TRENDS: Crossing Boundaries: Implications for the Content Industries

This blog covers major highlights of a white paper recently published for Adobe by Ray Gallon and Neus Lorenzo. Two white papers in this series are available for download: Crossing Boundaries: Implications for the Content Industries and Changing Paradigms in Technology and

Adobe Tech Comm is holding a series of 5 webinars based on the first white paper listed above, feature Gallon and Lorenzo. You may register for the events in the links listed below:

Five challenges facing our times

The authors speculate that hundreds of years in the future, scholars may point to the direct interconnection between human an inanimate objects as one of the primary “revolutions” of our time. This new paradigm demands roles that combine both communication and content expertise. The following list summarizes some of the most significant issues emerging from our new environment:

Physical space has disappeared

The white paper gives a good example of how our sense of space has changed radically over the past 20-30 years. Through smart phones and the common availability of location-based content, most of us have no longer memorized phone numbers for friends or loved ones; we may not even remember specific streets for places of business in which we rely on devices to lead us to.

To quote the authors:

Space will have a different meaning when our connective devices not only beep in our ears or vibrate in our pockets to get our attention, but will pop content directly in front of our eyes, or in 3D virtual spaces around, or even on our bodies. Eventually we will get used to not only seeing a person walking down the street, talking to a distant person through his bluetooth earpiece, but seeing people sharing social events in hybrid spaces where physical humans, holographs, and virtual messages interact seamlessly as a new type of collectivity in a conceptual space.

Time is asynchronous

Even though many of us work as part of global teams that hand off projects to continue on another continent while we sleep, the overall process is still based on synchronous models. This is one of the most challenging aspects of creating scalable, project management solutions.

The authors make a significant observation about how things must change in this arena:

Fragmentation and discontinuity will need to be managed digitally. The project manager can’t be the only one with a global view of the whole, with more platforms for simultaneous information sharing. Openness and transparency will be indispensable in the collaborative corporate environment. Content strategy, unified content management, and overall design thinking are going to be essential to keep asynchronous projects on track and gain advantage from time shifting.

User become producers

The authors describe a common scenario, where many of us have contributed significant portions of data to commonly available online repositories. People we know nothing about profit from the information we have shared and use it in ways we may not have envisioned. “Data mining robots have selected bits of our production, and aggregated them with others’ work to produce new informational ecosystems.”

The authors’ share a frightening observation:

“Copyright”–i.e. the right to make a copy–has become an obsolete notion, and with it, the idea of “intellectual property”. We no longer need expensive printing presses or disk manufacturing plants to copy content. Anyone can make a copy at home, and digital copies can be exact, indistinguishable clones of the original. In many cases, it is almost impossible to trace original authorship amidst the huge quantity of production on the web, and it is obvious that other means of recognition, payment, and attribution for authors are going to be developed.

Consumers raise corporate consciousness

The authors share a hypothetical example of consumers who are able to instigate significant change through social media after discovering their own strength (in relatively small numbers) and leadership skills. Relatively recent trends in large corporations have led to full time resources to manage social media and minimize damage from community opinion.

It can take years to build up a brand, and only moments to temporarily “destroy” it.

As the authors observe:

There is an ethical subtext under all of this. Consumers are demanding more ethical behavior in a cutthroat, globalized, highly competitive economic environment. The derived information gathered to help the avatars stay ahead of the curve might find other uses–some of them unethical. Might we be entering a new era of digital blackmail, pressure, and lobbying?

Private life becomes part of professional life and visa versa

workplace cubicles
Whether you are self-employed, or work for a large corporation, it is nearly impossible to completely separate your personal and professional life in social media. Most of us cannot maintain family contact only in a face-to-face context. Many of us have discovered that online postings in areas that used to be a “hobby” have helped to “brand” us and create our ever evolving digital personae.

The authors conclude with a point that the many developments mentioned in this section may imply that society is moving away from a “job ethic” toward a sort of organic, integrated lifestyle.

The quotes below show how the role of artists may change:

In this final section, the authors conclude that although this phenomenon may seem threatening at first glance, there are many positive potentials involved. Some skills or hobby passions that were once relegated to “our own” time can actually influence our value in the workplace.

About the Authors: Gallon is owner of Culturecom, a consultancy specializing in technical information design, content strategy, and usability. He has over 20 years’ experience in the technical content industry, having worked with major companies such as IBM, Alcatel, and General Electric Health Care. Previously, Ray was an award-winning radio producer and journalist, and has worked with with broadcasters such as CBC (Canada), NPR (United States), France Culture, Radio Netherlands International, Deutsche Welle, WDR (Cologne, Germany). In the late 80s, Ray was program manager of WNYC-FM, New York Public Radio.

Ray is a member of the international board of directors of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and past president of STC France. He is a two-time winner of awards in the trans-European technical communication competition, including Best in Show. He is a frequent speaker on communications topics at conferences and seminars around the world, and has taught communications subjects at New York University, The New School (New York City), Université de Toulouse Le Mirail (France), Université Paul Valéry (Montpellier, France) and Université de Paris Diderot. He is currently a researcher at The Transformation Society. Lorenzo (PhD) heads the Foreign Language Service in the Departament d’Ensenyament, the local Ministry of Education in Catalonia (Spain), and has worked at the Inspectorate of Education in the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalan government). She has been a trainer and advisor (Council of Europe, Anna Lindh Foundation) and is currently coordinating the Lifelong Learning Project of the European Union in Catalonia. She has also represented the Spanish autonomies before the education committee of the European Parliament.

Neus is an author and co-author of educational material and textbooks for Oxford University Press, Richmond-Santillana, Oceano, and McGraw Hill. Her areas of expertise include communication, language learning, digital learning, ICT, organizational networking, educational assessment, international collaboration, and headmaster coaching. She is currently doing research with the Jaume Bofill Foundation, the OECD, several Catalan universities, and The Transformation Society.