deeply embedded and inherent as running water. We are evolving a culture wherein digital literacy will be pervasive and connection and coordination will be via subtle, granular applications and technologies. In this culture, environments are highly configurable to individual preference and group experiences are mediated by technologies embedded in our daily experience: smart phones, augmented reality and location-aware applications, and persistent deep connection to all friends and acquaintances and the entire world’s information and knowledge. In this context we are evolving a new kind of event, the sense event, which we define as “a produced entertainment or educational affair that engages participants in an amplified multi-sensory experience and results in enhanced associated memory formation.” The character of the event enhances the experience of the event.
As well as events, Plutopia Productions is creating a media channel, Plutopia News Network, which explores cultural evolution in the convergent context and covers the emergence of new cultural forms and experiences. Through its events as well as its media channel, Plutopia is evolving a core for the experience of post-technological consumers. We are building a network of people and experiences that will aggregate broad audiences whose affinity is in the way they experience the world, mediated and enhanced by convergent technologies. The potential size and scope of this audience is potentially boundless. It is suggested by the popularity and growth of events like the SXSW Interactive Festival, where Plutopia Productions has incubated its signature event, and Europe’s convergent conferences Ars Electronica and V2. The entertainment experience is increasingly an experience of visceral physical event experiences and media that emerge from and leverage those experiences.
Bruce Sterling and I are well into our annual State of the World conversation over on the WELL. Bruce, who’s traveled the world all his life and has been in unique situations (like his travels through Russia and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain), truly thinks globally, whereas I’m virtually global (via the Internet) though not as well-traveled. I tend to write from a U.S. perspective, which means less these days… sez Bruce,
Back in the 90s, when I was travelling in Europe, I used to get a lot of eager queries about the USA. What’s new over there, what are you doing with your lives and your riches and your technology, why is your government like that? This was considered a matter of urgency, and most Europeans I met, who were naturally from techie, artsy and literary circles, held views of America that were surprisingly like contemporary paranoid Tea Party views. They had interestingly wacky private theologies about the Pentagon, the CIA, Wall Street, the malignant military-industrial complex and so forth… Not that they ever bothered to find out much about the factual operation of these bodies. Stilll, they were sure that the USA really mattered.
Nowadays, the Europeans are just not all that concerned about Yankees. They don’t ask; they’re incurious about America, they are blase’. Being an American in Europe now is rather like being a Canadian, and it’s trending toward being a Brazilian.
American soft power is vanishing. Foreigners are much less interested in American television, movies, pop music… America once had a tremendous hammerlock on those expensive channels of distribution, but those old analog megaphones don’t matter half as much in today’s network society.
The USA has become a big banana republic; in other words, it’s come to behave like other countries quite normally behave. The upside is that we don’t get blamed for what happens; the downside is, nothing much happens. Decay and denial. Gothic High Tech.
Hearing via Twitter that my friend Gary Chapman of the LBJ School has died. News of his death was posted by Isadora Vail of the Austin American Statesman. No details yet. I had just emailed Gary today asking for his support in putting together an Austin Wikileaks Summit. [Update: Statesman article by Vail reporting that Gary died of an apparent heart attack.]
Gary was a visionary thinker, always exploring the edge of emerging technologies… and he was a fine guy and a good friend. I interviewed him for the Austin Chronicle in 1999. [Link]
I think that a lot of people in the technology policy community feel there’s a kind of vacuum with respect to crafting a vision for why the United States should invest in science and technology in the future. That’s seen as a liability in forming consensus about what we should be investing in, but also an opportunity for helping craft a new vision.
The last organizing principle of technology policy was the Cold War, and that lasted for 50 years. But that’s pretty much over, and now we need a new organizing principle. It’s not clear what that’s going to be. There’s been a de facto consensus around global economic competitiveness, but that doesn’t really seem to have the same kind of glue that the Cold War rationale had. So I think there’s still work to be done on crafting the vision, and I think there’s certain pieces that have to go into it:
(1) Sustainability, that is, its relationship to the natural environment and our ability to build an economic system that doesn’t deplete the earth’s resources.
(2) Global commerce that is not solely competitive, but cooperative in nature as well.
(3) Social justice and equity issues, so that we don’t end up with technology policy that just favors the wealthy. That would have to take into account vast disparities in education and literacy and access to economic resources.
(4) A technology policy that’s democratic, and that offers the opportunity for people who are not scientific and technological experts to help craft it.
Wikileaks is a big deal; Mark Pesce’s written the most insightful comment I’ve seen yet explaining just why. Read it here.
Everything is different now. Everything feels more authentic. We can choose to embrace this authenticity, and use it to construct a new system of relations, one which does not rely on secrets and lies. A week ago that would have sounded utopian, now it’s just facing facts. I’m hopeful. For the first time in my life I see the possibility for change on a scale beyond the personal. Assange has brought out the radical hiding inside me, the one always afraid to show his face. I think I’m not alone.
I’ve found myself giving cautionary talks on the future of the Internet, or possible futures, plural – the real danger that the Internet and the World Wide Web that operates on it will become less open, perhaps become fragmented, balkanized into closed networks that no longer cooperate, filled with walled gardens with various filters and constraints, and no longer be a platform with low barriers to entry and assurance that if you connect something, anyone anywhere in the world will have access to it. The Internet would no longer be the powerful engine for innovation and communication it has been.
Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web, writes about this in Scientific American, saying that some of the web’s “successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights.”
If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands. We could lose the freedom to connect with whichever Web sites we want. The ill effects could extend to smartphones and pads, which are also portals to the extensive information that the Web provides.
Read Berners-Lee’s important longer piece, “Long Live the Web.”
My next scheduled talk about the future of the Internet is January 5 at noon, at Link Coworking.
Jay Rosen has a terrific post about the state of media, beginning with this clip from the film “Network”:
Pretty timely, eh?
Jay analyzes the scene:
… the filmmakers are showing us what the mass audience was: a particular way of arranging and connecting people in space. Viewers are connected “up” to the big spectacle, but they are disconnected from one another. Or to use the term I have favored, they are “atomized.” But Howard Beale does what no television person ever does: he uses television to tell its viewers to stop watching television.
When they disconnect from TV and go to their windows, they are turning away from Big Media and turning toward one another. And as their shouts echo across an empty public square they discover just how many other people had been “out there,” watching television in atomized simultaneity, instead of doing something about the inarticulate rage that Beale put into words. (“I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the streets. All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad!”)
He goes on to ask what would happen today in response to a “Howard Beale” event…
Immediately people who happened to be watching would alert their followers on Twitter. Someone would post a clip the same day on YouTube. The social networks would light up before the incident was over. Bloggers would be commenting on it well before professional critics had their chance. The media world today is a shifted space. People are connected horizontally to one another as effectively as they are connected up to Big Media; and they have the powers of production in their hands.
Jay follows with an expansion of his comments, and concludes with a set of recommendations for today’s journalists. (The post is a must-read for journalists and news bloggers.)
There’s been too much hand-wringing over the supposed collapse of journalism as we know it, but journalism’s never been more exciting, never had the kind of tools and channels of information available today. We’re seeing, not collapse, but evolution. I’m wanting to spend more and more time with journalists, and think more and more about the relationship of professional journalism to blogging and other more or less informal information channels.
Social media-savvy medical advocate Regina Holliday pointed out a clueful post at Health is Social, a blog “about integrating social and digital media into healthcare.”
The post’s subject is “Healthcare Blogging: Wide Open Opportunities,” but the post itself is not just abou9t healthcare blogging. It’s a more general explanation why blogging is NOT dead, contrary to the opinion, expressed by some supposed social media experts, that “blogging wasn’t worth the effort and that nobody reads blogs.” Of course, “experts” who are totally focused on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube argue that those platforms are “all that’s needed anymore and that … websites [including blogs] were basically useless.”
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, among other social apps, are indeed important to consider in creating an organizational media strategy; many businesses truly don’t understand how to use them effectively. Anyone hoping to create a vital and productive Internet presence should go where the conversations are, generally Twitter and Facebook.
Note that there’s a lot of confusion and questioning about the future of the Internet. John Battelle posts about points of control, and Tim O’Reilly has posted a map to highlight the point that we’re seeing platform wars from which the Internet of the future will emerge. [Link to complete map.] Blogs are nowhere on that map, probably because blogs will be everywhere in that world, like trees spewing oxygen into the ecosystem.
So blogs and web sites will continue to be critical points of presence for individuals and organizations, where they will develop more static core content, and dynamic emerging content via blogs, to show expertise, articulate new ideas, publish news about relevant organizations or projects, etc.
Some history: Blogs catalyzed the mainstreaming of social technology by making it easy for anyone to publish online. This meant more writers and more readers, a more robust social ecosystem online, which spiraled ever greater adoption. As more people were communicating in more ways over the web, social network platforms and messaging systems other than blogs appeared and evolved – the platforms on the O’Reilly/Battelle map. The growth of interest in social connection and persistent short messaging made Twitter a hot phenomenon, and as Facebook incorporated its own form of short messaging and activity streaming, it grew like wildfire and became the mainstream platform of choice for all sorts of social activity.
A new breed of consultants emerged who were not especially active on the Internet before Twitter and Facebook came along. I would argue that these consultants have blinders on; because of their limited experience, they don’t have a deep understanding of the Internet and the broader set of potentials inherent in its still-evolving ecosystem. Much of what you hear about “social media” is noise generated by folks who’re smart enough, but have limited experience and constrained vision. Considering that, confusion around “platform wars,” anxiety over economic instability, persistent growing deluges of unfiltered information, it’s great to see a breath of fresh air like the post at “Health is Social.” In fact, I’m finding that empowered patients and their advocates are as clear as anybody about the current and potential uses of social media in their world. They’re in the middle of a revolution that depends on the Internet, democracy of information, and robust social knowledge-sharing environments (patient communities).
I have more to say another day about the importance of deep, sustained conversation, not really supported by Twitter/Facebook short messaging/activity streaming strategies.
I’m part of an informal group of journalists who are focusing on the future of that profession, and more generally on the future of news discovery and delivery. We proposed a coordinated set of SXSW Interactive sessions on journalism via the panel picker, and we’re soliciting votes from any and all of you who are ready to see journalism re-imagined and re-invented in the context of what McLuhan referred to as the “new media matrix,” facilitated by the Internet and participatory media.
The informal group includes Evan Smith from Texas Tribune, Chris Tomlinson from Texas Observer, Matt Glazer of Burnt Orange Report, Dan Gillmor from the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, Tom Stites from the Banyan Project, Burt Herman from Storify and Hacks/Hackers, Jennifer 8. Lee of the Knight News Challenge,, Jay Rosen of NYU, and Andrew Haeg of the American Public Media Public Insight Network.
- Bloggers vs. Journalists: It’s a Psychological Thing
- Yes, It’s Quiz Time: News as Infotainment
- Will News Apps Re-Invent Journalism?
- Journalism’s Third Way: Strengthening Democracy, Monetizing Integrity
- Push Me, Pull Me, How Does News Flow?
- Why Journalism Doesn’t Need Saving: an Optimist’s List
- Online Journalism: Lessons Learned at the Tribune & Observer
- Hacking the News: Applying Computer Science to Journalism
- Human Centered Journalism: Changing News with Design Thinking
We’d be thrilled to get your vote for each and every one of these sessions, or for any you have time to review!
Amazing set of images: the 1936 Japanese vision for the future of transportation. [Link to all images at Pink Tentacle]
I spent today at the 2010 UTeach Conference here in Austin. UTeach is an acclaimed teacher prep program at the University of Texas. Attendees were mostly K-12 teachers and university professors from across the U.S. I heard about UTeach’s STEM focus (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), New Technology High Schools in Napa and Manor, project-based learning, Knowing and Learning in Math and Science, etc. I was primarily interested in the possibility of collaborative projects and learning involving multiple classrooms and disciplines, mediated by social technology. I was live tweeting the event. There were multiple sessions per time slot, so I only got a slice of it. (I also missed the events on Tuesday, and probably can’t make it tomorrow – so much more to learn about learning.)