Ruminations on Web Technologies from New York

I’m sitting here after a day and a half in New York ruminating on a presentation I have to give on the future of web technologies when I return. In between long bouts of walking around the city tracing the notes of my favourite venture capitalist bloggers from New York I have been inhaling William Gibson’s “Distrust That Particular Flavour”. A particularly apt writer to be digesting when afflicted by jet lag from a 24 hr trip and a 14 hour time difference.

The challenge of the presentation is that I need to give it to a bunch of first year university students all of which will have not lived without the web. Two things have resonated with me from Gibson’s writing. The first is the concept of the book as a technology and the requisite learning requirements needed to enable the technology. One cannot imagine a new technology being adopted that requires years of learning in order to operate. Our modern web technologies are characterised by intuitive ease-of-use which both facilitate adoption and dispersion through the culture but also contribute to a shallowness in design and innovation. The┬ásecond is the concept that changes in culture are technologically driven but that we cannot know the culture we live in by its very nature. The students to whom I’ll be talking are immersed in a web technology culture that they cannot truly know or comprehend because they live it. So the value that I can provide is one of providing a long-term contextual discussion of web technologies inside a concept of change and disruption. From that I intend to facilitate a discussion from the students to create something new rather than just lecture to them.

The core of what I currently intend is to stretch back over a longer period of time to look at the nature of disruption and change via technological change through the ages. Then I will challenge the group as to what this might mean for the future of web technologies. I am a long term believer in the concept that in order to understand something you should have to teach it to someone else. Along with that belief is another strong view that the group is way smarter than the individual. Having said that I am both excited and terrified (and those emotions are closely aligned) to be giving the talk.  The excitement is linked to what sort of possibilities might emerge, the terror is linked to that falling flat in a performance sense.

The subject matter is inextricably linked to a presentation that that I also have to prepare for the Department of Premier and Cabinet on future public policy challenges. From the concept of cultural change driven by technological change then the disruptive effects of web technologies have to be a large part of that vision of suggested possibilities. At their core web technologies are changing the nature of the power relationships between people and the organisations they deal with. That is a challenge for public policy.

If anyone has any suggestions on what I should present in either case then please feel free to comment here or email me at paul@emergentfutures.com

Paul Higgins