Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Future History: Good, Bad or Indifferent?

A cartoon in Mad magazine (I think---no source to depend on for this) once offered the observation, "History is bunk, the present stinks, and even the future ain't what it used to be."

From the amount of mail I've received about it, the hit of the ACRL conference must have been the presentation that included the infamous Google/Amazon video. This short piece is a documentary putatively made in 2014 by the "Museuem of Media History" about the history of the news business. It was masterfully done by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson.

Watch the eight minute video, and then please come back here and tell me: in your opinion, is this a utopia, a dystopia, or something else entirely?


susan said...

I loved this "documentary". It offered a chillingly realistic scenario for the future of the information age.

Andy Havens said...

Nice piece of future-fiction. A couple things that aren't taken into consideration, though.

Someone has to create the original content from which Googlezon's EPIC service would pull-mix-push their customized, personalized content. I get the part about "everyone contributes a little," but that seems to imply that the sum of all the individual parts are equal to the sums of various groups. Which is not the case.

If you take news, the content area examined in this piece, there is a lot to consider besides just the "citizen journalist" aspect of the web, blogs, searc, etc. in order to shut down a shop like The New York Times. At least to shut it down and come up with a reasonably similar end-product.

For example, for every reporter or photographer working at a major news outlet, there are probably 100 other professionals working to make the gathering and provision of news possible. Everything from paying salaries to legal protection to technology to communications to transportation to vision and to providing a context for the content.

Let's take, for example, the news story involving the Abu Gharib prison scandal. Without a major news organization -- or an entire 4th estate -- to provide the kind of pressure that can be brought to bear on governments, beauracracies and armies, that story would have stayed under wraps., or might have been very quickly... er... silenced.

Which brings up a another neat point. What if the government wants to be an "advertiser" or, better still, directly influence the content/context mix of EPIC? What if the Secretary of Education says, "Anybody in the 6th to 10th grade needs to get some sex-ed thrown into their EPIC mix?" What if the voters' vote for it? What if they vote to keep various subjects out of the mix?

All interesting thoughts.

I guarantee the future will be different than any of us can imagine, though. The next big thing hasn't even been thought of yet.