Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

2013: A Year Of Disappointments In Tech And Media

Posted by Tom Foremski - December 27, 2013

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Over at Quartz, Christopher Mims reports that 2013 was a lost year for tech:

2013 was an embarrassment for the entire tech industry and the engine that powers it—Silicon Valley. Innovation was replaced by financial engineering, mergers and acquisitions, and evasion of regulations. Not a single breakthrough product was unveiled—and for reasons outlined below, Google Glass doesn’t count. 

Om Malik over at tech news site GigaOM disagrees: Dear Quartz, maybe it’s you that needs new glasses and a map. 2013 was not a lost year for tech — Tech News and Analysis

I look at the world around me, and I find a technology landscape that is blooming. How can you not be excited about the idea of sensors, apps and data turning our phones into a doctor’s virtual proxy. (I live with a disease and my phone is as much a part of it, as my meds.) Helium-filled disk drives that can store more and more data? Breakthrough or boring. Depends on how you look at the world — as someone who loves technology or someone who loves the shiny interpretation of technology.

He lists other fabulous technology products and services such as NEST, Amazon Web Services, and the significant benefits of a future life style  that’s responsive to “Big Data.”

Foremski’s Take: Om’s defense of the tech industry’s honor, if there is such a thing, is understood and expected as a tech site publisher. But Om’s passion for tech is missing another story: that we’re moving beyond tech. And that’s what the Quartz piece is about, it’s saying there is not much of a story in tech. However, Quartz doesn’t yet see that this is a long term trend: there will be less and less interest in tech products as a media story.

We’re moving into a post-technology world where our interest is in the transformation of society and individual. This is a story about culture, ideas, and innovation. It’s not about pixels or bandwidth.

Technology is not innovation. And innovation is not a technology. 

Tech is important in a post-technology world but it’s not where the interesting stories will be. Our technologies are gradually sinking into the framework of our lives, and our glasses. It’s how we use them that will be ground breaking and that’ll come from people’s creativity and imagination. 

Media embarrassment…

2013 was not, as Quartz says, “an embarrassment for the entire tech industry.”  It was an embarrassment for the entire media industry and the lead position given to tech stories that were nothing but lists of features for commercial products. 

The mainstream media copied the coverage from tech trade news sites such as GigaOm, and it became dreary product journalism — all about pixels on phones, and product dimensions and weight.

Reporters claimed scoops if they were the first to publish the technical specifications of a mass market product. How cool is that? 

It’s not cool and it’s embarrassing to see lead stories in major newspapers about an addition of a feature to a commercial product, or service. There used to be paid ads that provided that information service. 

Thankfully, we’re moving on and into more interesting stories, into a post-technology world where the media story becomes about how people use these changeable tools and how they are changing us. It’s a media world, and the story is less and less about tech but about how we use media and how it uses us.

It’s far easier to predict the future of technology than it is to predict how we will live in that future.  Stories about culture, and not products, will be the new tech stories. 

Our technologies have become very collaborative and they scale incredibly quickly. Once we figure out how to use them best, we’ll be able to harness for the first time a collective creativity and innovation of unprecedented power. We can then begin to work on solving the most important riddle of our modern times: how do we create a meaningful life? 

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The Holmes Report names Tom Foremski one of the top 25 Innovators of 2013.




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