Predicting the Future You’re Making

Peter JonesInnovation, Wu Wei

Henry Jenkins, whose smiling face fills my Tweetdeck screen from time to time, is an idea-maker whose work I follow in any form he shares with us. Most recently, Huffington Post, where he asks “In a social networking world, what is the future of TV?”  The lead that frames this piece?

Jay Leno, recently interviewed by The Los Angeles Times, says “I don’t know what TV is anymore.”Henry J: “Well, if Leno doesn’t know what TV is, who does?”

Transmedia content is part of a shift away from talking about “appointment-based television” where we race home to watch our favorite show when it is aired and towards “engagement-based” television, where our passionate interest leads us to seek out the programs we want when we want. Transmedia content is designed to intensify our engagement and generate fan loyalties rather than offering the “least offensive option” available in a particular time slot.

At this year’s Overlap conference, we bodystormed multiple scenarios about the mid-range future of TV and transmedia news broadcasting. Five-10 year horizon. With maybe 6-7 different groups presenting acted simulations of the plugged-in news seeker of 2015, what I was struck by was that each group made almost the same assumptions about the trajectory of media into the current TV space. Each of our bodystorm groups generated a somewhat similar scenario – that of an individual having multiple channels via multiple media tuned and filtered to the perspectives desired, and presented in both broadcast and self-selected social media channels. Multiple screens and psychically-intuitive channel selection were evident in most of our scenarios. The filtering was seamless, and each channel – whether a news feed,  direct from the field TV reporter, announcer, Twitter feed, or other network source – was personified by an active humanized avatar. Of course, we were bodystorming, so we acted out the different communications channels. But it is striking to observe that, at a small innovation conference attended by innovators, we all converged on a similar view of the future.

What could we have been missing? Were were actively crowdsourcing, physically in small groups, the new transmedia vision from our privileged perspectives on the industry? Or were we imaginatively projecting to fulfill the promise we all see happening today in transmedia? In other words, were our self-selecting personalized media circus scenarios just too obvious? After all, we could probably fulfill these visions by next year.

As a contrarian thinker, that means it MUST be wrong! (But which parts are right?)

I just made a post on another group list which made the claim: There are futurists who claim we invent the future we’re studying, and those who claim we have to understand long-term trends across human activity (and technology) to understand why we’re heading in some predetermined directions.  I also claimed these two camps do not usually get along. Maybe your experience is different?

Read Henry’s post and then start watching your own transmedia choices.