STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
Missing Comma: Seeing The Future

The future of news is much like the future anarchist society we all dream about but can never succinctly put into words: at the end of the day, we just don’t know what it’s going to look like.

Professional prognosticators, including many of my colleagues(?), make a pretty penny predicting the predilections of newsophiles five, 10, or 20 years down the line. And I’m willing to bet a significantly smaller sum that while they may get some details right here and there, on the whole, they’re all going to be wrong to a greater or lesser degree.

The future of news will most likely not consist primarily of radio, television or newsprint, but it might. It will probably operate on a decentralized basis akin to today’s social media (but for everything), but then again, it might not. People already don’t have to rely on network news, public radio or major legacy newspapers – hence the net decline in viewer-, listener- and readership – but these things keep on surviving, leading me to believe that they’ll continue to do so long into “the future.”

I read a post on Medium recently, about a project from 2004 that “predicted” where media was going to be today called EPIC 2014. It was 80 percent incorrect, but the overarching themes of the project still managed to resonate with the developments of the following decade.

For instance:

In the year 2014, people have access to a breadth and depth of information unimaginable in an earlier age. Everyone contributes in some way. Everyone participates to create a living, breathing mediascape.

By and large, that’s true. But it isn’t true that Google and Amazon merged, or that the New York Times spent the 10 years between 2004 and now suing the pants off any new media company or group that dared challenge its hegemony. Potentially, that would have been a more welcome, if also drastically more dystopian world, than the one we live in where paywalls are awkwardly implemented then discarded without hardly a word from the offending parties.

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