SXSW – Emerging Social and Technological trends

As usual, I will be transcribing the talks and posting the notes. Analysis may follow later.

Unfortunately I did not make this panel in time for the introductions, so did not capture names of those speaking, and I was not close enough to read the name cards so quotes are not attributed, unless someone was called out by name.

Three points called out to me:

  • in a backlash to the current, open, anything goes on the web teens, one part of the next generation may be hyper private and wonder why we were all doing it.
  • Opening up of hardware will increase, mods will increase. even if it is only the early adopters, the fact that it can be done is likely to make the producer seen more user friendly
  • across the world, the mobile device is growing and this will be the main access point to the web. What are we doing about it.

Moderator: Laura Moorhead Sr Editor Culture, Wired
Laura Moorhead Sr Editor Culture, Wired
Andrew Blum Contributing Editor, Wired
Robert Fabricant Exec Creative Dir, Frog Design
Eliot Van Buskirk Columnist/Blogger, Wired News
Peter Rojas Engadget
Daniel Raffel Product Mgr, Yahoo!

Q: can you give an overview of where social and tech trends are going?

A: tech is driving culture. the intersection is having multiple effects, in how we live out lives and how we think about ourselves. always being connected, through a device n the pocket, changes thinking, tech is driving change and the people/culture are driving tech.

A: the extensions that are happening, the customisations, not in the original plan, make a more interesting place where people can find and make tools, relate to what interesting them

A: technologies don’t propagate until there is a social need for them peoples social identity is bound up more with the tech they use and people are trying harder to understand their place and it is harder to separate the two. their position in society is what people are checking on blackberry and email etc.

Q: what were the trends and disruptions over last 18 months that may have a ripple effect for us now.

A: widgets, that go across net. they are doing to the internet what the net dod to the world, taking away the sense of place. they connect people, wherever they are.

Q: subject of is place changing

A: look at plazes, connects online identity based on where you are. you are starting to position yourself, through IM, blog etc and on neighbourhood sites. not clear how shaping up, but are powerful in how they connect online

A: ties into larger macro trend of people having a sense of privacy. NY magazine did a piece a few weeks ago, how younger people are comfortable with it all on the we. tech have driven a transformation of how we understand ourselves and people feel comfortable in having on online persona, put everything on their, but negotiate the public and private selfs. the public self is more amplified.

A: (Robert) there is the same trend in business, it;s the same changes, how they IM at work etc. when doing research, they see that clients think these changes are only affecting a certain small demo, but talking it is a larger effect and not just isolated to people like us

Q: Eliot, what are you seeing with the music people you are dealing with

A: (Eliot) when we are acquiring all this data/info from major companies, we are giving out more of ourselves..there is an interesting flow,

Q: Daniel, talking about pipes, how do you think about what is out there for grabs, what is there for consumption

A: (Daniel) we wanted to be on the yahoo domain, we needed to extend profiles etc. we need to be careful with data; innovation happens in all spheres, business, legal etc. We let people clone api links etc, we need to work across companies to come up with standards etc, with projects that are thinking differently about how we use this information

Q: do you think we are getting to the point of a backlash with transparency

A: (Daniel) freebase launched yesterday looks like google base. so interesting to watch these copies…and you don’t have a perception of how they will handle this data, think how google handles mail and search, you may go somewhere that does not have a conflict. may be going back to a niche service

Q: peter, what do you think about those whose whole life is online..will people go the opposite direction.

A: (Peter) so the next gen may think about how people blogging everything was so square. there is a chance, as youth culture often defines itself as the opposite of the one before, so would not be surprised if there was a rebellion against it. we won’t see a mass rejection, it will see something.

A: we could end up with more of a clicky type thing. we may reach a point where you see more private networks, you may have to have met someone in real life to get onto the network. there could be a segmentation of the all for one approach

A: lexicographers have a google test – if the word is not on google, it does not exist. is there a blur between what is real and unreal, if no online then not real.

Q: you can have a niche interest and then be in a community of 1000s. so how can you get people to break out of silos, see another influence?

A: (Robert)from a design, there is an amplification of influence. there’s a lot of companies trying to sift through this and working out what is going to have an impact. we try and sift through the trends; how to interpret the trends and put into a product strategy is a growing industry.

A: that used to be part of newspaper roles. we may be going back to this type of aggregators…so blogs can take this role, still having people in the mix

A: (Robert) we have a lot of people believing that the voice of the customer are going to show them the way; it changes the way they think; we can amp[lify a single voice and change the direction a company goes through. but a single voice is a great point of leverage but not just what you want to design to.

Q: collection and aggregation…so does this lead to customisation. What examples are there, from a design perspective how do you cope with this.

A: when it cones to hardware, manufactures tend to freak out a little to much. it’s not usually something that a huge number of consumers will adopt, just the early ones. but by allowing it you give the appearance of being more consumer friendly and gives better perceptions

A: still waiting for modification to lead to a better commitment to upgradeability. with many early adopters, this is not a strong belief. a lot of businesses are interested in the secondary economies…but others still look at making the stuff disposable and consumer needs to push back on.

A; the iphone was perfect as it was not perfect yet, it was an empty vessel for what you could put into it. raises questions about how it could be upgrading.

A: but the iphone is closed and is resistent. I think this is a mistake as the trend is for people to have more control about what they can do.

A: it may have been closed cos of carriers…offering hardware hackable devices onto the networks is an opportunities..t he carriers may be in the best position to monetise this.

A: but they are so resistant to this. cells need to more computers..but only hardware/carriers can change (RC – i think this is a US focused statement, given soem EU trends)

Q: we can drive innovations. what would you say are some of the demo/population trends that will influence

A; the babyboomers having grandchildren, the children having large screens and large pipes/ surprised that there is not more video conferencing in living room. the infrastructure is there but no one is doing it.

A: you have the combination of aging population and babyboomers thinking they had control and were steering country, combined with insecurity and financial issues, and this will drive, with their need for a sense of control. there’s premium security services, eg to speed your way through airports. this will drive political and technical trends, how they can control their home and life environment. there;s going to be a fortress built.

Open Questions:

Q: how do international trends affect the US? how long from UK/japan to here

A: one example would be europe’s focus on carbon emissions and how long until here. look at airline industry, talking about being carbon offset. in the next 6 months we may be talking about his

A: we are getting strange laws about webcasting etc, companies that are based in other companies are not beholden. we try and it does not always work. as they realise they can make money and innovate more than us than that can be a huge driver.

A: Who on your team impacts this; one person can only see so far out. the teams need to reflect the international look. we need to think bigger about who we use and how we apply the products.

A: I’m seeing a convergence of futurism and environmentalism. Being a futurist is becoming the same thing as being an environmentalist.

Q: so how about the global south (RC – a term, nor the panel, had heard before. Primarily Latam and Africa)

A: seeing in africa about building out networks, china investment is helping there, not fully there yet but getting there.

A: outside of NA and EU, most people access through a mobile device; we need to factor that in. what is the mobile experience?

A: we are seeing an explosion in client interest and expectation about how services can be adapted across markets, but they are focused on developed markets. the interest has increased dramatically over the last year but still at early stage. India is an interesting flash point, eg the letter and email convergence with the post office working across

A: seen a lot of subversive developments, to work round state controls.

Q: what are your opinions on education and how that may change with these trends.

A: increased in metrics, getting everyones grades centralised to access from state and parents. pushing education towards more testing base.

A: there is a growing need to connect together how people learn, such as games. Frog is looking at creating tools with a client that can help this.

A: there have been some interesting schools that have leveraged technology; every student is getting laptops, rooms have digital whiteboards. teaching digital musics etc.

Q: what’s the future for email? will it be replaced by im and sms?

A: not going anywhere. it’s asynch, no one needs to be on the other end
A; video conference will increase; able ‘facetoface’ in a single virtual place.
A: telepresence has potential to change and amplify social interaction..

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