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The Wednesday Keynote: Internet 2020 Trend Watch and Smackdown

The Wednesday keynote session was a panel moderated by Roy Tennant of OCLC, with the panelists shown here.

(L-R) Liz Lawley, Director, RIT Lab for Social Computing; Steve Abram, VP, Cengage Learning; James Werle, Director, Internet2 K20 Iniative; Roy Tennant, OCLC (moderator)

The panel looked at the internet in 2020 and held a “TrendWatch Smackdown”. James Werle began with a look beyond Web 2.0, noting that the changes of the last few years are just a blink of the eye in the history of librarianship. In 1996, only 28% of public libraries offered Internet access, and the average web usage by Americans was 1/2 hour a month! Global Internet traffic is predicted to quadruple by 2015, and the IT revolution will continue to produce untold innovation. Internet traffic is forecast to quadruple by 2015, with more devices, more people conneccted, better connectivity, and more video. Video will be the fastest application driving traffic in the next 5 years. All applications will require high performance broadband. Many libraries are falling behind the bandwidth curve; over half of US libraries report that they do not have enough workstations to meet demand at certain times during a busy day. Access to high performance broadband networks is essential for libraries to evolve in the future.

A national fabric of networks connected by Internet2 has been built to meet high performance broadband needs of educational institutions. A Gates Foundation study is worth reading to understand these issues.

In the Smackdown portion of the panel, Roy Tennant asked panelists what keeps them awake at night and what might be one of the most transformative trends for libraries. Steve Abram said that he worries about people who made our reading devices assuming they have the right to decide what we can and cannot read. He also said that advertising is coming to books. Does anybody see this? You are not Google’s user; you are their product. We need to look at content spam. At some point, we will be served up to an ad-based community. We need to say, “I don’t want to be the product”.

Liz Lawley said that nobody can argue that bandwidth doesn’t matter. More bandwidth is coming. Are we going to have a piece of that? Who will pay for it? What is worth sending across that bandwidth? What do we need to maintain collections of? She has fears about cloud-based content–it keeps going down! What are we layering on top of the bandwidth? We need to think about what we pay for and why. We pay for flexibility, convenience, and device independence. People are willing to pay for experiences that makes them feel good. The way you present something really matters. We get too caught up in the collections and forget about the experience of delivering them. We want to make people come out of an experience feeling successful–it is about interface, experience, and interaction on an in-depth level. We are focused on the content not the context.

Steve said that premium services are about segmenting users and power users who can pay more. We have served up our customers to Amazon, a retail commercial entity, which is appalling. We cannot let commercial voices dominate. Do I want ads in books? When does it change what gets read or published?

Roy asked what will be the most disruptive change in the next few years? Liz said that we will see more tools for adding games and play to underlying concepts. There will also be a return to a love of tangible things and their quality. Paper is not going away. 3D printer technology is getting more common, and its cost and accessibility have plummeted recently. What does it mean when you can print a replica of something?

She also noted that QR codes are not as interesting as what is going on in RFID. We want things to feel magical. Frictionless technology starts to be invisible and feel like magic. Things just happen the way they should. You can enable objects–the internet of things.

Steve said that we are changing the dynamics of the choosing environment. Music changed with the 99 cent song–it became no more a financial choice. Frictionless information services are core. How do we make sure that information is of good quality and not biased?

Liz thinks that there is real value in being in the same room with other people. Technology can’t give you that. For example, we are in an innersive environment right now. When you can see the audience, you can tell when you are reaching them and when you have lost them.

Final thoughts: James: Video conferencing in libraries is a way to extend the world. Steve: 1. Be more radical, find our voice, and be comfortable with that. 2. Understand the point of view of other participants in the info space. Liz: Remember what it is like to be a kid. Find ways to make technologies to blend into the background. Learn what it is like to hang out and drop in–interesting things happen when they are unexpected. Think about magic, delight, with the technologies in the background.


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