Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Trends and Fads

Futurist Update is a monthly email newsletter I get from the World Future Society. This month included a useful piece on trends and fads, with many links that I'll reproduce here, along with some I use.

First, definitions.
Fad: A fashion that is taken up with great enthusiasm for a brief period of time; a craze.
Trend: The general direction in which something tends to move. Trends are the momentum of society--we’re heading in that direction.

Fads can be very short and usually are not indicators of major change, themselves. But, a fad may turn out to be part of a trend. For example, when many women began bobbing their long hair in the 1920s, this was considered a fad. We know now that it was one element in the trend of the emancipation of women. But, the distinction is a bit blurred.

The "coolhunter" of William Gibson's book Pattern Recognition (why, yes, that is one reason the OCLC Environmental Scan had that as its title) is spotting ideas, behaviors and fashions that can translate into products, within a short time span. So, platform and wedge shoes....faddish trend.

Trend spotting, as practiced by futurists, has a longer horizon. Nanotechnology, for example. Macrotrend.

I think when you look at some of the sites I've added here, you'll see the difference between the "coolhunters" and the futurists. Some of the macrotrends are going to look pretty flakey, like those identified by Ray Kurzweil or Barbara Marx Hubbard. No flakier perhaps than some of these trendy fads...at least these ones will be gone soon. Mind you, I link all the frou-frou and impracticality to a conservative trend...but that's me.



If you're interested in the community of futurists, the annual conference of the World Future Society is July 28-30 in Toronto (pdf program here). There are excellent pre-conference courses offered as well. And don't you want to hear what two non-librarians have to say about the future of libraries? William Crossman and Thomas Frey will analyze and forecast the trends, roles and functions of libraries on Saturday, July 29. Hint: Mr Crossman says this in the FAQ at his institute's site: "That deep attachment that some people have to reading and writing will, in most cases, be supplanted by a new appreciation of, and attachment to, listening and speaking--the type of love affair with speech that existed/exists in oral cultures of the past and present."

Well, that would explain the success of audiobooks, right?

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