How right/wrong are my futures matrices?

The proof of the pudding is in the matrices, as they don’t say. I spent this afternoon gazing at my enormous mindmap in an attempt to try and see beyond the surface themes. What are the underlying issues? How do they fit together? What pretty 2 X 2 matrices can I create to help illustrate those relationships?

Well, here’s my first stab. Please do feel free to critique them thoroughly in the comments or in notes on the Flickr image if you want.


I always say that social media is 20% tech and 80% people, and for me the important issues are human issues, not tech. Yes, there might be problems about resources such as energy and raw materials, but those can end up in arbitrage (buy where it’s cheap and sell where it’s expensive) and the market takes care of them. And for resources that can’t be controlled by the market, we’ll find ways to be more efficient, to do more with less, and to recycle.

So I ended up thinking about resources as not as important as they might seem, apart from one: human attention. We are in an attention economy (as the news, music and film industries seem not to have noticed yet), and that’s something that cannot be arbitraged, you cannot buy yourself more attention. Another theme that came out strongly was the human need to create and maintain relationships, and how that is changing as technology – particularly social technology – enables us to keep in touch with more people for longer.

The first matrix therefore juxtaposes the number of relationships a person has against the amount of attention they have to give. This will affect the way that civil society associations can benefit by affecting how hard it is for them to form relationship with new people, and how much attention they can expect to get from each person. I see a general trend from giving more attention to fewer organisations/people towards giving less attention to more organisations/people. Obviously it’s not as simple as that, because if you plot attention vs person you’d find a long-tail, with a minority of your relationships getting a majority of the attention, but averaged out over all relationships I think this is a valid trend.

The second matrix juxtaposes two other common undercurrents: Control and self-organisation. Many of the items on my mindmap, such as ‘regulation’, ‘marginalisation of dissent’ and ‘return to conservatism’ are really about controlling either people or the technology that they use. That seems to fit together with self-organisation, a theme expressed through items like ‘open source software’, ‘mass adoption’, and ‘skills move towards adaptive’, which all enable self-organisation.

The third matrix looks at privacy and trust, and how they combine to create different types and amounts of participation. Privacy was illustrated by items such as ‘face recognition’, ‘tracking’ and ‘mutually assured embarrassment’. Trust was a main theme that came out in my mind map’s first level branches.

The final matrix pits pervasiveness of technology and the web against the utility of the tools, and sees a movement from scarcity and a lack of utility, i.e. tech/the web as a minority sport, towards mass adoption and increased utility creating vibrant online cultures.

There are quite a few other issues that I am not sure where they fit, such as the diminishing media, inclusion/exclusion, changing demographics, and some of the other macro effects.

Some comments have already been left on the Flickr image of this diagram, so please do feel free to leave your thoughts there or in the comments below. What’s missing? What’s wrong? What’s right? What’s irrelevant? Please let me know!

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