tisdag 1 april 2014

Explorative scenarios of emerging media trends

We just submitted a journal article, "Explorative scenarios of emerging media trends" to the Journal of Print and Media Technology Research (JPMTR). "We" are ph.d. student Malin Picha Edwardsson (first author) and me.

It is based on results from interviews and scenario generation workshops that Malin has led, but also on the results of our course, "Future of Media", that we taught together during the autumn (2013). I'm responsible for the course and Malin was the assistant teacher. We will teach the course together again, after the summer. Below is the abstract of the paper and a few bonus paragraphs from the paper.

--------------- Abstract: ---------------

Dealing with the on-going structural changes in the media landscape is one of the most urgent challenges in today’s society, both for people working in the media industry and for consumers trying to adapt to a large and increasing number of new media technologies and services. In this article, we present and discuss a number of current media trends, outline possible future scenarios and evaluate and discuss these scenarios in terms of future media consumption, mainly focusing on the Nordic media market. The research questions are: What are the main media consumption trends today, and what could be the most important characteristics of media consumption in different future scenarios? We have used a combination of a future studies approach, semi-structured expert interviews and design fiction methodology. We have organized two reference group workshops and then interviewed 11 media experts, both from the media industry and the academic world, and combined the results of these interviews and workshops with the significant media trends generated through design fiction methodology in the project course “The Future of Media” at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

One of the conclusions drawn is that the mobile phone (smart phone) and other mobile devices such as tablets et cetera are playing an increasingly important role in current media consumption trends. We can see this through an increased number of mobile devices, an increased use of multiple devices (often used simultaneously) and in the fact that users tend to be “always connected and always synchronized”. Another conclusion drawn is that there is an increased focus on personalized and individualized news with more co-creation and sharing of media content. The amount of non-text formats for news, for example video, is increasing, as well as the need for a high-speed, high-quality infrastructure/network. The news consumers are increasingly time-pressed, and commute more, which creates new and different demands on the media content, such as being easily accessible at all times and places. Finally, more data is collected by media companies about the consumption habits of media users and more surveillance is performed on citizens by governments and corporations.

When interviewed about the scenarios and trends in this study, the experts considered the most desirable future society to have a balanced mix of governmental control and commercial powers. As an example, public service media was considered an important counterbalance to commercially oriented media companies. According to the experts that were interviewed, aspects of all four proposed scenarios could however become true in the future, depending on choices made both on an individual level and on a societal level.

--------------- Bonus paragraphs from the paper: ---------------

We have, during the last few decades, moved from scarcity to abundance in area after area; texts, photos, music and moving images (Hylland Eriksen, 2001). Nothing in particular implies that we have reached the end state of such developments; it might be that when we look back on the present from a distance of 10 or 20 years from now, what we today perceive as a hectic pace will by then seem like a leisurely stroll in the park, much like the “heavy”[1] users of e-mail yesteryear received a middling daily load of e-mail by today’s standards.


Traditional print media products (newspapers, magazines, books) were structured and limited by the abilities and the characteristics of the machines that were used in the production process. A line-casting machine such as Linotype was immensely powerful compared to earlier technologies as it allowed a small number of operators to typeset a newspaper on a daily basis (Adams et al., 1988). Despite this, absolute physical limitations in terms of time and space and volume (a newspaper cannot be infinitely large or thick) determined the limits of the kind of products that the mechanical machines of the recent past produced. Above all, the daily output of such a machine was finite, as was the consumption of the resulting product(s). It was easy to clearly discern a beginning (first page), a middle and an end for each newspaper, magazine or book.

Many of these limitations have disappeared with the arrival of digital technologies and the Internet. Your Internet newsfeed never “ends” and one link will inexorably lead to another – wherever your brand (in-)fidelity leads you. The technology is infinitely flexible and the limitations that matter have less and less to do with characteristics or the ability of the technology in question and much more to do with business models, financial endurance and/or reader/consumer behaviour. Anything is possible as long as someone is willing to experiment and someone else is (perhaps) willing to pay for the resulting media product or service. Do note that these developments do not necessarily mean that the largest media conglomerates, with the deepest pockets and the most skilled staff, will be the ones who will ultimately stand victorious. The Achilles’ heel of such companies is that they also have very high fixed costs (Shirky, 2010). It might thus be the case that lone amateurs, working out of their homes and with tiny overhead costs, manage to explore and find business models that prove to be a better “fit” to this new media environment.

[1] "Heavy" users of electronic mail were in this article from 1998 defined as people who either receive 20 or more, or who sent 9 or more email messages per day (Lantz, 1998).

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