New Technology & Visions of the Future
This topic was presented by Steve. For our discussion we read two
one by Chris Carlson entitled "The Shape of Truth to Come: New Media
& Knowledge" from Resisting the Virtual Life and a second article
about the Futurists' predictions, entitled "The Cyber Future"
by Edward Cornish. For ease of reading, the notes of the discussion have
been split according to each article.
Focus Group Topic 2: 16-23 October 1996
Discussion Points: "The Shape of Truth to Come: New Media &
Knowledge" by Chris Carlson in Carlson chapter in Resisting the
Life: the Culture & Politics of Information" edited by James
& Ian A. Boal.
- For technology to be viable in the long-term it must serve
and people. Too often with new technology we force applications that turn
out to not be useful. Great examples are the Newton and web sites that
a lot but deliver no traffic.
- It takes time for people to fully assimilate new technology, and for
us to find the best long-term applications. Some forecast that it takes
two generations (50 years) for a technology to fully mature.
- As the rate of technological change increases, some technologies
mature (and become obsolete) in a matter of months. Can people keep up
this rate of change? Probably not.
- Corporations sometimes offer applications of technology they think
will be great, but that people turn out to not like. A good example is the
Newton. Corporations have a lot of influence over what kind of new
are developed, but the market has final say on whether they endure.
- Technology must be dumbed down to be widely accepted. It must be
usable. It's all about finding useful applications and developing an easy
- The technology culture makes people feel like it is their fault for
not knowing how to use it. It's like when you take your car in for an oil
change and the mechanic asks you what kind of oil you want! Why should you
know? Technology companies need to take responsibility for making the
- Technology is made more useable by abstractions, by divorcing the
interface from how the machine really works. For example, control panels
on computers don't really exist. They are an abstraction that makes the
computer more familiar to the user.
Discussion Points: "The Cyber Future" by Edward Cornish
- Some futurists predict massive unemployment in the short term as
are displaced by technology.
- We think this is silly. People will adapt to new environments. In
addition, it would be silly for businesses not to make the best
in technology. Some jobs will be eliminated, but others will always be
If we replace a factory worker with a robot, we no longer need the worker.
But then we need someone to design the robot, make the robot, and maintain
- Looking back, extrapolating over long periods of time, things get
a little better a little bit at a time. No one technology will
the way we live. No previous technology has, and all previous predictions
of radical change have proven wrong.
- Technology destroys as well as creates. For example, before the
of recorded music, every home had a piano in the parlor. These have now
all but disappeared. The piano industry has also been decimated. And yet
all of us like recorded music. There was a loss and a gain. We have to
to net these.
- Intellectual property rights is a new problem. Only recently have
people been able to reproduce content so easily. We also think that a
deal more cultural material was in the public domain in centuries past.
People did not have such a strong sense of ownership. Instead, there was
a common cultural heritage (songs, stories) that people used, and the art
was in the delivery.
- Digital technologies have made more people creators.