Often new technologies lead to new communications media. Greater facility in drawing pictures can lead to an alphabet and writing. A printing press can lead to pamphlets and newspapers. The Web makes blogging possible. Smart phones beget Twitter.
And when a new communications medium is born, there seem to be patterns in what happens once it is broadly adopted. The following are not 100%, but history is full of proofs point across different media. Here are my Five Maxims on New Media.
The first major use will solve a specific problem. Cuneiform was used to record transactions, and went on to record histories, send news from far away, and even proclaim laws. The telephone was created to communicate investment information.
Pornographers will find a profitable use. See what happened early on with digital downloads, videotapes, photography, and the printing press.
Artists and designers will lead the way into popularization, often by finding and demonstrating mash-ups. Photographic portraiture. Radio theater. TV variety shows (from vaudeville).
It will create a challenge for religions (and may even replace them). Think of the printing press and the Reformation or radio and TV preachers.
It will be decried as ruining youth. Video games make kids violent. Television kills reading. Reading destroys the discipline of memory.
It will open up new possibilities for science. Slow-motion film. Peer-reviewed journals. Radio tracking of endangered species. Data-mining social media.
Fortunes will be made by those who make communications accessible. Chains of movie theaters. Applications for desktop publishing and manipulating digital photographs. Online social networks.
It will not eliminate other communications media, but it probably won’t replace them. The serialized novel disappears from newspapers. Radio theater almost goes extinct. Vaudeville dies. But newspapers, radio, and theater persist.
Old genres will adapt and new genres will blossom. The big scale of movies loved Westerns (and now SF and fantasy spectaculars – driven by advances in special effects). TV loves, cozy and regular, likes dialogue-heavy forms in serial form (soap operas and telenovelas being good examples).
Education will be a late adopter. Though there will always be curious teachers, willing to jump in, the teaching profession seems to be one where the older generation needs to die off before a new approach is widely adopted.
True integration will come with the natives. The value will be discovered and cultural change will be driven by those who take the new medium for granted because they have experienced it all their lives.
I’m sure there are many exceptions, but it can be entertaining to look back and see the actual instances of these over the centuries. A practical use is to examine an emerging technology in terms of communications (very often the basis of killer apps) and what might be expected.