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Today's issues in the digital world?

How thoughtful is this new think-tank thinking?

8:50 pm on Dec 23, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I am not certain that we are at "a major digital turning point," as Jeffrey I. Cole, director of USC's Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, says here [annenberg.usc.edu ], but it's obvious that the online world isn't what it was. (Duh!)

Here are the highlights of their thoughtful findings, and my not so thoughtful thoughts. Do not inflict your family with your opinions about the future of the online world over the holidays, but instead post here, telling people who might care.

1. Social media explodes – but most content has no credibility.
"Only 14 percent said that most or all of this information (on social media websites, which they mean Facebook, of course) is reliable. This speaks volumes about the credibility of communicating through social networking.”

And I thought it was just me. (I don't even trust the photos of my niece's new baby.) We outsourced my Facebook "consulting" to another contractor this year and even he has gotten bored with it.

2. The meaning of “E-Nuff Already” continues to expand.
Five years ago, the Center for the Digital Future coined the term “E-Nuff Already” to describe concern among Internet users about the impact of email on their lives. “E-Nuff Already” has continued to expand and now includes a growing range of issues.

In the late 1990s I was briefly involved with a email driven web service called abuzz, then the first spam wave it and NO ONE would give their email address to anyone. Now, of course, you have to give out your email address to everyone. Still, having seen one e-nuff wave hit, it seems reasonable that we could see another. If you're not offering a compelling message, you're in trouble.

3. The desktop PC is dead; long live the tablet.
“We don’t see a negative consequence in the move to tablets,” said Cole, “but the coming dominance of tablets will create major shifts in how, when, and why Americans go online – changes even more significant than the emergence of the laptop.”

No doubt some kind of study is out and about somewhere, but I've yet to see any solid, useful report on design a website for the tablet vs creating an app. I'm old, so outside of the Weather app and games, I stay on the web using my iPad. And, that is what I want my visitors to my websites to do. I think that's what I want.[

4. Work is increasingly a 24/7 experience.
“For many workers — blue-collar and white-collar alike — technology makes them accountable to their work all the time,” said Cole. “Is it reasonable to assume that employment is a 24/7 experience?”

Given a choice between family, friends and work, a lot of people select work.

5. Most print newspapers will be gone in five years.
The only print newspapers that will survive will be at the extremes of the medium – the largest and the smallest,” said Cole. It’s likely that only four major daily newspapers will continue in print form: The New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. At the other extreme, local weekly newspapers may still survive.

Why does the newspaper have to be daily? How about three times a week? Print advertising is still very, very effective, but daily? Nah.

6. Our privacy is lost.
“The issue of privacy is simple – if you go online for anything at all, your privacy is gone,” said Cole. “Americans love that they can buy online, look for information online, and join social communities online. But the price we pay is that we are monitored constantly; private organizations know everything there is to know about us: our interests, our buying preferences, our behavior, and our beliefs."

As most everyone here can confirm, it's not as bad as most people think. It's a lot worse. There is no privacy. Now, is that a problem? Yes, I think it is.

7. The Internet’s role in the American political process is still a question.
“Even though online outreach to voters continues to expand, and Internet fundraising is a major priority for candidates, the Internet is not yet considered a tool that voters can use to gain more political power or influence,” Cole said. “We believe that this is changing, and over the next two election cycles we see the Internet becoming a major factor in changing the political landscape.”

I'm seeing this at work first-hand. This is not well understood. Even in local politics, which is a career opportunity for webmasters.

8. The Internet will continue to create shifts in buying habits, at the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar retail.
“We are seeing only the beginning of the shift in American purchasing habits brought by the Internet,” Cole said. “Five years from now, the traditional retail landscape will be completely different than it is today.”

Yep. Meanwhile, most local and state governments are funded by local sales taxes and property taxes, both of which have little or no link to the services they are funding. This disconnect is a serious problem.

9. What comes next?
"The next major online trend is being developed right now by a new crop of Internet visionaries just waiting to be heard."

Steve Jobs is dead. I think tomorrow's visionaries are going to avoid high tech and go into something else. A lot of the bright bulbs went into finance, which didn't work out so well. Maybe they're try farming next. Or teaching.

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