The recent report by Pew Research Center’s Internet Project Digital Life in 2025 is great and important reading for anyone who is interested in how digital tools and services affect our lives, and will in the next 10 years. Many of the predictions may sound far fetched and distant, and that’s why it is even more important to take them into account. Ten years is not that far ahead and in many cases the changes are already beginning to take place. The predictions often relate to international relations and politics, but can clearly be applied to organisations and audiences as well. Here are a few thoughts on some of the conclusions from this extensive report.
The report has a main section called 15 Thesis About The Digital Future. For this section the Pew Research Center consulted experts and technology builders who contributed with predictions on mobile, wearable and embedded technology, the Internet of Things and above all connectivity. In the wake of Twitter recently being banned in Turkey by the Prime Minister, the notion of the new ‘nations’ in the report becomes even more interesting.
The spread of the ‘Ubernet’ will diminish the meaning of borders, and new ‘nations’ of those with shared interests may emerge and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control…
…Traditional structures of government and governance are therefore ill-equipped to create the sensors, the flows, the ability to recognize patterns, the ability to identify root causes, the ability to act on the insights gained, the ability to do any or all of this at speed, while working collaboratively across borders and time zones and sociopolitical systems and cultures.
This is primarily a matter of international politics and far greater issues than cultural heritage, like democracy, providing food, water, education and a safe society etc. But it is also a matter of organisations interacting with and influencing, as well as growing as a member of, this changing society. To achieve this, I believe, organisations will have to strategically start reaching out to online communities and ”tribes” (1), becoming aware of the structure and nature of these audiences, and how to interact with them, and above all keeping up with what challenges and changes organisations are facing.
Responding to challenges and changes
One of the less hopeful theses presented in the Pew Research Center’s report is that humans and their current organisations may not respond quickly enough to challenges presented by complex networks. So far we have seen, and talked about, the disruptive technologies, but today we are in fact facing ”significant disruption to relations.” In the report this is primarily again about disruptive relations between and among states, but also the emergence of transnational political actors and movements. Looking at consequences of disruptive relations on international levels and actors there is of course a probability for disruptive relations on other levels within societies, for example those between organisations and audiences, as we have already seen is the case. (2)
”..we are truly going through a paradigm shift — which is celebratory for what it brings, but it also produces great precariousness because existing structures lose meaning and valence, and hence, a new world order needs to be produced in order to accommodate for these new modes of being and operation. The greatest impact of the Internet is what we are already witnessing, but it is going to accelerate.”
The most interesting and in some ways alarming conclusion from this report is that what we are already experiencing in terms of organisational changes and disruptive relations is not only here to stay but is going to accelerate. How do we respond to these challenges? By making strategic plans for the organisational changes that have to take place, by implementing digital and social awareness and growing competences on all levels of the organisation. And above all as the final quote from the report states:
The biggest impact will come from something we don’t currently foresee. Stay alert!
Marc Prensky, gaming researcher and teacher
(1) Tribes gather around strong passions and reaching out to tribes requires being customer-centric and ability to serve rather than lead. Tribal Marketing is further described by Elia Mörling, Tribaling.
(2) Disruptive technologies and services like social media are already challenging traditional values and organisational structures, transforming organisations into social businesses, as Brian Solis, Altimeter Group stated in 2013.
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