The organisers of a conference in San Francisco, October 2011, plotted an interactive map of the internet landscape that showed Facebook as the biggest ‘country’ owning and controlling information about 800 million users world wide.
That is more data than any corporation or government can possibly have. And the urgent debate now is how to monetise that effectively and fully, while its very existence continues to redefine social normality.
Google has over a billion users, and Apple more cash in the bank than the US government (by some reckoning), but it’s Facebook that is the current (unassailable giant). Was there any point in Federated Media, O’Reilly Media and UBM TechWeb hosting a major conference event to discover that, as they have done since 2004?
Organisers described it as ‘incisive plenary sessions, cut-to-chase on stage conversations, rapid-fire high-order bits presentation, visionaries and executives across key industries’ all giving unique perspectives on the Web’s future and how tools of Web 2.0 are impacting businesses.
All Hype and Froth?
They published loads of gushing praise from happy attenders. ‘A must-attend event’, ‘insightful things’ and ‘we’re literally watching history’. It touched healthcare, media, military, clean-tech, music, trad-tech, politics…. in ‘ a brilliantly orchestrated gathering’.
After the October 2011 version, they reported that the web ecosystem had ‘shifted into something of a battlefield’, with major players and upstarts jockeying for position round ‘points of control’.
How to leverage data was the constant theme. They identified the emerging trend of data in 2009, noting the role of data when ‘web meets world’. Last year it was ‘websquared’. Now it’s ‘the data frame’.
They acknowledge that we live in a world ‘clothed in data’ and that our interacting with it generates more. So, as they say, data ‘is not only the web’s core resource, it is at once both renewable and boundless’. What other economic sector can claim that?
Every aspect of people’s lives now generates marketable data. Every shopping search and trip, every piece of equipment, every social event, every banking/commercial/job activity, all entertainment, every phone call/email/text, every TV prog viewed, all education, all aspects of health from birth to death are now ‘weaving infinite tapestries of data’.
So having stated that, obvious at best, what did the conference achieve (besides generating more data)? It looks as if, beyond all the fuss, they raised a whole lot of questions needing answers:
- how will our industries cope with, respond to and capitalise on ever more data?
- how will the networked economy define success and failure in life?
- how will it create the future texture of our culture?
- how will people ever control their own data?
- how will they grasp the power of all that data they have contributed to?
- how will we deal with the regulatory, tax, privacy and corporate governance issues?
- how will people cope with the fusion of boundaries between virtual reality, gaming, lifestyle choices and shaping independent human lives?
Not sure of the answers?
Don’t worry, they’ll have another conference next year. And if they don’t some other entrepreneurs will! In the meantime, keep on filling in those online forms….
- Web 2.0 Summit, San Francisco, 17-19 October 2011.
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