Insights · January 15th, 2008

This episode of Future Talks is on the question of what is the future of communication and converstion.

The proliferation of communication technologies is influencing not only what it means to be in touch with our networks of family, friends, and colleagues, but also with ourselves. In observing the ways in which communication—and its more nuanced cousin, conversation—are evolving, we have a chance to reflect on what it means to be connected. The wide-ranging technologies bring a variety of usage styles, defined in part by generational preferences, but also influenced the attraction of novelty.

Brevity is the soul of bits. Studies of online communication done in the 1980’s already pointed to the shortening of messages that is now de rigueur in the world of IM and internet chat. We find politeness often sacrificed in the truncated exchanges, which permit less time for the niceties of face-to-face conversation. But parallel to this, especially among the Digital Natives, we also find that the quickness of messaging and variety of gadgets leads to a type of multi-conversational, multi-media, multi-tasking that allows users to live in a state of near constant electronic contact—a manner of being in the world unknown to previous generations, and one that brings with it different rules of engagement.

To arrive at a complete picture of communication in the digital age, however, we must note that video is on the rise (in contradiction to the expectation that we wouldn’t want to see ourselves “talk on the phone”), and coffee shops, travel opportunities, and social memberships abound—suggesting that we are still very much in tune to our need for a full-on, in person experience of ourselves as part of the human family. The challenge would appear to lie in finding opportunities to productively tune out, capturing the moments of quiet reflection that give our lives depth and balance.

In fact, as each wave of communication innovation subsumes the one that came before, we expect one of our greatest challenges to be not the integration of the technologies, but the ability to remove ourselves from constant connectivity. Will we find ourselves vacationing in electronic communication free zones? Will the Slow Food movement find a new voice in Slow Talk? Whether it is with others or with ourselves, we may the old Ma Bell jingle has a new imperative: “Unplug, unplug and touch someone.”

This program and all the Future Talks programs are available at Media Conversations, both for viewing and as MP3 downloads. And the entire series can be obtained as free podcasts from iTunes. (At the iTunes store, search for “media conversations.”)

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

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Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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