Playing futurologist: small consequences of technological changes
June 17, 2009
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Although some great books [1 and 2] have been written about the huge changes being wrought on society and culture by the digital revolution, it's just as interesting to speculate about the smaller consequences of the adoption of new technology. Here are some of the ones I've noticed, but perhaps you will have your own to add. Please jump in and comment!

Item: Records have given way to CD's which have given way to digital music streaming and downloads
  • The 70 minute CD-length album format has no real reason to exist anymore. There is no longer a reason to group unrelated tracks together in any particular way. We could even go back to the lengthy psychedelic and progressive rock tracks, if anyone wanted to hear them. Tracks can be sold grouped with hundreds of others or individually.
  • You can't really give CD's as wrapped gifts anymore, at least not to people under 60. Who wants that junk cluttering up their house?

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    Posted by ellen at June 17, 2009 12:12 PM
  • it is harder for artists to brand themselves with images, since there is no wrapper or record album to put a cool image on. On the other hand, they have MORE room now, since they can create entire sites, and Facebook pages, IF they can get people to go there. Guess there is still room for advertising? [update: apparently Apple is coming up with a new electronic "album" format ]
Item: The immense popularity of image hosting and search services like Flicker, Picasa,, etc.
  • No more need for coffee table books like "The Secret Life of Flowers" devoted to macrophotography or similar specialty trade books.
  • People can shoot many many photos for almost no cost, so pretty much everything is being photographed, in every light, and from every angle.
  • People are also becoming better photographers, partly because of the instant feedback and additional practice, and partly because of the social aspects of the sharing services.
  • Stock photography easier to find, and a lot cheaper
Item: Wikipedia and similar sites
  • Encyclopedias are a thing of the past. The debate about editorial authority rages on, but no one is really listening. Brittanica lingers on, but I'd love to know the real financial story there.
Item: Cell phone video cameras and audio recorders
  • Anything is now likely to being recorded, either by a cellphone or security camera. You can no longer assume you are not being recorded.
Item: Our important personal events are being recorded digitally, not on paper
  • So far, there is no rock-solid way to back up permanently, so people will start losing entire decades worth of memories
  • Item: more dependence on the web for day to day tasks
  • Perhaps it will be easier to disrupt services we depend on because there are more electronic choke points on communication, business, etc.
Items we've lost the need for
  • Newspapers
  • Yellow Pages and White Pages
  • Day planners
  • Calculators
  • Micro-cassette recorders
  • Encyclopedias
  • Books? When you think of it - there is no particular reason why the long book format needs to stay the same as it is. Some of what currently are published as books could be serialized or continually published and revised.
  • Magazines? (except on airplanes)
  • Fax machines
  • Maps
and hopefully, soon to go:
  • Cable TV

OK, I know I've left out some great ones - it's your turn!

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1 Comment

about the LP format and no need to group songs together. I would argue that the artist may have a need to group songs together. Think about albums that are story-like, The Wall, Aqualung, come to mind.

But you are right about the length of cd's as an artifact of how much information could fit onto a single 33 1/3 LP. That's obscelete for sure.

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