The Online Information Environment of the Future

I predict a mix of Theme 4 aided by Theme 3 will represent the online information environment of the future.

What do others think?


I think you’re being an optimist. To date, technology seems to have made things worse. The technology may improve, but Theme 1 and Theme 5 determine the quality of information input by humans. If the quality doesn’t improve, it doesn’t matter how much it is processed, it will still be poor quality…

People are smarter. They will adapt and develop new skills to filter content. Poor quality content will simply be ignored.

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People being smarter is part of the problem, not the solution. Intentionally cherry picking “facts” to support a particular view, intentionally sharing things that they may know to be incorrect (as the article indicates). And it’s not just news… One of the major debates I have in my mind is around “responsible marketing” and the gender gap in computing. Is marketing responsible for this and if they knew the result of their actions would it have changed their behaviour? If a politician bends the truth and gets elected, surely the fault lies with the politician and not the voters? The trouble is that there is every incentive for the marketer, politician and others to manipulate their message to effectively target their audience and achieve their goals with little or no recourse for the buyer/voter after the fact. Buying goods is better than voting for a party because at least you can get your money back if what you receive is not what you expected. Digital “news” is even worse in the sense that once it’s out there, it remains and people will come across it - regardless of if it’s true or not - at random times and potentially believe it and recycle it… In addition, the context around news changes and so what may be judged true or fake today may, rather worryingly, change positions in the future.

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Propaganda and misinformation will always exist alongside freedom of thought and expression. The voting intentions of the electorate are not entirely informed by the ephemeral buzz on social media. I would argue that for many voters it is a reaction to the performance of the incumbent government that has the biggest influence on the outcome of elections. It is track record, reputation, and effectiveness that matters most not a perceived ability to manipulate social media.

I’d agree, but how do most of us judge the track record, reputation and effectiveness or government? It is by reading news that almost certainly has some level of bias, by looking at the propaganda (marketing) of the government and its opposition, and through our personal experiences of paying tax, receiving services (or not) and observing others receiving services (or not). I’m not sure that social media has such an influence, apart from by sharing additional sources of information and encouraging some level of debate. How many people go directly to (supposedly) independent groups like the Office for Budget Responsibility ( to learn the “real” situation rather than relying on a third-party’s interpretation of their work - do truly independent sources exist? I’m saying that the problem isn’t just in social media, it’s also in mainstream media and of course in the quangos and political parties…

Can we divest from and discover and develop something that would aid good content, meaningmaking, productive signal?

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I’ve tried to surpress my natural optimism to agree with you @steve.t . And I’ve tried to find good argument to support your best guess @johngrant. The best I can do is … I think John is right, come thirty years :slight_smile:

Yes! But only in two scenarios imho, one much more desirable than the other.

The least attractive is huge bureaucratic regulation, supposing that we can design accountable incorruptible bureaucracy. The far better possibility starts with self-sovereign technologies designed as Tech We Trust (define?!), which in turn demand self-sovereign ID at heart and a web of Tech We Trust connecting us ‘out there’. (More of my thoughts on that –


working on this.
I’d think the key is in face-to-face interactions, even in the virtual spaces.


I think that how climate change plays out will greatly influence which of the themes shapes the future, since the degree and pace of upheaval will impact how power is distributed around the world, and how much people still have the capacity to be online.

One of my antidotes to thinking the worst of people had an interesting episode on people, tech and how we might build a more human world:

cc @sheldrake @steve.t

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Can we design patterns of play, patterns of interaction conducive to digitally augmented social learning?

Can we design platforms that scale? Conversations at scale, cooperation at scale, collaboration at scale, social learning at scale? Distributed? Peer? P2P?

“What new kinds of scale does technology enable and demand? How do we govern, mobilize, moderate, democratize at scale?”

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One of the 2018 Danish Design Awards, an app to help fight food waste.

By analogy, what if we design an app, and/or an ecosystem of apps, to help quality content enjoy better consumption? Or is it a whole platform, moving beyond the app format? dApps?

@johnkellden There are two technological design challenges social platforms must overcome to improve the flow of quality content. Firstly, user experience design is currently too primitive for the vast majority. User interfaces need to shift away from an advertising/monetization and metaphors focus to support more natural human interactions that are closer to face-to-face conversations. Secondly, we need tools to attenuate the increasing volume and velocity of data and information. Friendly, inexpensive personal software agents that can be trained to undertake inquiry, fact-check, filter and summarise.

Better user experience design and software agents will improve communication, cooperation and collaboration and allow everyone to get involved, empathise and engage. Great ideas to tackle pollution, climate change, inequality, etc., will surface, evolve, and gain traction more efficiently.

Very well put John. Nextgen platforms turned places for human interaction.