THE HORIZON REPORT 2008
The annual Horizon Report describes the continuing work of the New Media Consortium NMC)’s Horizon Project, a five-year qualitative research effort that seeks to identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, or creative expression within learning-focused organizations. The 2008 Horizon Report, the fifth in this annual series, is produced as a collaboration between the NMC and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), an EDUCAUSE program.
The main sections of the report describe six emerging technologies or practices that will likely enter mainstream use in learning-focused organizations within three adoption horizons over the next one to five years. Also highlighted are a set of challenges and trends that will influence our choices in the same time frames. The project draws on an ongoing primary research effort that has distilled the viewpoints of more than 175 Advisory Board members in the fields of business, industry, and education into the six topics presented here; drawn on an extensive array of published resources, current research, and practice; and made extensive use of the expertise of the NMC and ELI communities.
FOUR TO FIVE YEARS
Social Operating Systems
Time-to-Adoption Horizon: Four to Five Years
Social networking systems have led us to a new understanding of how people connect. Relationships are the currency of these systems, but we are only beginning to realize how valuable a currency they truly are. The next generation of social networking systems—social operating systems—will change the way we search for, work with, and understand information by placing people at the center of the network. The first social operating system tools, only just emerging now, understand who we know, how we know them, and how deep our relationships actually are. They can lead us to connections we would otherwise have missed. As they develop further, these tools will transform the academy in significant ways we can only begin to imagine.
Our concept of the purpose and nature of the network is evolving. We are seeing a shift in focus; where the primary purpose of the web has been seen as sharing files and applications, there is a growing sense that the real value of the network lies in the way it helps us create, identify, and sustain relationships. This seemingly subtle change—from an emphasis on file sharing to one on relationships— will have a profound impact on the way we will work, play, create, and interact online.
Early social networking systems already recognize the value of connections and relationships. As opportunities for virtual collaboration increase and we rely more on trust-based networks, there is a growing need for context through which we can interpret and evaluate the depth of a person’s social connections. How do we evaluate the depth of a relationship? Does it reflect years of working collaboratively in a particular discipline, or is it equivalent to the business card exchanged at a conference or an email introduction?
Current social networking systems like Facebook and MySpace are attempts to help people define themselves in ways that provide some of that context, but the information available to us about friends of friends is still superficial and often related more to personal interests than professional work. It is difficult for any given system to present an accurate picture of our relationships: social networking systems are unaware of connections that we have not explicitly told them about, and there is often little distinction between a deep connection and a shallow one.
The issue, and what social operating systems will resolve, is that today’s tools do not recognize the “social graph”—the network of relationships a person has, independent of any given networking system or address book; the people one actually knows, is related to, or works with. At the same time, credible information about your social graph is embedded all over the web: in the carbon-copy fields of your emails; in attendee lists from conferences you attend; in tagged Flickr photos of you with people you know; in your comments on their blog posts; and in jointly authored papers and presentations published online. These data and other information you use every day, analyzed with a people centric view, can be and are being used to transparently connect the dots among files, contacts, and much more.
Relevance for Teaching, Learning, and Creative Expression
Placing people and relationships at the center of informational space will have a profound influence at all levels of academia. It will change the way we relate to knowledge and information; the way we do research and evaluate credibility; the way educators and students interact with each other; and the way students learn to be professionals in their chosen disciplines.
Examples of Social Operating Systems
The following links provide examples of applications for social operating systems.
Concept Demo of Yahoo Life! [http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=7503] This blog post describes a presentation by Yahoo co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang in which he demonstrates a project concept, currently known as Yahoo Life!, that includes characteristics of social operating systems [video at http://news.zdnet.com/2422-13934_22-182567.html].
Hosted Lifebits [http://blog.jonudell.net/2007/05/22/hosted-lifebits/] (John Udell, May 22, 2007) This blog post describes a scenario for a hosted space to hold all the digital media and information a person might create, throughout his or her life and even beyond.
The Social Catalog [http://pvlddirectorsblog.typepad.com/kathy/2007/11/the-social-cata.html] (Katharine Gould, PVLD Director’s Blog, November 20, 2007.) This blog post describes an idea for a “social catalog,” a system for cataloging books that takes into account why the book is sought as well as what it is about.
Team ORCA Project Site [http://www.hcii.cmu.edu/M-HCI/2007/PittDental/]
This team project by students in the Masters of Human Computer Interaction program at Carnegie Mellon University is a prototype of a system that facilitates the kinds of connections social operating systems will enable. The project’s goal was to develop a system to make it easier for scientists to find collaborators.