Internet Futures – Genevieve Bell Speaks at ASIST

January 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm 2 comments

Pete’s last piece on future issues reminded me to post my summary from an intriguing talk I heard in late October ’08 while at the ASIS&T conference in Columbus Ohio, I was delighted that one of the plenary speakers was Genevieve Bell, an ethnographer, who is a Senior Principal Engineer and Director of User Experience with Intel’s Digital Home Group.

In her charming Australian accent, she promised to give a provocation rather than a speech. See what you think of her ideas.

She posed the questions: “What comes next for Web? For the information/knowledge economy?” Here are a few of her predictions/observations:

    The Net has gone “feral,” now gone well beyond the PC and laptop – to cell phones, TVs, GPS, game consoles, embedded devices with IP backbones. Some people will never encounter the Web on a PC, but through consumer goods, smart printers, etc. Web usage models will continue to change shape – more transactions, but much less surfing.

    The Net will increasingly bring us things we didn’t have time to attend to in real time (like those all important TV shows we missed).

    The Web continues to collapse time and distance and will increasingly be used for staying in touch with people. She noted that 10% of people in Tanzania have a cell phone, 90% have made a cell phone call. She also said that blogging will continue to experience exponential growth, some underrepresented voices now being heard. Most people blogging are women from 23-45 yrs. old (Hey, I’m almost young enough to have made this group 😉 Many people are interfacing with the Web through intermediaries, for example, some illiterate people living without electricity in 3rd world countries are getting daily “email” deliveries, read aloud to them via cell phones by children and friends.

    There will be an end to the “anglosphere.” In 2008, Chinese internet users overtook US users by about 253 million. English will soon end as the dominant language. New sites, new experiences, new services will arise. With this brings the inevitable incommensurability because it is difficult to make translations, especially for slang and idiomatic expressions.

    There will be different modes of connectivity, new experiences will require more bandwidth.

    Different payment structures are evolving, e.g., pay as you go vs. all you can eat, vs. capped downloads (up to a certain amount will be included, but then large fee is charged for more).

    There will be more government regulation for the Net, controlling it, limiting access, regulating practices. Massive regulation is already happening across the world.

    Increased socio-technical concerns – new anxieties, old anxieties. The list of things we are concerned about is growing. (OY! More to worry about in 2009).

    Disconnection and switching-off are an interesting phenomenon (some people are now planning vacations around “dead spots” so they can switch off).

Hmm, “spring break” cruise anyone? Our family is planning one to the Caribbean this March in search of a “dead spot” (and, BTW, some warmer weather, NJ this winter is appalling – lots of icy treachery this week).


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  • 1. cybergrunt  |  January 9, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    It’s interesting she has predicted that blogging will continue when Wired has called the personal blog as dead – forced out of existence by the big blogger names who post 30+ times a day. I guess some of us just blog away in the hope that people are reading which is part of the reason I am leaving this comment. I’ve decided to comment more to let other personal bloggers out the know that they do have avid readers.

    She is very accurate about regulation of the internet though, sadly enough. Australia, where I live, is about to regulate the net despite massive public outcry, and for what? Porn (oh no people having sex) and kiddie porn which is so difficult to come across on the the net without actively searching for it, that it may as well not exist ( I’ve been on the net since 1992 and I’ve never come across any). As you can probably tell, censorship is a sore point with me. I really hate being controlled and Genevieve’s predictions aren’t going to alleviate my condition it seems hehe.

  • 2. Marie L. Radford  |  January 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    I'm so glad that you left a comment! It is really gratifying that you said our blog has avid readers.

    Genevieve gave many illustrations of the massive regulation of the net around the world, particularly in Egypt, Turkey, & China. The good news is that many times hackers can circumvent attempts to censor and many times can find workarounds.

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