It's at this time of the year that pundits, tastemakers and futurists start making fantastical predictions about what we will expect in 2013. Some of these predictions are obvious and will become true and some will hit the mark. I like making predictions and am sometimes wrong in knowing when and if things will happen (NFC gaining wider adoption, the uptake of mobile wallets, Twitter to replace text messaging etc.). I thought, how could I be more certain with my predictions?
I started to think about how we, as humans, behave in the new socially connected landscape and how we are happy to accept less in our lives. My predictions are threefold for 2013.
Our creative lives will be low quality due to convenience
I love music, art and photography. All three have become democratized by the introduction of accessible technologies, e-commerce platforms and social media. While this has created accessibility, it has made us all create and accept less quality content.
Every day we listen to great music in the form of MP3s (and other compressed formats) that provide flatter sounds than good stereo equipment and vinyl. This became obvious to me when I 'downgraded' my living space to have no TV and a vintage 1980's record player. I dug out my old records (I thank my formative years for DJing and record collecting) and listened to high-fidelity music for the first time in six years. Why had I not done this before? I play records at home and can hear the range of frequencies and can climb inside those intricate worlds that have been created. It made me realize that I have compromised my taste due to convenience, as so many people have.
Photography is the same. We prefer disposable low-resolution images and browsing art on the web to visiting galleries and taking personal photographs using proper cameras. We create millions of 'artistic' and intimate images everyday and share through Instagram and other platforms. We even make them look old and degraded then think it's cool. Well, it's not. What is cool is the World Press Photo 2012 collection, Boston.com's Big Picture , National Geographic and other photographers that truly capture the quality we see with our own eyes in real life.
Not everyone is a world-class photographer but maybe, if we start approaching photography like we used to, then we will use real cameras and capture some magic and treasure those few moments.
We will be fatigued yet addicted to social media even more
Facebook has also not had its day yet but people are starting to treat it as only an aggregator of information. They are also finding that advertising has taken it over on the web and mobile devices. It is advertising and shareholder greed that has killed the experience. Sorry, let me adjust that last comment a little. Spam has killed the experience. Good advertising rarely appears on Facebook anymore in terms of side bar adverts and brand messages. This is why brands are moving to story-telling and humanistic approaches to connection. These will draw us back in as viewers and, really, Facebook will become transparent. And we will go back even more. Which is a bit of a shame.
We will start to celebrate locally-connected societies more but with less conversation
Cities have been celebrating the world of open data over the past two or three years. Transparency and access is amazing in this day and age however this turn towards data crunching and utility has the potential to turn is in on us. We have an amazing open data culture yet we still mostly find ourselves to be self-absorbed, isolationist and quite unfriendly. We've disappeared into our own worlds and technology is making up for the short fall in those connections.
IM, email, social media connect us to local information. Douglas Coupland, author and futurist, is even championing digital over human connection with his 'revolutionary' V-Pole. This device, which is about the size of a telephone pole, would manage cell signals for multiple carriers and carry wireless Internet for the surrounding neighbourhood. There would also be inductive charging for parked electric cars, an integrated touch screen with local maps, ads, payment interfaces, and an LED street light. Sound great. Actually, it seems inevitable and a little depressing. We will find even less of a need to speak with each other and even venture out of our homes. Innovations will continue to roll out in our cities under the guise of information and connection however there is the potential for this to backfire.
So, there you have it. Low quality, fatigue and introversion awaits us in 2013, but only if we let it. I say, go outside, demand more from real life, downgrade your home, read a book, be more analog and smile at people on the street. Use technologies only when the need arises rather than out of compulsion. That way we can all find utility rather than reliance in the innovations being introduced into our world.