Tuesday, January 26, 2010

on prescience

Someone pointed me to a TED talk on the changes brought about by the internet and social media. In his bio, the speaker is highlighted as a "prescient voice on the Internet's effects". I wouldn't call the talk prescient; it was peppered with anecdotes from the internet revolution already well underway, and some extrapolation from those.

The trouble with trying to be "prescient" is that it lasts only until the event you predicted does not happen, the probability of which is extremely, extremely high. If you are only studying and/or talking about technological forces today, you are already behind the curve.

I was recently at a PARC Forum called Technology-Mediated Social Participation where academics were lamenting the fact that theory is trying to catch up with practice.

One interesting point from Shirky's talk is how the "former audience" now becomes "producers" and "participants". Interesting because it is not only true of media as he says, but, in my opinon, for business and social processes as well. Twitter is a great example of this. Users were using the @username style to refer to one another and the "retweet" format long before Twitter formalized and inducted these into their technology.

The only "prescient" voice is a collective one of the "participatory audience" - some of them are already doing what the rest will be doing in the near future.

2 comments:

by the way said...

I may have missed this but are you suggesting that technology modeled around users' feedback is the sustainable way to go? If so, would it apply to internet and social media alone?

Umang said...

Ramya:
I'm saying that it is impossible for any one person to say which way technology is going to take us. It is also impossible to do it looking in from the outside.

Development of technology and development of how it is incorporated in our lives are two different things. And the two often feed into each other, but not always.