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Chapter 2 — Visualize the Future
2.3 Our Sharing Culture
After the industrial revolution, society in the Western world was long thought of as playing two distinct roles. On the one hand you had companies producing, and on the other hand you had people consuming. Today, however, we are more closely linked to producers than ever before. People are actually voluntarily providing data to companies, and are willing to be public in many new ways. And on top of that, they like to create the services they use and to have control over them.
But why would they do this? Why would you do this? It seems that people have an intrinsic motivation to share. Whether it's emotions, ideas, or just useless messages, people like sharing them. Maybe just like in normal social situations, we like to talk about ourselves and our feelings. It's no different on the web, except that on the web we can share it with virtually anyone anywhere. And so our sharing behaviour has become multifaceted.
…due to the fact that you can share already so much information with everybody, you may want to share deeper or more meaningful information with a specific group of friends. This is just my feeling of course, that what is happening with internet will promote more cohesion between smaller groups of people. — FRIDO SMULDERS
Maybe this is too brief an explanation to describe the social roots and impact of our digital sharing behaviour. But as a designer it's enough to know that today is the ideal time to explore co-creation and to delve into people's motivation to share. Sharing nowadays is not a neo-hippie movement, the internet is just providing the tools for people to show to the world what they think and do in a very easy way. Now imagine what will happen when more objects are connected to the web, when the environment around you provides all sorts of interactions with the web. You will be able to use your body as the bio-id and all the information you would ever need will be available in whatever context you are. You are already experiencing this with your smartphone, so we're moving in this direction. But we like to think this isn't just a simple matter of fate. There is indeed an apparent snowball of web technologies and derived services raining down on our society, and we have the ability to ensure that these fulfil our aspirations. Particularly if you're a designer, a creator, a strategist, or a marketer… you can decide to do something about our future interactions. If you design transparent services and truly co-create, more people might benefit from our future technology and we might avoid falling back into our old ways where consumers were simply consumers — passive and naive. You might be thinking that not everybody wants to be an active co-creator, and you may be right, but we believe that when people start using Meta Products, they will want to be engaged, to be creative, to express themselves when it's convenient for them.
Moreover, as more computational objects with artificial intelligence are everywhere around us providing us with all the information we need, we will see a change in mindset, from global to local. We were thrilled with being able to know what's happening on the other side of the world in real time. It will still be thrilling, but now we want to go a step further and use this global information for our local needs. And more importantly, we want useful associations that we can identify and have immediate access to. Federico Casalegno, Director of the MIT Mobile Experience Lab puts it this way:
We will remain a global village, but now with a strong notion of geolocated media… not remotely connected, we were so enthusiastic about that some years ago. Now it's all about geoposition and proximity. And this is not an isolated technological achievement, this is the result of humans needing to be connected with something that they can understand and is close to them, that they can touch and manipulate. This is definitely a new dimension not from the technology stand point but from the human standpoint …what is happening with the technologies of the Internet of Things is that they will bring us “back to human” in a way… or at least back to our local dimension. The idea of computational objects and machine to machine communication, or the Internet of Things, only exists because we need meaningful proximity between people and our local environment, and get relevant local information. — FEDERICO CASALEGNO
The costs of publishing have decreased dramatically, enabling us to share more readily. Publishers in the traditional sense are becoming almost extinct, because everyone can publish nowadays. And if you only want to publish digitally, it's even totally free. If you stop to think about it, that's really quite amazing. Whereas before you would have needed the financial means, and publishers had to be persuaded to publish your content, you can now publish yourself at zero cost. And this very fact can actually spawn new ideas for traditional publishers: having all these publications readily available in the world makes it quite difficult to find exactly what you're looking for — at least at the moment. Therefore, instead of focussing on publishing itself, publishers would be better off taking on the role of curators. The point here is that roles are changing and new demands for browsing and accessing quality publications are on the increase.
This isn't a matter of business per se, it's a matter of human expression. For example, we can attribute the changes in journalism to the sharing culture and the technological advances of the internet. First of all, journalism is now open not only to photography but to film and web-based real-time interactions and online videos. Today we are seeing new methods of reporting the news, enabling journalists to ask other types of questions and to provide evidence in an active way — whether it involves working with the hi-tech resources of advanced satellite imagery or the crowdsourced imagery and YouTube films from amateurs who are living through wars and tragedies, as well as all kinds of relevant experiences in different parts of the world.
Today it's possible to leave online traces about almost everything we observe and live through. Maybe it would be a good idea if we started to think carefully about these traces when we design Meta Products. What kind of traces, who might use them and why would they? Maybe we won't be able to fully answer these questions, but at least it can open our eyes when we design interactions.