Monday, September 27, 2010


I was reading a bunch of articles about the changing newspaper industry as well as the emergence of the iPad, Kindle, Nook and other readers. All of a sudden it hit me--this isn't all as new as it seems.

Sure enough, on a far corner of a bookshelf in my office, there was a book copyrighted in 1997 that I had used years ago when I taught a "Media and Society" class. The book is Roger Fidler's "Mediamorphosis: Understanding New Media." I grin now reading that title. "New media" has a different connotation now than it did more than a decade ago.

I recalled having a discussion with students based on an exercise in the book called "Scenario for 2010: The mobile digital document reader." It was intended to be a forward-looking, imaginative exercise in which students thought critically about the influence of technology on media use. I remember the students being fairly mixed as to the plausibility of the scenario's prognostications. And even if all the foreseen new technology did emerge, some of these young people still said it's nice to just read a newspaper on paper with a cup of coffee.

Regardless of our classroom discussion back then, the book's scenario was prescient. Now IS 2010, and we DO have mobile digital document readers. The book even called them "tablets," and anticipated touch screens, digital cash, speak text, photo and video embedded in articles, and advertising relevant to content and matching personal profiles of readers. There's even a monetization method that involves paid subscription and buying archived material an article at a time for instant electronic delivery. About the only thing the book didn't foresee was wireless--a person in the scenario describes a person going with their reader to an ATM-like machine to withdraw that day's content onto a memory card.

The book did not come anywhere close to anticipating 'social media.' Others might have. There also has not been an updated version of this book, so far as I know. I have not taught "Media and Society" again since I started to focus exclusively on public relations shortly after teaching that class more than a decade ago.

But I wonder, what is the scenario for 2020? Will the tablet be replaced? With what? How will it affect public relations, advertising, journalism...human beings?

It's fun to think about, over a cup of coffee.

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