WWW2010 : Lee Rainie on Future of the Web

Notes from session led by Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, on the Future of the Web (Imagining the Internet).

Forecasting The Telephone (Amazon) – massive search of databases (1890-1920) when the telephone became mass adopted. They looked at predictions that had been made; sorted by impact on politics, culture, etc.  Served as the inspiration for looking at the Internet (2001). “There were no howlers” in the social realm.

Results this time: 895 respondents (371 prior participants, 524 new). Tension pairs (forced choice) with narrative elaborations.

No brainer question was to pick up on Atlantic Monthly article by Nick Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stoopid?”

  • By 2020, Internet has enhanced … Carr was wrong. (81% experts, 76% full sample)
  • By 2020, Internet has not … Carr was right. (16% experts, 21% full sample)


  • Cognitive capacities will shift (memorization)
  • New literacies will be required. Fourth “R” is retrieval… “extreme Googlers”
  • Tech isn’t the problem; people’s inherent character traits is the issue
  • Performance of information markets is a big unknown especially in the age of social media and junk information … Google will improve.


  • Hot gadgets in 2020 will not take many innovators by surprise
  • Hot gadgets will take people by surprise (the winner: the explanation is the iPhone)


  • Innovation ecosystem will change so radically (bandwidth/processing) that it’s hard to forecast
  • Basic trends are evident — “the internet of things” and “sensors” and “mobile” and “location-based services” and “3D” and “speech recognition” and “translation systems”


  • Anonymous activity curtailed (42%, 41%)
  • Anonymous activity not curtailed (54% 55%)


  • Law/regulations to protect privacy even though more disclosure required
  • “Workarounds” to provide a measure of anonymity
  • Confidentiality and autonomy will replace yearning for anonymity
  • Rise of social media is as much a challenge to anonymity as authentication requirements. Reputation management and information responsibility will emerge.

Q  related to control


  • Too much good history to see end-to-end overturned

Q – Institutions


  • Tide too strong to resist – pressure for transparency is powerful
  • Future is unevenly distributed, biz change most and govt least
  • Data wil be the platform for change
  • Workarounds, faciitated by social media, will be common
  • Efficiency and responsiveness aren’t the same thing
  • Anonymous worries about corporate power


  • We’re reading and writing more than our parents – participation breeds engagement
  • Reading and writing will be different in 10 years; screen literacy will become important
  • Nature of writing has changed (public). Quality will get better due to feedback and flamers
  • Networked information …

Q: Fate of Semantic Web

  • Progress is inevitable
  • Humans and institutions are complicated and that makes this hard to do
  • Specialized activities will emerge and may not be useful to all
  • Still waiting for killer app that turns this fuzzy concept into clear value proposition
  • The timeline for progress will stretch out beyond 2020

Q&A (see mp3)

Vocabulary – blogging. Huge part of our inventory in mid-2000s. Not now — MySpace has a function called “blogging” but if you ask someone on MS if they are a blogger, they say no. Asking people who are blog readers — go to your favorite blog nows and compare them to your favorite media site. Can you see the difference? Ads – visually appealing.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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