*Special Feature* - Looking At The Future, Designing 2003
(Forecasts, conjectures, hypotheses, feelings, certainties and plain rants on what the near future has in store for our increasingly networked world)
Two distinct and opposite forces are pulling information and our ability to access it in opposite directions. Information control and security issues restrict information access while new collaboration and sharing technologies create more and more ways for information to be free.
Like never before we can easily exchange thoughts, ideas, images, concepts and formulas, but never before like today we have been at a loss of a unifying direction.
While we have more and more opportunities the "game" gets also more complex and difficult to understand. Unless you can, even momentarily step outside of it.
The need to understand how to leverage what is already available to us is the greatest challenge confronting us today.
While ideas, free minds, and great technology do not fail us, we are still playing out reality according to an outmoded, dated, expired paradigm (our way of understanding the world).
Excuse my somewhat difficult terminology this time, but failing to grasp the historical critical moment we are passing through, may truly prevent us from reaping any long term benefit from the sharing of my humble, fascinating little discoveries.
They are indeed not gadgets and pieces of puzzle intended for entertaining your spare moments of curiosity, but they are the complete toolkit required to start moving things our direction.
Gaining control back. Turning off mainstream media auto-pilot passive mode. Choosing the route. Driving. Designing.
These are the technology, tools and new media innovations that you will be leverage in 2003:
1) Search engines as Google, Fast/Alltheweb, Hotbot will provide more and more ways to zero in the information you are looking for. Simply type your question and blam, there you have it. Visual search and research tools will also start to become adopted by a greater number of users, as the ability they provide to navigate visual "over-views" through related and similar concepts can't be matched by linear scrolling lists of text results.
2) The Web will increasingly become a living clearinghouse in which you will be able to type any need, keyphrase, product or concept (for now in English, soon in any language) and find an associate Web site resource.
3) Spam and viruses will increasingly intrude in your technology-based work and only concerted smart efforts will lead to effective results. Most people unaware of such solutions will gradually be submerged by unsolicited email and ads to the point where navigating information becomes a highly disrupted and fragmented task.
4) Tracking, surveillance and monitoring tools and devices will greatly extend their abilities and reach and intrude our privacy even under circumstances that do not truly warrant their use. Many of these systems will start to interconnect and integrate augmenting their wire-tapping potential exponentially. Compared to what I see on the spec sheets Echelon (for more info on what Echelon is see http://www.echelonwatch.org) has only been a kid's game played with prehistoric, rudimentary gear.
5) Collaborative tools and technologies will bloom and flourish like never before. In 2003 more than 50 different tools and technologies will be available to meet, present, discuss, talk and visually interact with others online, while sharing and working at the same documents. One of the main challenges for the development of effective collaborative technologies is to create tools which can engage participants on different interaction levels while eliciting and facilitating the sharing of informal and tacit knowledge in new and innovative ways.
6) Microsoft will remain. Alternatives to its tools and systems will grow in number and variety. In 2003 more tools will allow you to create Office-compatible documents without having to sell your soul to Bill. None will be a complete and perfect replacement for the original Microsoft tools, but who wants overbloated software that requires lifetime yearly payments and a marketing strategy that dwarfs innovation, healthy competition and true alternatives to Microsoft operating system?
7) Usability, accessibility, and other quality publishing criteria will come to the attention of those individuals and organizations that want to communicate effectively while reaching the greatest number of users. Those writing, designing and publishing still with their own value judgment and experience as sole criteria will fail miserably, at least in comparison to those who will not.
8) Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and small blog-based content management systems (CMS) will be the slick grassroots cybercarriers that will boost independent publishing into the alterstream (alternative to mainstream). A mix of Groove Workspace (http://www.groove.net) technology with Movable Type blog/content management system (http://www.movabletype.org) is the reference model for revolutionary independent publishing.
9) RDF, RSS and XML are technical terms that will need to be well understood by communicators and information management officers if they want to ride in any way the upcoming interconnectedness of information that is about to come (see Semantic Web http://www.w3.org/2001/sw).
10) RSS feeds will allow for the first time independent publishers and organizations producing up-to-date news and research information to easily interact and pick-up on each other strength's in real time. Any web publisher will be able to make her newsfeeds available for other to pick and syndicate, distribute and republish according to various alternative licensing schemes (see article in this issue).
11) New, alternative licensing schemes will concretely allow intellectual property creators like writers, designers, music artists and filmmakers to share and distribute their work without having to force themselves into the traditional copyright scheme (see http://www.creativecommons.org).
12) Traditional video conferencing systems will start to be challenged by new cost-effective web conferencing systems which allow greater interaction, and a whole complementary set of collaborative facilities like document and application sharing, polling, text chat, instant messaging, whiteboarding and annotation, web touring and recording and playback of online presentations and events. These systems will not offer the quality and performance offered by traditional, satellite-based videconferencing systems but will offer good enough quality, even on dial-up lines to be useful also for the rest of us.
13) VoIP and the ability to replace international telecom carriers with voice conferencing tools working over the Internet will be a reality. Several low-cost alternatives will become available to talk and view documents and web sites in small groups with very good audio quality even on dial-up lines.
14) The Mac and its operating system MacOS X will become an attractive alternative to those communicators and publishers wishing not to have to hook into the Microsoft paradigm while keeping an edge and full compatibility with the other systems.
While remaining an apparently more expensive alternative to mainstream PCs the cost savings and productivity gains achievable especially on privacy, security and overall system capabilities well offset such initial price barrier.
15) Reusable Learning Objects will be the emerging new content development paradigm to be adopted by large organizations to increase their ability to higher and implement a workable and well structured content authoring approach while increasing opportunity for reuse and application in education and training.
16) Games and computer-based simulations will become viable tools in cybereducation allowing online and home-based distant learners to play and learn their preferred subjects. Games and simulations will in fact cross-breed and cross-fertilize themselves producing an array of enjoyable and valuable learning tools.
17) Software tools that allow the creation of software tutorials and demonstrations will become highly competitive and prices will drop significantly, allowing a low barrier to entry for all of the computer experts and trainers needing to develop interactive animated tutorials to use in their physical and online classrooms.
18) Mobile telephones, webcams, and PDAs will increasingly be hooked into the main Internet allowing independent publishers to post from almost at any time while enriching their message with images, video and audio information. Real reporters will make a significant comeback.
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